Some people, mostly men, wrongly assume that feminism is a hatred of men and that advocates of that theory want to establish a matriarchy or something similar. However, feminism is about gender equality and same rights for all.
American melodic hardcore outfit Sharptooth illustrate this in their music. They draw inspiration from the marginalised and intersectional feminism, which they oftentimes reference in their songs.
Today, I would like to provide a small insight into intersectional feminism in particular. In order to show you why feminism matters for everyone, I am going to show you how the songs Single Status and Pushing Forward depict this topic. This topic concerns everyone, no matter your gender, sexual orientation or sex. Enjoy.
On a side note: In this article, I am going to discuss heteronormativity. Since I have already written an article, in which I discuss that topic in detail, I am not going to explain that again. If you are interested in that topic, check out my older post, which will give you some additional information that might also help you to profit even more from today’s post. Also, I am not an expert on feminism but I would consider myself familiar with the basic principles. Accordingly, in this post, I focus on why the topic is relevant for everyone and do not present a full-on basic guide to this topic. There is definitely much more to explore and I am still learning, so if you are interested in the topic, do some research and form your own opinion.
What is Feminism?
To provide a basis for the analyses, I will define the term briefly. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, feminism is ‘ the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state’ (Cambridge Dictionary). Merriam Webster summarise it more concisely as ‘theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’ (Merriam Webster). According to them, action in pursuit of the aforementioned goals can also be considered feminism (Merriam Webster).
There are various subcategories of feminism with different foci, which I am going to discuss briefly in the following chapters. I am going to consider queer feminism and intersectional feminism in more detail, since they are addressed in the band’s songs.
According to Doctor Ilse Lenz, the aforementioned values are the basis of all different feminisms despite the diversity of them. (I translated this from German): ‘Basics of all streams of feminist thought are autonomy, freedom and equality of all people, which is to be made a reality in the public and private spheres, respectively’ (Lenz 2018).
Why ‘Feminism’ if it is about Equality?!
Cavanaugh answers this question: ‘The movement was given the name ‘feminism’ because it focuses on the gender inequality issues that impact women. Just like any other civil rights category, feminism is a term used to show that one supports women’s equality and wants to address the serious amount of gender discrepancies they face daily. It does not take away from other civil rights matters’ (Cavanaugh 2015)’. The label ‘feminism’ is used to highlight that the movement opposes gender inequality and that it focuses on these inequalities but that does not call into question the rights of other groups of people, e.g. men.
Cavanaugh further distinguishes between feminism, egalitarianism and humanism, stating that all of them are distinct theories (Cavanaugh 2015). According to them, the latter two are ‘intellectual movements whose philosophies inform Feminism as well as global human rights legislation. But Feminism is the only movement actively advocating for gender equality’ (Cavanaugh 2015). Feminism draws from humanism and egalitarianism but directly addresses gender inequalities while the former two do not do so.
In summary, feminism acknowledges that there are aspects hindering the equality of men and women and it aims to address and overcome them, which egalitarianism fails to do, since it assumes that everyone is the same (Feminismus 101). By using the label ‘feminism’, you put the focus on gender inequalities, which does not exclude men or other groups from the discourse. It is all about reaching equality.
Men in Feminism
Why Should Men Care?
Feminism does not exclude men and basically, you just stand up for human rights. In feminism, one stands up to the oppression of women in particular. Here is one thought I had in a lecture on human rights and the necessity of protecting them, which illustrates why feminism concerns everyone. If someone is sexist, uses slurs and abuses others because of their gender without being punished, that challenges and calls into question everyone’s human rights.
How does this concern everyone’s rights? Well, if there are no consequences to this type of behaviour, that implies that there can be exceptions to human rights and based on that, all kinds of abuses of human rights would be okay. Therefore, discrimination is never okay and there should always be repercussions if someone disrespects the rights of another because otherwise we just let things slide while someone calls everyone’s rights into question. Accordingly, it is in everyone’s interest to stand up to sexism and misogyny not only for altruist reasons but also for one’s own sake.
