Don't Call Me Honey: In 2017, Women Confronted The Deep Roots Of Rock's Boys Club

Some of the best rock music of 2017 was made by women reckoning with a fundamental destructive truth of the genre: that it promises freedom to young female listeners but withholds actual liberation.
Rainbow, Kesha's first album since the start of her legal battle with former producer Dr. Luke in 2016 after she accused him of sexual and emotional abuse, is a document of an artist taking reclaiming her story. Source: Ian West

Last summer I took my daughter to Vans Warped Tour for the first time. She'd been clamoring to go since the first time she'd walked into a Hot Topic store and bought a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the band Black Veil Brides; deeply devoted to that band and its sweetly philosophical, doe-eyed singer Andy Biersack, she'd even had their album cover painted on her eleventh birthday cake. By age 13 she'd become utterly versed in current pop-punk and grunge-indebted metal, shouting along to her playlists of Neck Deep and Attila songs in the car. "F*** this s***, you can find me in the mosh pit!" she'd yell, all five feet two inches of her electric with defiance. Rock mom that I am, I identified with her passion — the same green kind I'd directed, as a teen, toward local bands with New Wave names like The Heaters and The Frazz — and wanted to help her live it out, within the limits that my own mom, a Bing Crosby fan, didn't know were necessary.

I got us tickets by volunteering to run a sign-up table for our local feminist rock and roll summer camp. Stationed across from the Reverse Day Care tent, where parents went to enjoy air conditioning and avoid their kids, I shared space with some social conservatives ("All Lives Matter," their t-shirts read) and a few students trying to raise money for refugees. Not too many people stopped to talk with me. My kid took off with a friend, returning occasionally to share her adventures in the crowd. "I got kicked in the face twice," she said, possibly exaggerating. "But I'm okay!"

I can't explain the relief I felt when she said all she'd experienced was some standard pit jostling. I'd texted her frequently that afternoon to make sure she was safe. My mom nerves were based in personal experience. I'd covered Warped Tour for The New York Times in the late 1990s and watched a malignancy sprout inside its rock and roll shenanigans. At first it provided a louder alternative to Lollapalooza, celebrating punk's history just as that subgenre became historical. But five years or so in, it became a wild boys' paradise. Artists like Blink-182 and Kid Rock peppered their sets with jokes about women's body parts; actual women hardly ever appeared onstage. I remember the hordes of young men at those shows, wearing painters' masks to protect themselves from the dust they kicked up in front of the main stage. They were having fun. They were building identities and confronting demons. They were also learning the language of sexual harassment.

Over the past decade, the emo and pop-punk scenes attached to Warped Tour have weathered scandal after scandal involving male performers allegedly assaulting or otherwise exploiting women. Now, as part of 2017's great societal about sexual violence and predation, it seems that this rock and roll circus is meeting its end. In November, Warped alumnus Jesse Lacey, singer for the band Brand New, publicly past sexual misconduct with a minor. What in the past might have, , and — finally may have just been too much for the boys' preserve in which Warped Tour has played a key role. Although he denied a connection — "that sexual harassment didn't happen on Warped Tour," he told — founder Kevin Lyman announced just weeks after Lacey's admission that next year's tour will be the last.

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