The simplest answer to that is, because it reproduces power relations in wider society. For the longest time, pop music was for girls and rock music was for guys. Pop music was for gay men and rock music was for straight men. And, for me, pop music should be an arena of play.
My experience of punk was that it was attempting something different with gender divisions. You started to have strong women and hopeless boys. The groups that I liked were groups like Subway Sect who were hopeless, in a very obvious way. They were so great. They would come on stage and just go “Ughh!” They were really weedy and they made a fantastic noise. And then, obviously, the strong women were exciting – Poly Styrene, Siouxsie, Gaye Advert, Pauline Murray, The Slits. That was new.
“I hated it when all the machismo came back in to punk. It seemed like old information.”
I hated it when all the machismo came back in to punk. I hated it because it wasn’t new. To have traditional sexual roles seemed to be old information. But there was a lot of that going on, a lot of machismo. That’s why The Clash became a joke, because they started to get all macho. It was all so unnecessary.
And that’s why, to me, Nirvana doing a song called Rape Me was super-ballsy. I’m not presuming to talk about women in general – because if you want to talk about women there’s lots of women you could talk to – but I’ve always been a great supporter of the women performers in punk rock. I did see Savages recently and I thought they were terrific.
Jon Savage curates the 2x CD compilation 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded on Ace Records