What are Pro-feminists?
There are discussions on whether or not it is appropriate for men to label themselves as feminists or whether they should call themselves pro-feminists, which are essentially allies of feminism (Elliott 2008, University of Massachusetts).
Some women have concerns of being denied their autonomy by men who may ‘overdo it’. Some argue that men could potentially try to become dominant in the movement and perpetuate sexism by assuming this dominant role in feminism despite wanting to promote equality (Elliott 2008). I think that this is valid concern, which can also be seen later in the songs. If we overdo it and take over the fight for female rights instead of supporting women in this fight, we may inadvertently contribute to their oppression despite having good intentions. As a consequence, we have to question our own behaviour and be wary of its implications.
Schools of Feminist Thought
Intersectionaliy and Intersectional Feminism
There are various forms of discrimination that may occur alongside sexism or separately from it, such as racism, homophobia and transphobia. Intersectional feminism includes these aspects into feminism. In short, it is ‘a movement recognizing that barriers to gender equality vary according to other aspects of a woman’s identity, including age, race, ethnicity, class, and religion, and striving to address a diverse spectrum of women’s issues’ (Dictionary).
This theory was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 and it considers how the aforementioned factors can influence one another and work together, manifesting in the discrimination of women (Alok 2017). The way in which women experience this may vary (Alok 2017).
Alok summarises the necessity of this approach fittingly. ‘Intersectionality draws attention to the different invisibilities that exist in feminism, in anti-racism, anti-caste, class politics, etc. Basically, it compels us to attend to many different aspects of power that not everyone experiences. This is one way we can draw our attention to what has been erased from our histories, what we need to unlearn, what we need to challenge, and who needs to be given space to share power and have a voice of their own’ (Alok 2017). There are different aspects that can result in the discrimination of women and if we do not consider them and their interrelation, we run the risk of excluding significant parts of their discrimination. For instance, there are different nuances to the discrimination of a black, lesbian woman in a conservative islamic state than to that of a white mother in America and if we do not consider all of these aspects, we risk to potentially ignore the source of a woman’s discrimination (Missy Magazine 2013).
Accordingly, it is necessary to evaluate how forms of discrimination influence one another because forms of feminism that do not do so, will most likely fail to assess the situation and to provide solutions.
This leads us to the next form of feminism that I would like to address here, Queer-Feminism.
Queer Feminism. com defines queer feminsm as radical opposition to patriarchy. They criticise that feminism based on the gender binary, which only acknowledges male and female people excludes non-binary people and thus want to take position against this. According to them, queer feminism should stand against racism, homophobia, transphobia, imperialism, sex-negativity and similar ideologies and trascend sexual orientations and gender (queer feminism.com).
The German Asex Wiki defines it in a similar way. It is critical of heteronormativity and includes people outside of the gender binary as well as sexual minorities (Asex Wiki).
As you can probably tell, queer feminism is inherently intersectional and considers various aspects that contribute to the discrimination of women. The following quotation, which I translated from German illustrates this nicely and puts it into context: ‘They [queer feminists] do not solely apply freedom and solidarity to political programmes but people with their heads and bodies and their differences: mothers or parents, same sex lovers, girls or boys, immigrants, prisoners and employed and unemployed people’ (Lenz 2018). Like intersectional feminism, queer feminism takes different aspects that might result in a woman’s discrimination into consideration.
The relation between Intersectional and Queer Feminism
From my understanding, intersectionality could be considered a standard that all kinds of feminism and social justice movements should adhere to. However, de facto that does not seem to be the case, since queer feminism oftentimes seems to focus on white people (Dietze et al.,1).
According to Dietze et al. there always has to be a specific focus depending on the question that you want to consider but they propose a way to combine intersectionality and queer feminism. I am not going to go deeper into this topic though, since my focus is to analyse how these topics are depicted in Sharptooth’s songs. Intersectional and queer feminism overlap and there are approaches aiming to combine them but there still seem to be difficulties in doing so.
