Shout for Abortion

By Marian Phillips

Marian is a first year in the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College.


Content warning: Abortion.


Over the past few months, Americans have witnessed bill after bill proposed to restrict abortion access in multiple states. At this current juncture, these states include Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, and Alabama. State senators have taken it upon themselves to decide what every individual that is capable of becoming pregnant can and should do with their body; carry an unwanted, dangerous, and/or traumatic pregnancy to term. They have proposed that a bill, one that we know commonly as the “heartbeat bill,” pass so that an individual cannot receive an abortion at six weeks. As New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Twitter, that means missing a period by two weeks. Subsequently, the news that we do not have autonomy over our own bodies has cast an ominous cloud above all of our heads.

           In the midst of the terror I felt, and continue to feel, I went to a punk show. Half hoping to scream my lungs out to songs about Plan B and dance until my legs couldn’t hold me up any longer, I found myself in a room full of people feeling just as I felt: angry and frustrated at the world. The first band that played astounded me. The lead singer of Control Top, in all of their unapologetic glory, screamed for abortion access, and the crowd yelled with her in positive affirmations that we all felt the same; unapologetically pro-choice. If you’re anything like me, feelings of isolation tend to permeate when news that feels too deeply personal becomes so outwardly political. It may feel as though you can’t express your dismay to close friends or family that may not share your beliefs. Even if you turn to Twitter to vent, you inevitably run into another dude-bro hiding behind a keyboard that thinks he can tell you how to take care of your reproductive health.

           If you’re at all like me, you know how important these little moments of screaming for what you want so badly to have freedom to access are potentially stripped from you and others. I have spent a great deal writing about feminist punk throughout my first year as a Master’s student. While my entire life has been grounded in participating in the subculture, I often forget what drew me to it in the first place; May 17, 2019 reminded me why that was. Once the headliner, Tacocat, arrived on stage, I could feel the air growing vibrant in anticipation. Emily Nokes, the lead singer, is an activist and advocate for abortion rights for everyone. She assisted in the compilation of the recently published text “Shout Your Abortion,” a book about being unapologetically pro-choice.

           In the middle of their performance, Nokes stopped to have a short conversation on reproductive rights. “Abortion effects everything, in a good way, it saves lives. It’s fucking cool,” she announced to the crowd, followed by a round of applause and shouting in agreement. The band advocates for their spaces to be all inclusive, accepting, and positive. There has never been a moment, in the multiple times I have had the pleasure of seeing them, that they haven’t withheld their activism as punk musicians and activists.

           I have seen many, many punk shows in my life. No other band – with a few exceptions – have been so unapologetically for the well-being of others. The spaces that Nokes and her fellow bandmates create for their audience is almost otherworldly; something you won’t find anywhere else. They provide you with a deep feeling of comfort. You go into the show knowing that if something were to happen to question your safety, they would be there for you. The bands that played that night were so aware of the feelings that the crowd felt, they made sure we all knew that they were here for us, they feel what we are feeling, and will continue to spread their message. Abortion access now, unapologetically and forever.

Revolutionary Women of Music: Nina Simone, Poly Styrene, and Valerie Agnew

By Marian Phillips

Marian is a first year student in the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College.

This morning on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, I woke up to Lizzo’s “Juice” stuck in my head. Off to a good start, I continued my morning routine while Carly Rae Jepsen, Cherry Glazerr, Rico Nasty, and Dream Wife – amongst others – shuffled and played on my Spotify playlist. As Tacocat’s “Hey Girl” came on, it hit me, why aren’t we talking more about the women that have pioneered not just music as a whole, but have used their platform as artists and musicians to promote social, political, and cultural change? Of course, there are the greats we all know, but what about Nina Simone, Poly Styrene, and Valerie Agnew? For this week’s post, I will share a portion of the activist efforts of these women.

Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, was a notable African American jazz, R&B, and gospel singer and songwriter, as well as a civil rights activist. While Simone initially aspired to become a concert pianist, her desire for social and political justice led her down a different path. Gaining mainstream success from her debut album Little Girl Blue, her song “Mississippi Goddam,” inspired by the racism that plagued (and continues to plague) the United States, propelled her to the forefront of the civil rights movement. For the rest of her career, Nina Simone spoke and performed at civil rights meetings and protests. Her political activism never disappeared from her music, and her desire for justice continued up until her death in 2003. For more on Simone’s life please see autobiography I Put a Spell on You (1991).

Poly Styrene, born Marianne Joan Elliot-Said on July 3, 1957, was a British woman of color and the frontwoman of the punk band X-Ray Spex. Styrene started the band after running a local news ad that stated she was looking for “Young punx who want to stick it together.”[i] As a result, X-Ray Spex was born and so was the beginning of their critique on capitalism which would last for their entire career. Styrene questioned bondage in every aspect of the word. Whether it was sexual, social, political, capitalist, or other, she would deconstruct the entire system with her singing. As Maria Raha states in Cinderella’s Big Score (2005) “amid all the jubilant chaos, they were able to provide a solid, relevant social commentary.”[ii] Styrene continued to promote listeners to fight back until her untimely death from metastasized breast cancer on April 25, 2011. Please see Cinderella’s Big Score for more information about Poly.

Valerie Agnew, born January 13, 1969, was the drummer of the Seattle based Riot Grrrl feminist-punk band 7 Year Bitch. Agnew was a longtime friend of The Gits singer Mia Zapata. While 7 Year Bitch’s lyrics are so incredibly politically charged, it wasn’t until the rape and murder of Zapata that Agnew’s platform as a musician and as an activist came to a head. Agnew, alongside fellow feminist punks, formed the Home Alive collective in the mid-90s. The collective – still around to this day – strives to provide affordable self-defense courses for women and members of the LGBTQ community. Punk-feminists were sick of seeing the people that they cared for become victims to such violent crimes, and Agnew stood up and said that enough was enough. Since the formation of the collective, people have continued to utilize the educational tools that they have learned and that their website now provides. While Agnew is only one of the founders, she and 7 Year Bitch stick out for their unapologetically anti-patriarchy songs such as “Dead Men Don’t Rape” and “M.I.A.”

Simone, Styrene, and Agnew are only three of the hundreds of women that have used their platform to question injustices, capitalism, and the patriarchy. For the sake of time and length, I have chosen these three because of their impact on me personally. While they all reside in different genres of music, the three of these women have their determination towards social, cultural, and political activism in common. On this International Women’s Day (as well as the entirety of Women’s History Month), I encourage you all to look at women who have started a revolution through music, and how big of an impact music can have when women such as Simone, Styrene, and Agnew are at the frontlines.


[i] Maria Raha, Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground, (California; Seal Press: 2005), 86.
[ii] Raha, 89.

Brooklyn Screening of Afro-Punk

SUNDAY, MAY 30 at BOOKTHUG NATION

100 N. 3rd St., Brooklyn // 7pm // FREE

For the Birds Collective & POC Zine Project present a screening of AFRO-PUNK

Several of us at RE/VISIONIST will head over to Williamsburg, Brooklyn this Sunday to check out a free screening of the film, Afro-Punk.  POC Zine Project will be providing snacks and zines for all!  We hope to see you there!

From the film’s website: Afro-Punk, a 66-minute documentary, explores race identity within the punk scene. More than your everyday, Behind the Music or typical “black history month” documentary this film tackles the hard questions, such as issues of loneliness, exile, inter-racial dating and black power. We follow the lives of four people who have dedicated themselves to the punk rock lifestyle. They find themselves in conflicting situations, living the dual life of a person of color in a mostly white community. Continue reading

International Girl Gang Underground

As you may have guessed from this post, the intersections of grassroots feminisms and music are really important to me. As a woman musician, I find do-it-yourself modes of production in music, writing, art, and media in general crucial not only to my own creative control, but also to the circulation of marginalized and/or dissenting voices.

As a participant in feminist cultural production, I have been worried by the lack of documentation about what creative women are doing now. Continue reading