Bellow you will find article written for the book “Fight Your Own War - Power Electronics And Noise Culture” as a reflection on the rise of ” whitepower” movement and “whitepride” cult propaganda in postindustrial “harsh noise” | “power electronics” music scene as well as rooted problematic relation to female work and representation.
Artist took this subject matter purposefully as it seemed to be an unspoken, but well known truth regarding quite a few major labels and well established artists. Not to mention such views stand as direct opposite to BRUT code of conduct.
Sonia would like encourage you not to support such projects, boycott their events (weather as an artist yourself or as an attendant) and finely not to back labels that print such material.
BRUT – The Killjoy of ‘White’ Noise
I was thinking through writing this, and how it should start. I could swoop in and show off my knowledge of this genre to seem credible, to mark my territory, so to speak. I could quote some over-hyped lyric to prove my resourcefulness and flash my legitimate hall pass. Instead I would like to start with a minute of silence.
… One minute ...
This chapter goes out to the almost non-existent diversity of colour, gender, and queerness (especially in female form) in power electronics. The idea is almost alien, that you could walk into a room and see people of various ethnicities, stages crowded with multicultural performers, and women representing more than one per cent of the bill or audience. Some say women happen to be only a small percentage of noise audiences because the sound is harsh or extreme. That’s just stupid. As if women don’t go to metal, punk and other ‘underground’ gigs. There are many sides to this ‘white noise’ problem, I am sure, but hostility towards ‘otherness’ is definitely one of them, particularly towards the LGBTQI crowd. Woman are marginalised, objectified, and generally not respected. Ethnicity has almost zero representation and the combat-booted crowd does not seem the friendliest for a few brave attendees.
In this chapter I will mainly talk about power electronics and, as a female performer, voice issues that myself and others have discussed privately. As this piece is directly connected to BRUT, it will represent views and touch upon ideologies that I incorporate into my work. Most of them come from personal experience, through quite a few years of being heavily involved in the scene not only as a performer, but as a consumer, reviewer, and collector. This is going to be a look at our beloved, bloody, underground with all the shouts of “Heil!” and the fist-pumping egos. The pogo for comfortably-off European boys who want it rough, though they’ve never been under great pressure or the threat of war they keep talking about, or indeed any sort of exclusion based on race or gender. Of course, I recognize there are those who stand against racism, capitalism, the unfairness of political systems, etc. The rare human animal of this sort, who creates noise and goes to protests or anti-Nazi rallies, let’s call them the Antifa of the noise scene. The intellectual bulk. This is the person that sees the gift of a stage as an opportunity to do something special with the space that they have and the sound they produce. I refuse to name names. The rare animal that produces resistance for the cause of equality of all people, all races and genders, who highlights animal rights and ecological issues – I will call them ANTIFA heroes and not ‘political’ noise projects. There is nothing heroic about not being a bigot but if you use the word ‘political’ some might mistake these true heroes of the scene for the Neo-Nazi chauvinists that are like roaches – unlikeable and everywhere (no disrespect to the insect).
We all have favourites. We have those who influence us, those who pressure us and those who at some point we wish to impress. The fathers of the scene. The mothers are so insignificant and invisible that they stand like insubstantial halos – if you are a believer, all of a sudden you start to witness a miracle.
You see, this scene is a peculiar animal. It turned into something hateful, boring, and exclusive, though its roots were a “Fuck you” to everyone, a fight with a cause – and that cause wasn’t superiority. This in itself led to the formation of a union of intelligent masterminds and creative geniuses, who destroyed ideas of sound, challenged perceptions of beauty, and drove us towards ultimate nihilistic deconstruction. But today, with the soldiers who have blindly followed the false prophets and their medals, we are left with bigots. People who ruined something that was inclusive, aggressive, strong, and mighty fucking creative. We lost extreme performances, we lost the voice. Today, it’s the same band playing the same album for the same people from the same band. The new acts that challenge the status quo are not supported, and faces that mimic the old material, style, sound, and ideology are praised. Gentlemen, I think your boat is leaking. I am sure that the rage I provoke on this subject will bring a tsunami of shit, but it will only prove my point. The few criticisms the scene gets from outsiders, or insiders that are not pissing themselves and speak up, creates a rage fest for the combat-boot crew. BORING!