Now that we have discovered some aspects of feminism, we will take a look at their deptiction in Sharptooth‘s songs
How do Sharptooth address these Topics?
In the following chapters, I will analyse the songs Single Status and Pushing Forward and consider how the band Sharptooth depicts feminism as a whole and queer feminism in them. Single Standard mainly deals with the former, while Pushing Forward mainly considers the latter. Enjoy.
Single Status: https://sharptoothmd.bandcamp.com/track/single-standard
Feminism in Single Status
Don’t get me wrong;
That you think you’re doing me a favor,
But I don’t need you to hold my hand.
So take it back,
Let’s think this through.
See, every time you elevate yourself above me
You’re putting yourself down too.
You can see the first verse above. In it, the singer touches on the aforementioned issue that men may try to support women and unknowingly perpetuate sexism by being dominant in their struggle for equality, hence ‘I understand that you think you’re doing me a favor but I don’t need you to hold my hand’. The lyrical I understands that some men just want to help but wants them to know that she can stand her own ground.
This is followed by an explanation of the basic problem behind sexism, i.e. people degrade themselves with it. If you try to put yourself above someone and disrespect their human rights, which you do through sexism, you show others how pathetic you are. Accordingly, if you do this, you do not put yourself above others but just prove yourself to be a person with vile intentions: ‘every time you elevate yourself above me you’re putting yourself down too’.
They want to try to define us.
The way we are is just fine for us.
This is not just my fight,
This is also your fight.
Do you really want somebody else to
Tell you who to be?
These lines illustrate another problem of sexism: the heavy focus on gender roles. ‘They want to try to define us. The way we are is just fine for us’. Sexism reduces people to their sex and determines how they should behave based on that. Thus, it does not take into consideration that people are diverse and that these outdated categories are not right for everyone. Not every person is the same and not every woman has the same interests. If you keep holding on to an antiquated mindset, in which women belong in the kitchen or things like that, you do not consider the person but just their sex. Thus, you force artificial borders onto people and you cut out that they are more than just their sex.
Especially the second line illustrates how one’s personality is left outside by sexism and that women are marginalised and oppressed in the process: ‘The way we are is just fine for us.’ Women do not need a codex according to which they have to live and they should be able to live the lives that they want to live. This applies to everyone and the singer highlights this by asking ‘Do you really want somebody else to tell you who to be?’ -Understanding why sexism is wrong is just a matter of empathy and this line illustrates why sexism is wrong.
The verses after that show why this topic does not only affect women but every single person: ‘This is not just my fight. This is also your fight.’ Sexism reduces people to stiff roles, which are not right for everyone, as stated before. By holding on to these roles, you hold on to an outdated world view, which does not do justice to the diversity of humanity.
Probably for that reason, Lauren, the singer of the band, directly addresses the listeners in these lines. By doing so, she gets straight to the point and it becomes clear why this matters: ‘This is not just my fight, this is also your fight. Do you really want somebody else to tell you who to be?’. These lines confront the listener and challenge them to consider their role in this topic. Additionally, this strengthens the criticism of sexism and conveys it to the reader.
In the following excerpt, the singer addresses this explicitly and directly applies this to men.
So listen up.
Take it from me.
See, every time they tell me how to be a woman,
They’re telling you how a man should be.
Those kind of lies
They hurt us all
It’s up to us to make a choice to stand united,
It’s time that we tear down walls.
She tells ‘him’ an unidentified character, to take back his hand, since she does not want or need to hold it. Based on the preceding excerpt, she then explains that whenever a guy tells a woman what to do, he tells men how to behave at the same time, reflecting how sexism maintains outdated gender roles. The repetition and more direct iteration of this criticism enhances it and by now everyone should have understood why it is unnecessary and potentially harmful to stick to gender roles.
