Misogyny in Virginia’s Underground Music Scene

by | Apr 25, 2018 | MUSIC

“How does it feel to be the girl who exclusively fucks hardcore kids”’

This is something that a close friend said to me. I had just ended a toxic and dangerous relationship and was finally moving on — until I heard that. This relationship chewed me up and spit me out. We had been semi-living together, all while I started playing in a band. The relationship was the first eye opener that I received when it came to the mistreatment of women within the hardcore music scene.

This relationship immersed me into the scene in my hometown of Virginia Beach and also Richmond and trust me when I say that I dived right in. I became friends with new people and still hold them near and dear to my heart. However, my love for them, the music, and the environment does not excuse the fact that I was simply nothing but a pawn in a sick and misogynist game.

After the breakup, I had seemingly lost all of my friends. I was met with turned backs from the people I cared for the most when I needed them. The people I spent all of my time with sided with him and it was disheartening to see that the same people who claimed to be against abuse, sided with an abuser simply because of his status among them.

It finally hit me and hit me hard. Every boy who ever spoke to me, every moment spent in homes filled with boys who I thought were my friends: I was their prey and they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I removed myself from those toxic environments and had quickly realized that none of this was new. This was happening to women involved with every scene, in every state, every single day. Even women seemed to fall into the pattern of deep-rooted, systemic misogyny simply because that is what they have always known.

“Some men just assume females are there because we want to fuck someone who is involved in a band or for status — which isn’t true,” said Hollie Payne, a mother and prominent figure in the Virginia Beach hardcore scene.  “They just assume from the get-go – and yes there’s females that get into hardcore for the wrong reason but there’s guys who do also.”

That is what sparked my interest. Looking around a room and seeing a boys club that likes to claim that they are inclusive enough and seeing women who kept to themselves or kept with a group of men surrounding them. How were the women in this music scene perceived? Why are the few who take part so drawn to it themselves despite being mostly surrounded by men? Do they feel welcomed?

I have always seen women treated more as an object or an accessory, which in turn, has created systemic misogyny, women turning against other women — they’ve been convinced that they are objects for these men’s approval,” said a bass player in a local band who requested to stay anonymous.

I urge anyone and everyone who is reading this to understand one thing. This is not being written with hate in my heart. This is being written in order to bring light to a problem that has been hindering the growth and inclusivity of a scene that claims to welcome all walks of life, but blatantly discriminates against women.

I originally set out with the goal to shed light on misogyny in punk and hardcore scenes, but as I continued to research and talk to many different women, it became perfectly clear that this is a problem that plagues more than just those two genres. Whether I am at a Turnover show in Virginia Beach, a Ceremony show in Brooklyn, or playing a show in a secret house in a secret neighborhood, the systemic misogyny, and exploitation of women in music is a universal topic that is often swept under the rug.

After I joined my band, I was constantly exposed to new bands, people, and experiences. While I was excited and eager to learn more, my excitement was with met with judgment. If I had a dollar for every time I heard both men and women attempt to “cred check” another woman or me specifically, I would have more money than I would know what to do with.

“Women still have a hard time finding respect within the scene. Locally, girls are viewed as sluts, their reputation almost entirely hangs on who they sleep with and how mad men get over it,” said Eric Kemp, Virginia Beach native and guitarist for Love Hive, and Something Offensive. “Women have a hard time being taken seriously in a scene that regularly abuses them or pretends the abuse does not happen.”

It is not even obvious displays of sexism and discrimination that women face. Sometimes the lack of faith in women within heavier scenes comes in different forms. Emilie von Unwerth of the Richmond noise punk band Gumming talks about her experiences.

“What I experience the most is the learned sexism that people don’t really think about,” said Unwerth. “Our bassist Marissa has a really big bass cab and inevitably, a man will ask her if she needs help. They aren’t asking our drummer or guitarist if they need help, it’s always her.”

The idea that a woman is incapable of handling their own equipment is only one example of how learned sexism is able to hurt the progress that the scene and women within it have made. “We’ve taken steps to try and change this overt sexism where people are making efforts to make sure women are playing on every bill, but you’re belittling that and you don’t have enough faith in what we’re doing,” added Unwerth. 

Although Richmond has become a hotbed for inclusivity and diversity, there are still problems that plague the actual women and other marginalized groups which Sophia Lakis knows all too well. 

“When you find that you’re in the only band on the bill with femme or queer people in it, it’s easy to become paranoid and gaslight yourself into thinking that you’re just there to fill some kind of diversity quota for a promoter,” said Lakis.

Image result for united blood rva mag

A member of local bands .Gif from God and Listless, Lakis, also helps promote shows for the Great Dismal, a booking company that promotes diverse bills and safe spaces in Richmond. She told RVA Mag how many women involved with music are already at a disadvantage simply because they are often ignored by men in power in the industry. 

