Where Are the Women in the Emo Revival?

Upon receiving word that heart-on-sleeve heavyweights Jimmy Eat World were reissuing many of their classic albums on vinyl this summer, it made us aware that the rumors behind the Great Emo Revival were true. (And it’s not just because this writer realized a girlhood dream of meeting Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba this year at a Twin Forks show.)

Yet for all the hoopla over Braid’s reunion or the reverence of the epically named the World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, this revival is missing a crucial element: estrogen. A lack of machismo in the bands’ material does not excuse this.

And we are not talking about women appearing in the verses of the emo anthems— they’re the alpha and omega of sensitive-dude lyrics. In fact, the genre has always suffered from a dearth of XX chromosomes, from its ramshackle beginnings as a hardcore offshoot to its manscara-dripped incarnation in the mid-aughts.

You can probably count on one hand the heroines of the scene: Rainer Maria’s Caithlin De Marrais, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm… and most of those gals better fit in the indie/Americana/pop-punk/Christian rock categories. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)’s Keith Latinen questions this lack of ladies in a recent Tumblr post. He gives props to his wife and band mate, guitarist Cathy Latinen, as well as to female members of buzzy emo groups Tigers Jaw and Pity Sex.

It’s worth noting that those two latter outfits were the unwilling recipients of sexual advances from a male audience member at a recent show. The marginalization of women in the scene continues on a grotesque path. And though writer Brad Nelson addresses female emo fans in an interview with NPR, his disillusionment with the gender politics applies to female musicians, too:

“It's an authenticity game in which women are automatically assumed inauthentic and aspirational in their listening. Totally hideous behavior. I also think even playing an authenticity game in emo is maybe the losingest losing battle ever. It's already majorly maligned music and creating hierarchies within it seems super pointless.”

Emo, short for “emotional,” encourages the expression of our innermost hurts. Why not give more respect to the sex that actually does bleed from within? What happened to Jejune and the Anniversary in the emo conversation? We can all be sensitive sisters and brothers as the genre makes a comeback, sharing our knit sweaters and our boy/girl vox mixed tapes. There’s room for all inside this aural hug.

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