It is again established that sexism concerns everyone: ‘those kind of lies they hurt us all’. In order to overcome this, we have to ‘make a choice to stand united’ and ‘tear down walls’, i.e. we have to deconstruct outdated notions of gender and be more open to and accepting of diversity.
The bridge highlights that men should just support women in their fight for equality instead of fighting this fight for them: ‘Don’t walk in front of me, I will not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend’. If we patronise women, even with good intentions, we become a part of the problem and of the system that oppresses them and puts them at a disadvantage. The aforementioned lines reflect this.
So don’t walk in front of me
I will not follow,
Just walk beside me
And be my friend.
Don’t walk in front of me
I will not follow,
Just walk beside me
And be my friend.
The song, which is mostly punk-rock until this point now shifts in tone and culminates in hardcore-based music. Here, the singer for a final time mentions which goals feminism should have: finding ‘society’s wrongs’ and to ‘Fight for a world where we all can belong’. As allies of feminism, we can work towards this goal but we must not become white knights who patronise women. Instead, we should just support them, since they ‘need allies, not white knights’.
Fight for a world where we all can belong.
This is your chance
To stand for what’s right:
We need allies, not white knights.
We need allies, not white knights.
Queer Feminism in Pushing Forward
Singer Lauren Kashan is bisexual and in this song, she seems to address this and the relation to her parents as well as society as a whole based on her sexuality. In doing so, she illustrates the correlation between her identity as a woman and her sexual orientation and how they impact her life. Thus, this song conveys queer feminism to the audience.
You told me I was meant for something different. You never made it clear what that would mean. I know this isn’t quite what you expected. You got more than you had bargained on with me.
The lines above can be interpreted differently. On one hand, they could simply describe the behaviour of Lauren’s parents based on her idenity and lifestyle. On the other hand, you could read these lines as societal expectations towards queer people, since they are about adhering to other people’s standards (‘You told me I was meant for something different […] you got more than you had bargained on with me’).
Because For my whole life I’ve been ashamed Thought I was broken, Thought I couldn’t get it right. Thought everything would work out if I only played the game. But I got sick of playing.
The second half of the first verse shows the impact of heteronormativity. Since being straight is normalised, as a queer person you may develop a feeling of being “broken” or “abnormal”, as the singer describes in these lines. ‘For my whole life I’ve been ashamed Thought I was broken, Thought I couldn’t get it right’.
Additionally, she describes the thoughts that one might develop in order to cope with this. ‘Thought everything would work out if I only played the game’. However, this does not work and at some point, you will most likely find that it cannot be the right thing to hide a part of your identity. The next line represents this ‘But I got sick of playing’. Apparently, the singer suppressed her identity, hoping to be ‘normal’ and to do what is expected of her until she was no longer able to do so. Accordingly, this section describes a possible process of coming out.
This is followed by the chorus, which deals with self acceptance and standing up for yourself, potentially after a coming out.
And I know that my decisions never fit into your plan, But I hope that you can listen, and try to understand. Cause I’ve finally been learning what it means to take that stand. So this is what that looks like And this is who I am.
‘And I know that my decisions never fit into your plan’ implies that these lines concern Lauren’s life choices rather than her sexual orientation, since the latter is not a decision. However, these lines can still be applied to a coming out. All you can do in that scenario is hoping that the person honestly listens to you and tries to understand because after all, you tell them something about your own identity and that can be a scary thing. ‘But I hope that you can listen, and try to understand. […]. So this is what that looks like And this is who I am’.
I know I really shouldn’t have to mention That all you wanted was for me to shine The road to hell is paved with good intentions Your goodness held me back from finding mine.
For my whole life I’ve been afraid But bravery Isn’t fearlessness at all. It’s being terrified and pushing forward anyway. So I’m pushing forward.
