Women have made waves in punk music since its creation. From pioneers such as Patti Smith to up-and-comers such as Kathleen Hanna, these female artists pushed against gender norms with their unique brand of rebellion.
From their two-toned hair and high-pitched voices, these women helped define the sound of punk music and punk fashion.
Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, co-founders of Blondie, created an entirely original musical style anchored in punk rock that redefined what was accepted as alternative. While their debut album contained CBGB-esque grit and youthful hunger, by 1978’s Parallel Lines release they had already expanded their sound considerably.
Picture This stands as one of the cornerstones in their catalogue, boasting all of the hallmarks of greatness: cascading girl-group drama, an irresistibly catchy New York rhythm and Mick Rock’s controversial cover image. Additionally, its signature hooks abound; with Harry singing out one especially unnerving description of a stalker on this track.
Blondie’s version of Hanging on the Telephone, originally written and recorded by LA power-pop band the Nerves, stands out as louder and tighter due to Harry’s outstanding performance – ceding this song timeless status and making it an evergreen classic.
Siouxsie Sioux epitomized the DIY spirit of punk music with her seductive frontwoman persona and iconic look – deep red lipstick, cat-eye makeup and dyed black hair in spiked braids — becoming legendary throughout her and the Bromley Contingent band’s tours with hard rock songs about rebellion and self-destruction.
Siouxsie would soon venture into more experimental, gothic-influenced post-punk with her band the Banshees, known for their groundbreaking album Kaleidoscope which featured Siouxsie’s haunting yet beguiling vocals as one of its cornerstones. Artists including Charli XCX, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries Toni Halliday from Curve Kathleen Hanna Bikini Kill Jehnnny Beth from Bikini Kill Savages Sarah Cracknell from Saint Etienne have all acknowledged Siouxsie as an influence over time.
Love epitomizes the kind of loud, messy rocker society finds frightening. She was the face of Riot Grrrl (albeit unwillingly), co-founded Bikini Kill, and spoken openly about her addiction and mental health struggles.
She revolutionized the ’90s grunge scene with her ultra-feminine style, setting an example that many have since attempted to follow (Kourt K comes immediately to mind). Her satin slip dresses and lace corsets were an elegant punk flex that put glamour into grunge fashion.
Joan Jett influenced her screeching vocals, yet she established her own persona through the direct, sometimes disturbing content of her music. Teenage Whore was an example of such content which touched upon the difficulties in her upbringing. Additionally, her personal life was equally impressive – she married Kurt Cobain before his tragic passing, dated Johnny Depp during this time, appeared in various movies, was an advocate for women’s rights issues as well as serving on various board of women’s rights organizations.
Beth Ditto first made waves as the leader of Gossip in Arkansas before beginning her solo career at the forefront of punk music. This lesbian sang her songs with raw energy and powerful voices; celebrating being queer, fat and female all at the same time.
Gossip quickly became a mainstream hit after its creator Ditto never compromised her beliefs or philosophy – she advocated against body shaming, ran her own plus-size fashion line and opposed anti-gay legislation.
Beth has had an immense influence on younger artists and has even been likened to legendary glam rocker Joan Jett for her style. Beth was even the inspiration for Vivienne Westwood’s lingerie collection which she wears both live on stage and as part of her clothing range. Beth is proof that women can rock just as hard – something we admire in her! We applaud her and consider her one of our role models.