In ‘90s Washington, when Bikini Kill vocalist Kathleen Hanna looked out at the crowd before her, full of men drenched in sweat from moshing, she noticed something — or more aptly, someone — missing. She took matters into own hands, and began something revolutionary with these words: “All girls to the front!”
This was important to the girls back then, because the punk shows that she played had a lot of sweaty, aggressive men who didn’t give a thought to any girls who came to the shows for the music. The men took up the area closest to the stage to mosh, and any girls who wanted to be close to Bikini Kill had to move to the side to avoid getting hurt. Kathleen Hanna couldn’t stand to see girls being excluded, so she made a place for them.
Some of you may feel left out because most band members you see out there today are probably men. I know that it can also be discouraging when people in guitar stores don’t take you seriously because of your gender, or when you’re told that you can’t play the drums in a skirt. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s any shortage of talent in you. Technical skill, age, and gender may color the way people receive your music, but a good song is a good song.
At some point in the documentary about Hanna called The Punk Singer (2013), she says, “Girls’ bedrooms sometimes can be this space of real creativity. The problem is that these bedrooms are all cut off from each other, so how do you partake of that bedroom that you’re cut off from? All the other girls who are secretly in their bedrooms writing secret things and making secret songs?”
If you’re still too shy to let people hear your songs, take your time. Putting your vulnerabilities, thoughts, and experiences out there can be pretty intimidating to begin with. I understand why you’d be afraid of rejection. I am, too. It’s just a part of letting what you write into the world. You don’t have to be able to sing like Adele or Lea Salonga. Find your own voice, your key, and your style. Jam with friends, form collaborations, or go solo. Let people you trust listen to what you make. There isn’t a single “right” way to go about this, so there are so many opportunities to experiment until you feel that you’re ready.
Thanks to technology, all the tools are out there to record songs. Hanna had just a drum machine and a four-track when she made her solo album in her own bedroom. Now, you can arrange an entire album with GarageBand, post it online and get it heard, even if it’s under a pseudonym. Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet in getting your songs to other people. Bedroom projects like local 19-year-old singer-songwriter BP Valenzuela’s introspective songs began on SoundCloud, and spread by word of mouth. The result is her debut release, “be/ep,” which became one of the most critically acclaimed EPs of 2014. She recorded it on her own. All the resources for learning to produce your own songs are online. It takes hard work, but it pays off.
If you’re feeling lost or you just don’t know where to begin, listen to others. Reach out beyond the walls of your bedroom where you write songs at 3 a.m., to other girls who are writing songs long past midnight. Find ways to share music. Make mixtapes for your friends and schoolmates, organize gigs, and post what you write online. People don’t know what they’re missing yet. You don’t need to wait for someone else to get your songs out there. Be proud of what you make, and the unique voice that you can share, no matter how old you are.
I can’t wait to hear from you.
P.S. You can definitely play the drums in a skirt. Look up “Penny in Yo’ Pants” online. It’s a technique for biking in a skirt, but it’ll work for drummers, too. Nothing can stop you!