The second verse, which you can see above, deals with the problematic dynamics between parents and their children. Parents only want the best for their children and they have more life experience, hence they may think that their plans for their children are the right thing for them. In actuality, that is not necessarily the case. Kashan states that she knows about allegedly her parents’s good intentions but explains that their intentions did not help her and instead kept her from pursuing her own goals or being her true self: ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Your goodness held me back from finding mine’.
The second half of the verse is about progressing despite hardship. The aspect of fear could be applied to queer identities, since not everyone can accept not being hetero from the beginning and coming out to yourself, let alone accepting yourself can be a difficult process. Despite these worries, you have to move on and hence according to the singer ‘bravery isn’t fearlessness at all. It’s being terrified and pushing forward anyway’. First, it is nothing bad to be worried about the future and second, not being straight or not identifying with your biological gender are not things to be ashamed of.
After this, the chorus returns, however with a new touch:
And I know that my decisions never fit into your plan, But I hope that you can listen, and try to understand. Because I’ve been on a mission ever since I found my voice, And this is who I am, And I have made my choice.
In this, the singer talks about finding her own voice and claims to have been on a mission since finding it, which emphasises her empowerment. She has found something to stand up for and pursues this goal with the band’s music. The voice is the basic requirement to stand up for something metaphorically speaking. It enables you to speak up and talk about issues. By using this imagery, the singer expresses the empowerment that led her to stand up for herself and others. The lines ‘And this is who I am, And I have made my choice‘. communicate this. The lyrical I is no longer dependent on others and does no longer hope to be accepted by others as it was expressed in the first chorus but instead accepts and stands up for themself.
After this statement, the bridge emphasises the aforementioned aspect of emancipation from others more clearly: ‘I cease to be who you wanted me to be’. This is repeated throughout the bridge, emphasising this aspect more clearly. The lyrical I now actively distances themself from the standards of those who restricted them. This implies that they stop acting according to the standards of others and start to focus on being who they are and who they want to be. Everyone should have the chance to do this and at the end of the day, (queer) feminism works towards this goal.
The rest of the bridge builds up tension and further elaborates on the thought of emancipation. Lauren seams to talk about the impact that the hardcore scene had on her. Just let the following lines sink in for a second:
This is the place where I go to emote. To grieve, and to breathe, and to heal and to hope. Where their stigmas and their standards, they all go up in smoke. Where I became awake when I was rudely awoke.
This is the place where I am finally free. The only place where I can say I’m finally me. It took me twenty-something years to even dream of a purpose Through my blood and sweat and tears I’m fucking making it worth it.
The lines above illustrate the positive impact that the scene can have on people and Kashan summarises why I originally loved this scene. In the hardcore scene, it does not matter were you come from and how you identify. Generally, you are welcome, unless you are intolerant. Obviously, the scene empowered Lauren massively and I can relate, since there are some bands that had a major impact on me. Additionally, she remarks that this is the place where she is finally free and herself, which again emphasises how the music and people encouraged and helped her. In a few lines, Sharptooth summarise what hardcore is about and this is one of the many songs with which they restore my faith in this scene.
Pushing Forward closes with the same words as in the bridge. However, now it says ‘I cease to be what they wanted me to be’, instead of ‘what you wanted me to be’, enhancing the distance to others’s expectations. The lyrical I no longer talks to those who restricted them but only talks about them and thus signals that they are done with this kind of people. This again highlights their emancipation from others, since they no longer care about their expectations.
Why did I choose these Songs?
As mentioned before, Sharptooth give me new hope for the scene. I am always going to love hardcore but most of the scene does not interest me any longer. This is in part due to bands addressing the same old topics over and over again and due to the lack of representation for women, queers and diversity in general. For these reasons, the scene has lost part of its relevance to me.
Both songs serve as examples of the band’s greatness. They address issues directly and do not scratch the surface but go quite in depth. Their songs remain punk, i.e. simple but as opposed to many other bands, they are on point nonetheless.
To me personally, Sharptooth are a really inspirational band and their music has a deeper value to me, that most other artists cannot really offer. If you like hardcore, you should definitely check out some more songs of the band. Next month, they are going to release a new LP, which I am definitely going to review.
