Most of us have heard about how punk originated in the 1970s, but often overlooked is the hardcore subgenre. Hardcore came out later within the decade as a result of the rise in popularity that punk music ushered in. Bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat were often considered classic punk bands that helped shape hardcore into its own subgenre. Following along in the footsteps of the punk movements, these scenes were very focused on breaking social norms and allowing everyone a safe space to express themselves, no matter a person’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. From the 80s to the 2010s, hardcore was barely a blimp on the musical radar outside of intimate shows within tight-knit communities. Music was being made, and artists were gaining recognition, but until recently, these contributions and recognitions were not being recognized or acknowledged by anyone outside of these small groups.
One of the most significant factors that led to hardcore’s popularity is the DIY ethic within the scene. Hosting house shows, playing in intimate spaces, and building local communities helped bring new people into the scene and helped keep people around. This specific scene was also built upon keeping a safe space for people who may have been outcasts in “normal” society or people with alternative lifestyles. In a similar fashion to punk, the motto has always been to be a welcoming place for everyone to have fun and be a part of a community of others who also do not fit in. One of the biggest ways that many people found a place within hardcore was through the “straight-edge” community. People who are straight-edge live a lifestyle where they completely abstain from recreational drugs and alcohol usage. This is a hugely popular lifestyle for a lot of hardcore musicians and fans alike, and many spaces are accommodating and safe for them. However, they are not the focus of this and there is a big issue within hardcore that I’m concerned with.
When I first started listening to hardcore music, I was enjoying the music and discovery of all these cool bands, but I had a big question as I kept diving in: where are all the women? Not even just women, but anyone who isn’t a man, because there seems to be close to none. There’s an article published in the Journal of International Women’s Studies that talked about this phenomenon. Women were rarely on stage performing and the audiences at these shows were largely male-dominated spaces. This journal was published in 2012, but over a decade later, not much has changed. Sound and Fury, a hardcore music festival in southern California, held about 5,000 people at an outdoor event to see bands who are gaining popularity within the hardcore and punk scenes. However, when looking through the lineup, there were very few non-men performers. I’ve attended a few local hardcore shows within Illinois, and most of the acts I’ve seen have been all male performers and the crowds have also been largely male-dominated. There’s plenty of non-men online who are constantly talking about hardcore music and supporting each other within the scene, but I also know that there are quite a few people who are apprehensive for various reasons. Through experience and speaking to others, there’s some ways that hardcore scenes need to be adjusted to make the space more welcoming, and really promote the message that everyone is welcome and safe to be here.
One of the ways that non-men can be invited into hardcore would be to make it clear that they are welcome. One of the biggest ways to make people feel more welcome would be to encourage a safe scene by condemning abusers and de-platforming them. Hardcore and pop-punk have an accountability problem where friends of abusers love to protect their friends with a “well they’ve always been good to me” kind of mindset and allow them to remain within the scene with little to no real consequences. Since non-men make up the majority of assault victims, I completely understand the apprehension to attend shows where abusers may be present or spend money and time listening to artists who are abusers themselves. Adults are free to make their own decisions, and people aren’t perfect, but if you are someone who wants to create and encourage a safer space, one of the easiest steps to take is to get rid of the people who make it unsafe.
Another huge way to welcome marginalized groups within hardcore would be to promote the talented bands made up of these people. You don’t need to intentionally only listen to bands with non-men in them for “diversity,” but if you explore social media and musician pages like Bandcamp and Spotify, you’re bound to find some really cool bands that aren’t just white men. My favorite thing to do is search through the “Fans Also Like” section on Spotify because I can find some new music, and there are a ton of underground and less popular bands and artists in these sections just waiting to be discovered. When I found artists who I could relate to, singing about things that I understood, I felt represented and seen, which made me really want to continue supporting those artists. There’s something for everyone, and I highly encourage branching out because you might find your new favorite band right in your own city or state.
Hardcore has a bright future ahead, and the scene is growing larger everyday. Sound and Fury festival in southern California was held at the biggest venue it’s ever had. This scene is also expanding into punk and rock, with bands like Drug Church, Anxious, and Koyo being brought on tours and introducing people to more hardcore music. However, the scene is not going to get bigger if it continues to be only a safe space for men. There needs to be a serious culture shift, and it needs to be widely adopted across each local scene and in the larger music scene as a whole. Rock, punk, and alternative have consistently been promoting women in rock for the last few years, and it’s time for hardcore to step up and join them. There’s no need to become mainstream if there isn’t a desire to, but there is a need and a want to make the people who are already hardcore fans feel more represented and welcome within.
I’ve included a playlist with some of my favorite hardcore acts featuring people from marginalized groups with a special focus on non-men.
If you’re looking for some bands to start with or just want some new music, this is for you!
Lily Hoveke | Music Columnist (they/them)
Hi, I’m Lily! I’m currently studying sociology and psychology, and I’m really passionate about music. I have a collection of plants and love to read in my spare time. When I’m not writing, you can probably find me at a concert, or anywhere that has iced coffee! | @lily.0802
AJ Gardner | Photographer (they/them)
My name is AJ. If I’m not taking pictures at a live show I’m playing roadie, trying to help find venues to book, or performing myself! In school, I am studying to be a teacher for blind students. Unlearning ableism and creating accessible environments are things I am passionate about and I am always open to new perspectives. | @ajdgphotography | Portfolio