“I’ve heard a lot of excuses for the under-representation explained with all sorts of hot takes centering around a lack of participation,” said Lakis. “but the real issue is a lack of recognition for the slew of talented artists right under the turned up noses of men in positions of power.”

The abuse that women face on an everyday basis within the music scene remains to be an enigma. Through different interviews with men and women of all genders, ethnicities, and sexuality, I came to a standstill when I noticed that the men in these scenes saw more of an issue than the women in it. The idea that every woman I have spoken to has told me that everything was fine and that they are greeted within the scene with open arms is often counteracted by men within the scene who are quick to describe the mistreatment that their counterparts inflict onto women on a day to day basis.

NPR’s Invisibilia put out a recent podcast featuring Emily from the former Richmond band I.C.E., and delved into the Virginia hardcore punk scene and the idea of-of “call-out culture,” where an abuser is called out for their transgressions. Emily speaks on her experience of being abused and for being called out for being a past abuser.

Host Hanna Rosin tells Emily’s story. 

“I didn’t want to cause a scene, I just wanted him gone,” said Emily. “But that was a few years ago, and back then there was no way to make him gone,” said Rosin. “This band had power and status in the scene, and there was a feeling that well-liked guys were protected from accusations.”

This is the common mood of most women that I have encountered. Many women believe that they are unable to speak out because they will be simply swept underneath the rug. This is why the idea of callout posts on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr has become the norm in niche music genres, such as punk and emo music. This was a way to wean out the abusers and bigots within the scene, but seemingly only ones that the rest of the scene doesn’t like. It seems as though the second it’s a call-out post, on a well-liked band or individual, a woman is made to seem crazy or deemed to “do this all the time.” This is almost seen as a double-edged sword when it comes to inclusivity. On one hand, it helps deal with the toxic people infiltrating local scenes, but it also invites more misogyny to plague the women involved with the callouts as well.

But, callouts are not the only thing that is helping revive these scenes.

The mood of the subject changed entirely when I spoke with Heather Eckstine, a young woman who has been attending shows for almost a decade. “It’s really given me a home and a family. The friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met I would do anything for. Even though I’m broke and four hours away (from Virginia Beach) I still manage to come home 24/7 just to see everyone and go out to shows,” said Eckstine.

Although it is possible for one to find their home within whichever music realm they may find themselves in, it is important to talk about the idea that many women refuse to speak badly about it and question why that is.

Erika Forsack, writer of the zine It’s No Secret, is one of the few women who felt comfortable speaking about the subject.

“I was assaulted by someone in a band and the band continued to play shows. Friends who I had come out about it too even continued to book the band,” said Forsack. “This is an age-old tale. It never stops — it starts to impact your social life.”

Forsack discussed her experiences after the assault and how it impacted her social life and her everyday life as well after speaking out. “They said I wasn’t welcome and that I needed to leave,” explained Forsack. “I got chased to my car and got things thrown at my car.”

She went on to say that while there are people speaking out against this type of sexism in the scene, there are still those making jokes out of it. 

“You have polar opposites of the more activism end, which is mostly survivors and the friends. Then there’s the few men who feel socially-charged and the more figureheads, but they’re all laughing about it and making jokes and talking about ‘oh yeah I banged her’ or ‘you wanna see this girls nudes?’” said Forsack.

Although women are still continuously facing issues with misogyny and sexism, there is still progress being made when it comes to women fighting against the pushback with more female-fronted bands making their way into the spotlight such as Code Orange, Mortality Rate, Screaming Females, Petal, Tigers Jaw.

“There is definitely a turnaround happening, a lot of local femme-fronted hardcore and punk is kind of resurging, it is cool to see that women are being seen as a voice and given power and being allowed to dance and have fun and there’s no longer this male gaze diminishing their views and their creativity,” said the previous anonymous source.

Payne also weighed in on the shift that that’s beginning to occur in the scene over the last several years. 

 “I do think men think they sometimes have a superiority over women in hardcore because it was mainly like frowned upon for women to do anything “aggressive” or whatever for a long time, but I think over the past five to ten years that’s been changing- not just in hardcore but in the world as a whole,” she said. 

The fight for equality amongst men and women has always been a power struggle that will continue — especially in the powerful music scene that Virginia has to offer. However, it is no longer impossible to imagine the day that it finally comes into its own.

Top Photo By: Branden Wilson


Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond



Samantha Rinchetti

Samantha Rinchetti

Samantha is a Virginia Beach native currently studying communications with a concentration in digital media at Longwood University. She specializes in women's issues and empowerment in politics and visual and performing arts.

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