The other big problem is what I call ‘WHITE GENITAL-BASED PRIVILEGE’. Sound familiar? Before you all start to feel very superior and bang the table with your fists, let’s go back a little. Picture the last 10 gig posters that you can remember. Or open any event page online and scroll down. How many female or non-white acts do you see? And out of these (there can’t be more than two) how many albums did you purchase or release? How many times have you praised these acts in even remotely the same way you praise the same track from the same album over and over again? Posting it on your Facebook feed to prove to everyone that you are a true, real, hardcore fan. You understand, you support, you roar, you are POWER ELECTRONICS. It baffles me that most of the time women are mentioned at the very bottom of the line-up. Not because their acts are new, or not as well rounded or performed; they are just less important, less catchy, and less cashable. And these are the women who, when they do get the honour of being invited to perform, are scrutinized based on their appearance, the amount of shit they have on stage, and their ‘gadgets’. Like an overdressed circus extra that you invite to lighten the mood of the party, a vegetarian starter for your steak dinner. The noise gods forbid that she should be the lead. I have seen these women, talented, fearless, doing it on their own. And you know what? Their releases suck, because no one wants to promote or properly release and master their sound; women in noise are simply non-profitable. Good for the eye, though: let’s invite her to play live so we can appreciate the boob movement better. (You can’t see that on the CD, or oh! vinyl. Though some cheap underwear and some noir fetish shots would be nice.) And anyway, what do we girls know about noise? I have heard this shit so many times. As if being asked “Who do you perform with?” or “Who do you support?” is not bad enough, you are completely disregarded, sometimes face to face. A person just turns his back to you and continues the conversation with one of the boys. You know, those boys who shout that I am exaggerating, that there is no such thing as this white penis worship: “We have a few female noise artists, a few promoters, and there are even some new releases, and the girls, they are cute!” Standing ovations!
The funny thing is that I have never seen a more aggressive, understanding, and rightfully pissed-off person at a noise gig than a woman. The woman that actually knows what it means to be threatened, abused, raped, kicked, marginalized, and treated like a pile of garbage. The words that boys shout and have no idea about – WE KNOW! You create tracks about us, screen porn clips of us, put us on your album covers, and wank off to our cunts. And on those rare occasions when we pick up a chair and summon our power to fight back, when we push your drunken stinking goop away from us and your dirty hands away from our asses, you freeze. You don’t understand. You shout, spitting saliva on your gut, and write your post on Facebook complaining in the forthright way that your macho attire dictates. You try to create situations where we, women, go against each other, but this time it’s over. We just press delete. And still, we are the stories you share in interviews and to your drinking pals: “You remember that chick, she totally kicked that dude.” Pitiful.
I often analyse the beginning of BRUT. Especially the very beginning when, though my subject matter was very explicit, I never really openly voiced my opinion in discussion. I would bring my flyer with the BRUT manifesto and hope that people actually saw what the performances were about and why I was naked. Perhaps in order to be and to do BRUT I accepted the sexism, racism, and all that comes with it, as the desire to perform was even bigger then the notion of sexual exclusion. The more verbal and more assured my performances became the more I felt the problem. With time I noticed this pattern of not being invited to, or outright refused, gigs at noise/power electronics events, whilst my performances at various festivals and events grew, including a group performance at Tate Modern with Vagina Dentata Organ. I think I don't get invited to these ‘power noise’ events as often as I bring discomfort, discussion, and annoyance into a very warm and simple space of white genital privilege. BRUT is kind of bad for morale – I am a testosterone downer.
