The history of female punk rock, not as a blast from the past but as an ongoing cultural rebellion.
Though the musical assault chronicled here is as contemporary and subversive as Pussy Riot, Goldman (The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century, 2006, etc.) was there at the inception. She wrote about the concept in her 1976 piece “Women in Rock,” a topic that would eventually “become a predictable annual staple of rock magazines.” Back then, however, it was such a fresh angle that she had never read anything like it. “It seems,” she wrote, “that a woman’s underground is suddenly emerging overground….They’re a threat to men because they challenge male supremacy in a citadel that has never been attacked before.” More than four decades later, this illuminating critical analysis turns the table on punk history, which generally focuses on the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Clash (and the Ramones in America) while relegating the female side to footnote status. Here, the men are more like footnotes, as the author celebrates, among others, the Slits, the Raincoats, and X-Ray Spex. While Goldman jumps around, hopping from band to band, she places the female musical foment within the critical context of feminist theory and the cultural context of society’s upheaval. She also highlights many artists who have remained obscure, showing how female punk has been an international phenomenon, extending to Afropunk and female punk rockers throughout Asia. Her chapters focus on specific topics, including identity, protest, money, and love, and she reframes conventional assumptions from a feminist perspective: “Instead of simply asking what makes a girl and boy fall in love, the question has also become, What makes a girl a girl, or the reverse? If you don’t recognize yourself, love is harder to find; you don’t know who might fit. Until you try.” Each chapter also includes a recommended listening list.
Known as the “Punk Professor” as an adjunct at NYU, Goldman extends her authority here.