What should I take away from this?
Feminism is about equality. If you say ‘All people are equal’, you do not consider the discrimination of various groups. Yes, in theory everyone is the same but in reality, not everyone is treated the same way. Sexism, ableism and racism still exist and members of marginalised groups still do not have the same possibilities as those who are privileged.
We have to acknowledge our privilege and we have to be aware of the consequences of our actions and on a more basic level, of our language. We see the relevance of this when it comes to racism and sexism. By avoiding sexist and racist language, you do not contribute to their normalisation in daily language usage. In order to grasp this, just consider the amount of gendered insults and how many of them refer to women (in English and German, these insults mostly refer to women).
At the same time, we should not overdo it and we should avoid treating people differently because of their identity. If you treat a woman or people of colour differently than white men, for example, that illustrates that we are raised to behave in certain ways. Already the distinction between ‘white’ and ‘black’ illustrates this. I just used it to name an example.
If we really want all people to be treated the same way, we have to stop this kind of behaviour and try to treat everyone the same way in everyday life. This means that we have to live according to the theory that everyone should be treated the same way to avoid discrimination and that we have to stand up to discrimination. The basis for this is being aware of the discrimination that marginalised groups face everyday. In order to deal with this, we have to educate ourselves and our environments and draw consequences from that to change our own behaviour for the better.
The bottom line is the following. Educate yourselves and your environments and treat everyone with respect, no matter their skin colour, sex, gender or sexual orientation. Just don’t be sexists or racists and do not make any statements at the cost of marginalised groups.
As always, thanks for reading.
Next on sovplvnk: A Surprise
Alok, Nupur Preeti. ‘Intersectional Feminism 101: Why It’s Important And What We Must Remember’, In: Feminism in India, 13 February 2017, URL: https://feminisminindia.com/2017/02/13/indian-intersectional-feminism-101/, Accessed on June 25, 2020.
Asex Wiki: “Queer-Feminismus.” In: Asex Wiki, URL: http://asexuality.altervista.org/wiki/de/Queer-Feminismus, Accessed on June 17, 2020.
Cambridge Dictionary: “Meaning of feminism in English.” In: Cambridge Dictionary, URL: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/feminism, Accessed on June 16, 2020.
Cavanaugh, Varacalli. ‘Feminism: Why Not ‘Egalitarianism’ or ‘Humanism’?’ In: Progressive Women’s Leadership, 24 September 2015, URL: https://www.progressivewomensleadership.com/feminism-why-not-egalitarianism-or-humanism/, accessed on June 25, 2020.
Dictionary. ‘Intersectional Feminsm’ In: Dictionary.com, URL: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/intersectional-feminism, Accessed on June 25, 2020.
Dietze et al. ‘Intersektionalität und Queer Theory’. URL: http://www.portal-intersektionalität.de, Accessed on June 26th, 2020.
Elliott, Cath. ‘Can men be feminists?’ In: The Guardian, 23 April 2008, URL: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/apr/23/canmenbefeminists, accessed on June 25, 2020.
Lenz, Ilse (2018): “Was ist Feminismus?” In: Gunda Werner Institut, 25 May 2018, URL: https://www.gwi-boell.de/de/2018/05/25/was-ist-feminismus, Accessed on June 16, 2020.
Men and Masculinities Center. ‘What is a ‘pro-feminist’ perspective?’ In: University of Massachusetts, URL: https://www.umass.edu/masculinities/faq/what-pro-feminist-perspective, Accessed on June 25, 2020.
Queer Feminism, ‘What is Queer Feminism?’ In: queerfeminism.com, URL: https://queerfeminism.com/what-is-queer-feminism/, Accessed on June 25, 2020.
Sharptooth. “Pushing Forward.” Clever Girl, Pure Noise Records, 2017.
Sharptooth. “Single Status.” Chompers EP, 2015.
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