BRUT is the embodied experience of fragility; I don’t remind the audience of the glorious work of men, the wars they have won, the killings they have undertaken for a brighter future. I show torn vaginas destroyed by perpetual rape, the ravages of child porn, fetishes, the horrific actions of religious fanatics, and everyday violence towards women and girls. This reminds us what male power is based on, and puts the male viewer under pressure to rethink their choices. Recalculate the steps, count the costs of your entertainment. It creates a sense of guilt, and a feeling that seems quite foreign or frightening: public feebleness. And the worst part is that it’s not them – powerful and mighty, yet showing the sensitive side of the warrior – but a feminine power and smell that is showing them their shortcomings. Touching upon the long-established Madonna/WHORE complex. You melt someone’s perceptions. You make someone think, de-fetishize abuse, and trigger a subconscious feeling of responsibility as the male audience are presented with stark criticism of their actions. At these gigs, apart from being boy-shows-boy-how-boys-do-it, it’s just a soundtrack for drinking, no one really wants to think too much. This idealistic world, this idea of a white ‘comfort zone’, is what BRUT is poking and prodding at.
Then we step into the light of the holy LABEL. I call the next witness to the stand: the FEMINIST. The hated, scrutinised, feared, rebellious, obviously non-shaven, abortion-defending lesbians who are very much non-porn material. In a sea of false information and blinding small-mindedness, feminism is just utterly non-desirable. How many of you actually know what feminism stands for? And if you do know, why do you hate it so much? Don’t you wish your mother, sister, wife, or daughter to be protected by government, to be paid as much as you, to have the same access to knowledge, education, voting, and medical assistance? To wear what she wants, say what she desires, and walk freely on the streets without the fear of being beaten, raped, or stoned? Some will say that these issues are not present in modern day society (“Look, you have Angela Merkel and Sarah Palin, and a few others”). Some think it is natural that a woman, a human being just like you, has to ask your permission to have all of these things you possess, these female privileges. These privileges that are so mundane to you. There is a great disjuncture here: what is normal for one does not even exist for the other. Women pay more for most of the products that women themselves are marketing slaves for. We are made to sell ourselves unrealistic expectations of our bodies that promise us bright and successful futures. We are not paid equally; our health and support services are shut down one by one. Our bodies are never good enough, our femininity or masculinity is constantly the subject of media discussion by you. Our periods are a hush-hush subject and a slight mood swing or opinion out of the ordinary is ‘bitchy’, ‘bossy’, ‘PMS’, ‘menopause’ or – the new favourite shaming tool – ‘FEMINIST’. The amount of sexism is so overwhelming that if you really look at your surroundings this fight sometimes seems impossible. And the place of expression, the place of honesty, the place of the outspoken voice, the true underground that used to be a home for freaks and oddballs, is marginalizing us based on our fuckability. The worst part of all is that we, women, became so blinded and shamed for voicing these issues, that we started to turn upon one another. If men were in this position, they would create a worldwide battalion, take up any utensil they could, and ‘cut the bitch down’. But we are so brainwashed, scared into submission by fear of rejection, that the notion of not presenting ourselves as victims seems impossible. ‘Victorious’ does not even cross our minds when we read headlines such as ‘10 year old girl beaten and raped’, ‘Rape victim made to keep her baby, abortion is still illegal’, ‘Throughout his lifetime he raped hundreds of women’. Then anger comes, we clench our fists, and drown our sorrows. FEMINISM is not a good appetiser.
It does not surprise me that our names are last on the posters, that we don’t even fucking get paid equally for noise shows, if at all. Because the (male) project that played barely any shows and one gig outside their country of residence has to get paid more, as we are less known. And it’s in no way about the money, don’t get me wrong, but in the modern world money unfortunately reflects worth. There you have it. You are WORTH/LESS. Nothing personal. You are just not a long-term investment. You see, they are the successors of someone worshipped and great. They have tools and pictures of themselves in ski masks, draped in camouflage, waving flags, raising hands to their dictators. And we are the back-up singers, the latex-clad fashion accessory. Don’t forget the cleavage: too long from the tit and the Titans might fall. Power electronics is such a good example of under-fucked boys complaining to one another why girls don’t like them. And for this reason we show hardcore porn, you know, the mighty penis! So everyone knows that we are strong, firm, hard, capable. If a woman also shows porn or in any way presents her work in a submissive or victim-like style, she is very fuckable. She is desirable, hence acceptable. She can interfere in and intrude upon this day-to-day pint-downing contest. This is one of the most interesting and obvious examples of the paradoxical ‘male gaze’.
