Shouty punk band, Tough Tits, transforming the representation of the passive girl into tough girl, and like riot grrrl bands, actively defying expectations both in actions and aesthetics.

Shouty punk band, Tough Tits, transforming the representation of the passive girl into tough girl, and like riot grrrl bands, actively defying expectations both in actions and aesthetics.

This is the second of two guest blogs by Megan Sormus, a PhD researcher at Northumbria University. She reports on a gig that she organised for the recent ‘Girls on Film’ conference and discusses how these female bands and artists redefine what it means to be ‘girls on stage’. Check out her previous blog for her thoughts on female representation in films.

So, what do we immediately visualise when confronted with ‘girls on film’? While it might sound unfashionable (or just odd), the Girls on Film conference drew a tiny influence from Duran Duran’s song of the same name: their laughably sexist video (accompanying by a catchy tune) is just one example of the ways in which women have been subjected to the gaze of men, transformed into passive objects and portrayed as able and willing to be manipulated and styled into a ‘perfect’ product (cue the scantily clad supermodels and baby oil brandishing female masseuses of Duran’s music video–ultimate victims of the lumbering compositions and lazy fetishisation of the 80s).

As the core of the conference was the way that we visualise contemporary femininities and with a key element of my own academic research based on the music and aesthetics of riot grrrl, I organised a gig to accompany the conference that was based around performances by local girl bands and female artists who I felt would represent the focus on contemporary representations of women. The idea of ‘girls on stage’ introduced another element to the idea of visualising femininities started by Girls on Film.

Just as riot grrrl bands aimed to make themselves as visible as possible, the notion of Girls on Stage allowed audiences to see female artists who have stepped out of their comfort zones, who have created a clear image that changes feminine norms and ultimately, brighten the corners of a grrrl tradition that these female performers are carrying on from 90s American subcultures into present-day Newcastle upon Tyne.

Each of the local acts who performed at the gig (Tough Tits, Women in Revolt, and DJ Lady Annabella) carry their own characteristics, yet influence one another other in the way that they create and communicate alternative ways of expressing femininities, breaking traditional expectations of female passivity and pushing boundaries in an alternative and in-yer-face manner. They therefore capture the essence of Girls on Film. We only need look at the Duran Duran’s Girls on Film video and the picture of Newcastle band ‘Tough Tits’ to see the difference between these two representations of women.

With any luck, the objectives of the Girls on Film conference have been (and will remain) of great relevance and influence to contemporary girl viewers, readers and creators, as well as standing as a creative place which promotes the idea that it is essential for girls and women to express and make good use of their own possibilities, rather than be restricted to one look or way of behaving.

Even with just a glance at the photograph above, we can understand the visible changes girls are attempting to make to the way we think, the way we hear and importantly, what we truly see when confronted with the notion of girls on film.

-Megan Sormus
Northumbria University

Megan will be writing for Girl Museum again in our exciting 2017 exhibition, Alternative Girl. We are in the process of developing our ideas, gathering together inspirational girls and women who have produced, promoted and used music to create their own alternative identities. As ever, our exhibitions wouldn’t be the same without your contributions!

If music (or musical girls) has played in important part in your life in any way, get in contact with us. Maybe you want to write a guest blog post, create some artwork for us to use in the exhibition, write a profile of a female musician that has influenced you or send in a video of your own band performing. Whatever it is about music that inspires you, we want to know! Email your ideas and suggestions to Sarah Raine.

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