Where Can a Girl Yell and Scream?

Any time life gets rough, I turn to art - sometimes by making it, but usually passively by listening to music. I grab a pair of headphones or turn on my car stereo and turn the insides of my head over to whoever or whatever is flooding my ears. But lately, I’ve found a problem with this comfort and salvation.

Because I create my own media, I’ve been considering more and more who my influences are and whose art I’d like to imitate at best. The answer is that many of my heroes – artistic or otherwise – are, and have been, white male figures. Considering I raised myself on punk music and its ethos, I’ve especially been looking up to white men since early adolescence. I take comfort in hearing angry dudes yell and scream and sing in the name of punk rock. This is problematic for obvious reasons, but reasons which I only recently realized (or admitted). I am an Asian-American female. I am also an introvert who sought solace in short, fast, and loud songs. The issues of diversity in punk, media, and art in general have their own complex discourse (see: this NPR interview with Laura Jane Grace and Lauren Denitzio). Knowing that this discourse exists is comforting at the very least, but it’s not enough.

I’m bitter that I spent years listening to bitter white dudes scream and sing about girls - girls who were probably a lot like my best friends - in a demeaning but seemingly universal way. I’m angry that I spent years listening to stories and looking at the world reflected through the eyes of certain men without questioning their perspective. Idolizing white male artists never seemed like a problem until I suddenly felt like I had been tricked into working against my own goals. Until I realized that I could only find the most honest comfort in art when I could relate to the person behind the words, sounds, and images. Until I realized that I was afraid to actively or socially create anything because it was almost always an all-boys club and I felt I could never fit in. Until I realized that girls still get criticized for going to certain shows because they only find the band attractive (seriously? that is not nearly enough reason to have your sweaty body parts fall all over us).

So who do I turn to? Growing up, my dad used to cycle through Garbage, Jewel, and Natalie Imbruglia CDs in his car. There was Michelle Branch – who is an icon to me in so many ways – and Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne, who I have a lot to thank for. There are countless female musicians and artists working right now that I love (see: Mitski, Banks, Grimes, Halsey, St. Vincent, M.I.A., Haim). There’s Patti Smith and riot grrrl, among many more, and somehow it’s still not enough.
On the other hand, there’s something to be said about universality in art. I’d argue that many of my male idols directly stand up for equality and diversity and creation all the same, and more importantly, show that support in their own work (see: Jon Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, Dan Campbell, Jim Jarmusch). Opportunities for more female artists to showcase their work is slowly getting better as they gain equal platform through modern media. 

It’s said that adolescence retains our most formative years, and if so, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop finding comfort in listening to white boys cry resentment through melodies, against heavy guitar riffs, through exaggerated airwaves. Often times, we can’t help what we love. But if we are what we love, I need to be real about the identity I’ve created for myself so far and the full identity I want to achieve. In high school, I played music with three of my best girlfriends who decided that changing pronouns in cover songs was dumb. My girlfriends have always been my best inspiration because they themselves are creators, because they’re what I know, because they’re some of the most interesting people I know. This apparently shows the most through the films and videos I’ve written and created, and it should continue that way. I made a list of the main female artists and curators I personally look up to: Sofia Coppola, Alexa Chung, Lorde, Hayley Williams, Carrie Brownstein, Kristen Stewart, Tavi Gevinson, Coco Chanel, Tina Fey, Eva Chen, Beyonce, Rihanna. The reality is that these artists influence my personal and professional identities as much as my artistic outlook; it’s all intertwined. I spent years trying to conform to male nonconformists when I possessed pure nonconformity all along. Now, I vow to put as much of myself as possible into the things I produce.

In the meantime, I need more Courtney Love’s and Kathleen Hanna’s and Kim Gordon’s in the world – and not just in music. Not only do I need more female voices – I need more females raising their voices, conveying a little more anger the way I’m used to, providing arenas where I, too, can yell and scream cathartically without judgment instead of just inside my own head and into the abyss. I need more women screaming into my ear because it would be finally be an accurate reflection of my own self. So please, if you are a fellow female, speak louder and scream harder about the way you really feel and about the things you really care about. I hear you, and I need you.


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