The ‘Women Need Rape’ movement pride themselves over and over on the radicalism of their message. A message that they don’t have any, I repeat, any right to even voice. Every guy who shouts that and puts it on a record, a poster, as part of an intellectual discourse about their work, or shows it off as part of their shitty sense of humour, should be ‘blood ass raped’ in an alleyway. Without a means of communication, the possibility of reporting it, and dealing with the shame and fear that will haunt them every fucking time they see an unfamiliar face for the rest of their life. Good luck at rush hour and every step of the way during the dark season. Some of you say: freedom of speech and expression. OK, let’s look into that. I don’t want to discuss the IQ scores of these genius lyricists. I would just be curious to see their faces covered in slime, guilt, fear, and bodily fluids and then give the mighty their microphones. All of a sudden it’s not an imaginary fetish but the most horrifying event of their life. I think the subject matter would change instantly and we would have a whole ‘noise – not rape’ movement. This gift that we western countries have, this freedom of expression that generations fought for, is used for this. This utter bullshit! We should not fear the word rape; it happens to women, children, and men. But putting women in this victim position over and over again by voicing stories men have no experience of is just weak! Like a virus, it spreads and poisons other blind idiots. The over-sexualization of women’s pain and humiliation has very deep roots. The way woman is seen and gazed upon, her role is very superficial. There is a strange disconnect between the female artist and the male observer. Saying that the lyrics used for the past 30 years are meant to be ‘shocking’ and out-there – even appreciating the time in which they were produced – does not really work as a defence. This whole serial killer, rapist, uber-man, power-trip movement is a sad representation of powerlessness, desperation, and escapism. And this vibe is not only evident in power electronics; there are plenty of other heavy music genres with these tendencies.
We could say that shit subject matter is used because it’s still shocking, men and women can’t believe that this is still happening, and it is a twisted way to raise awareness of issues such as violence against women. But it isn’t. It’s a direct embodiment of phallocentrism. Women still exist as a spectacle in the subconscious of patriarchal society. Power electronics is this small and limping phallocentric order of scopophilia, the perverse pleasure of looking. Of course the female role in the genre is trapped in the over-fantasized and fetishized idea of a woman. To cope with rejection and to meet the need for approval, to keep the dominant role, woman is subject to the Freudian notion that she is only relevant as a child-bearer and afterwards discarded/unwanted. The fear of the vagina and of the woman who is strong (whether she chooses to be submissive or dominant) runs against male fantasy and breaches the gaze that objectifies her. The obsession with the subject of fantasy turns into perversion, and I believe this is why excessive sexualisation, hardcore rape porn, misogynistic lyrics, and other expressions of objectification occur so often where there is zero censorship. It would happen just as bluntly on a pop-cultural level, but there are more filters and restrictions involved. Don’t get me wrong, minimum to no censorship is great, but there should nevertheless be a moral and intellectual understanding of what is right or wrong. The scary thing is that perhaps this is a reflection of morals.
I don’t wish to go into details about questionable imagery, symbols, etc. But we have to make it very clear that the use of images and ideas such as violence towards women that send mixed messages and promote the caveman stereotype “Beat a woman, be more of a man, slap her around” are not OKAY! Let’s repeat ourselves: women and children do not wish to be raped – EVER. And that is one of the examples of genital-based privilege. As the man projects his fantasy onto a woman he is an active viewer and observer; his obsession becomes a passive, erotic expression. A man will never perceive woman as equal as he subconsciously views her as an object of desire. Man identifies with other men as active viewers. It is said that there are two ways men deal with their voyeurism and fetishism of the female spectacle; firstly by investigating and demystifying a woman, and secondly by a fetishizing that leads to sadism. BRUT is the anarchist of phallocentric language, like lesbians who took back the word DYKE. As we are all using patriarchal means of expression, BRUT’s stepping beyond that language becomes both a problem and a barrier breaker.
