Women of Color in the Punk Rock Scene – Coog Radio – University of Houston Radio

I think about how punk rock influenced my tastes and personality growing up (thanks to Hot Topic eyeliner and chokers in 8th grade). There’s no question why so many teenagers are into this genre when punk is known for its rebellious attitude of “resistance to the system”. Throughout high school, I became more aware of society and its flaws, which furthered my interest in music that touched on these kinds of subjects.

My passion for progressive movements and music grew, and I started to see the scene as a community; people who share the desire for bold expression and progression. All in all, it was a character builder. Today, in my twenties, I can say that the music I loved when I was a teenager still has a hold on me. Last July I attended the Hella Mega Tour, lineup being Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Green Day.

Willow Smith, courtesy of NME

Artists of more recent times also have my attention. For example, popular artists Olivia Rodrigo and WILLOW. Olivia Rodrigo has been a familiar face on the Disney Channel scene for years, but her ACID album is where she took off with a new, expanded audience. I would say that listening to “good 4 u” today reminds me of listening to Avril Lavigne just a few years ago. I hope she will do more with this sound in the future. And while “Whip My Hair” remains a very memorable song, Willow Smith turned to alternative music with the stage name WILLOW, having a major breakthrough with the song “transparentsou l”.

Olivia Rodrigo performing at the iHeart Radio Music Festival, courtesy of NME

I then found myself in a search to find artists and songs that had a similar vibe. During my deep dive, I heard about the riot grrrl movement, Poly Styrene, and several groups led by women of color. Given that punk rock is influenced by, and does influence, the social and political environment, it would make sense for women of color to have a voice in a setting that impacts them greatly.

Through some reading, I discovered that people of color, especially the black community, were major influences and pioneers of punk rock/rock and roll culture in America. While this is a now rather obvious fact, it was unknown to me as a teenager who was introduced to the very whitewashed scene. With many musicians of color on the rise today, one would assume black women in punk is a first, but firsts have happened!

Poly Styrene, courtesy of The Face

I wish I had known about them sooner, but I’m happy to be able to listen now and find representation in the music that means so much to me. I hope the media will continue to give women of color the credit they deserve and highlight those who are just starting to come forward. Let’s hope that young girls can see women who look like them succeed in this musical world and be inspired by it.

Here’s a playlist I found on Spotify that introduced me to some new favorite headbangers!

Diana J. Carleton