Yummy, Yummy? Not This Punk Rock Girl
By: Jen Litton
When I was 15 or 16, I really started getting heavy in to punk. Let's see if I can paint a picture for you: red hair, chubby, super pale, and no style at all. Punk clothes were not for the plus sized girls, so the thrift store had to do. At this age, as with any teenage girls, I was desperate for some type of romance and attention. Everyone around me were either involved, a couple, or dating. Not myself. I was the fun friend who acted silly and was "like a sister". Hey, I had pretty eyes and good skin, though! Just too good of a friend to be anything else.
Jen, with The Vandals at Warped Tour, 2001
At this point in my life, everything I did was to impress the guys. I caved in to really abusive situations (I didn't know any better. I was getting attention, just never girlfriend material), and allowed myself to be used. I won't go into too much detail. My first sexual assault was at the ripe age of 16. Dude was big in to ska, and was so excited to hang out with a girl who also loved ska (or so I thought). I thought we'd be friends, but it turned into something of a very bad experience. Having the rest of summer school with him and his buddies was super awkward.
This is what lead me down a path of being vulnerable and not understanding my true worth. I thought the world of the punk boys, and desperately wished for them to think the world of me. Going to shows, I just wanted to impress. Be the cool friend, and who knows, maybe get lucky. I ended up with someone who didn't appreciate me. Who didn't respect me.
Going to punk shows, I was always yelled at for being too close to the stage, too close to a singer. I couldn't have fun, sing along, or dance on the stage without being questioned and then ignored all night long. I thought that's how it was supposed to be. Then something changed.
October 21st, 2004, I got to see Bad Religion at the Roxy, in downtown Atlanta. I went by myself. I had been single, completely single, for a year. This was my first show, without feeling like I was the tagalong girlfriend. The one who had to carry all the jackets, merch, hold a spot at the bar. I got there on my own time. I got to stand up front. I sang my heart out to every single Rise Against and Bad Religion song. I wasn't shoved out of the way, I was embraced and sang with the girls next to me. This was liberating. I finally understood what punk meant to me, and a scene that was dominated by males, could now become mine. I didn't need a boyfriend to hang on to. I didn't need to be protected.
What punk means to me. It means not having to be a certain way. Not having to depend on the stereotypes that we've all grown up with. I have an awesome, supportive spouse now. 15 years strong. We have a little girl and a little boy now. They've been introduced to punk, and they love it. I'm teaching my girl that she doesn't have to be one thing. She doesn't have to fit in a perfect little box, and I have to say, she's learning fast. My boy? He's learning to be respectful. He's already learned no means no. He respects his sister, and treats her as an equal. He will not have to be the protector, he will stand beside her. It's my job, and the job of all Mables, to embrace the women and girls of the scene. Bring them all together to understand they can be who they are without fear. They have a voice, they matter. We need to make sure their stories are heard and that the young ones learn from ours. Let's bring our girls up to be strong, punk, independent and stubborn women. Let's make sure they know they can sing. That they can dance, join the pit. Let's make sure they know that they're more than a place holder at the bar. They're more than the merch holder. They have passion for the music, and the music belongs to us.