Also interesting to me is the relation of power electronics to pop culture, unfortunately not in a way we would like it to be. If noise and power electronics is a reaction against the obsessions and assumptions of the commercial scene, why is it so submissive to its ideas? Why doesn’t it challenge the ways women are seen and exploited, rather than playing along, feeding the beast of conformity? If noise is a complete anti-aesthetic and no-rules idea, something that shatters notions of what is beautiful and acceptable, how come the visual aspect is absolutely mainstream or even worse (woman are objectified, materialised as commodities, and perceived as unequal)? The actual rebellion, anti-authoritarian and totally underground, would be to challenge caveman ideologies, praise female artists, engage with subjects like animal rights and children’s rights, and encourage diversity. Why are we as a collective completely failing to be the resistance to all the commercial crap that we say we are against? No one wants you to wear the same t-shirt for 30 years or tell you what to eat and what to buy, but if you do have access to stages, zines, or record pressing, why not be a rebel? Invest your time in research and don’t be a part of a dickhead Neo-Nazi women-hating regime.
One can argue that I am talking too generally about all noise artists or fans, or too narrowly about power electronics, and for those I would say, look back to the first paragraph. I acknowledge that there are those who support movements for equality and diversity, and the problem is not porn. The problem is the objectification of women on all counts: viewing her as unequal, intellectually inferior, and incapable of mastering the hard craft of sound-making. It’s the complete disregard towards women and to the antiquated idea that it’s NORMAL to talk about a woman as a secondary species. That we still have to pick out those men who stand out from the crowd and support our movement, voicing it to others. Those with whom we stand shoulder to shoulder. The fact that people don’t write questions on event pages such as “Why are there no women performing?”, “Why are women listed last on the poster?”, “Why is that female performer a warm-up for the laptop-hugging ski mask dude?!”
I do not have the answers. I have tried to voice and write down my observations based on my own experience and on situations that have caught my attention over the past 12 years of being an active ‘member’ of the post-industrial community. It might be confusing to break away from what you are used to and try to see, as an observer, the points that I’ve mentioned above. There have been so many instances when women have been treated badly, shamefully, and with such disrespect that my anger froze me. I see these women, hear them talk. I see anguish in their eyes. Feel how they want to break this boundary, create their own work and space. But the fear and risk of putting themselves out there, of not being well received and respected, stops them. These issues will sound trivial to men. And to them, I shall say this – all the gigs you did, the records you released, and the forums you voiced your issues in, for all of it you received help. You were promoted, prompted, and advertised. You were invited to perform and given all the tools to do so. Yet you think women are whining when no one wants to help us get a gig. You are a HYPOCRITE!
We, women, have to stop counting on our fingers people who support us and stand our ground. We should stop asking ‘could we’, ‘should we’, and be thankful for every grain of respect! We should be brave, bold, and stand firm! Whichever is YOUR way, whatever is YOUR message, say it! Say it so loud, so fierce, and say it honestly. Stop being pressured by whoever wants to brainwash you about how bad you are at this and that, how FEMINISM is a sinister tool, how no one cares! Support your female artists, collaborate, make collectives, release records, go to demos, do research about our brave and long Herstory. Stop listening to messages on records that dehumanise YOU! That make YOU into an object. That promote hate towards YOU, that make YOU into a tool for pleasure. Stop promoting these acts, don’t buy their records. YOU are more!
YOU ARE A WOMAN – YOU ARE BRUT! BRUT IS A WOMAN – A WOMAN IS A WEAPON!