Written by Natasha Heinz
You can call Defend Girls Not Pop Punk a concept organization, a campaign, a movement, or whatever else you want. More than that, it is a safe place. That’s what its creators were proud to celebrate last weekend, when it completed one year of existence.
Their project was a reaction to Parker Cannon of The Story So Far kicking a girl offstage for trying to take a selfie with him, but it was also much more than that. For the teens, who were both 17 at the time, what prevailed from Cannon’s attitude and the way people reacted to it was a sense that there was something wrong in the way female fans were treated in the scene, and they needed to take action. Most concert goers agree that taking selfies on stage is wrong and Cannon had the right to be mad at the girl, but this is not about manners. For (female) fans, it means something else: If you crowd-surf, you could be groped by other audience members and kicked by the band. In other words, both fans and artists can be disrespectful towards you, if they feel like it.
This is not the worst thing that can happen to you, though.
On May 26, 2016, Allie Terry and Kayla Celius created the #DefendGirlsNotPopPunk hashtag and the @DEFENDGIRLS twitter account. Their first post, now pinned, reads: “This is what we’re about. See the thread below and join us in ending the misogyny in the scene”. Below this tweet, the teens shared think-pieces about the state of the scene and explained they were all about inclusivity, looking to fight for victims of sexual assault, trauma, and abuse. “We are here for all of you” and “We love you”, they guaranteed.
Tired of watching stories of assault and abuse come and go with no real consequences, Allie and Kayla decided pop punk was well-off, girls were the ones in need of protection. Thus, came the name “Defend Girls Not Pop Punk”, inspired by Caitlin DeWeese’s t-shirt design which paid homage to Man Overboard’s “Defend Pop Punk” merch,
First, they created a hashtag and a Twitter account, then stickers and shirts. During the past year, Allie and Kayla’s movement have collected more than 1K followers and the support of many artists. Staircase Spirits and Brendan Lukens from Modern Baseball were just a few names who congratulated DGNPP on their birthday. They also shared opinions on Front Porch Step, Rock for Life, Moose Blood, Neck Deep, PWR BTTM, and whoever else was being called out for their actions. Their movement wasn’t strictly online, though: the teens even organized a concert in Illinois with an inclusive bill – something festival promoters still seem unable to do.
This scene is a lot more than just music for Kayla and Allie, it’s a community they grew up in. When they started to feel like they did not belong anymore, they decided to take it back. As a new wave of pop punk bands gets more and more attention, musicians – and concert goers – need to be reminded that girls are not just characters for their stories about heartbreak, they are a huge part of their public and should be treated with as much respect as their male counterparts. If you also believe that, you are invited to join Defend Girls in ending the misogyny in the scene.
ATB: How did you come up with the idea of Defend Girls Not Pop Punk?
Kayla: Defend Girls was definitely something that was festering inside of us for a while, even though we obviously hadn’t given a name to it yet—we just had the feeling and the desire to bring some change to the music community. I remember idly sitting by as more and more young women who happened to be big music fans came out with their stories of how they had personally been attacked or preyed on by these musicians with large platforms that they think they can do whatever they want with, and I just remember being so angry and knowing and feeling like there was more that I could do besides retweeting, reposting and sharing these stories. I knew I wanted to do more, and I remember being so frustrated to the point of tears at what was happening in general and sending Allie and text message about if I were to create or start something if she would be on board with me—and the rest was really history.
ATB: What are your main goals with the movement?
Kayla: To make a difference, to never shut up about anything and everything, to give more young women in this scene a safe space, to give musicians that aren’t just white men the exposure they deserve, to grow into something so strong and boisterous. To make Defend Girls just as much everyone else’s as it is ours.
ATB: Clearly, there are many problems with this scene and there are still not enough people using their voices to discuss them. How important is it to have a safe space?
Allie: It is SO IMPORTANT that we make the scene a safe space. So many people consider the music scene a home, but what’s a home when you feel out of place because you’re not represented? People go to shows to get away from stress, not experience it. The music scene was created originally as safe space from the “real world” but it’s really just turned into a white guy’s club, as most things do. There are so many issues to talk about in the scene, so I’m just going to use the term “inclusivity” to bundle all of that together. If we’re looking at specifics, REFORM WARPED TOUR. This wasn’t supposed to be a boy’s club. This scene is for everyone. We want people to go to shows and see themselves represented on stage, we want women to go to shows and feel safe. I can’t tell you how many times I felt I needed to watch my back at a show because some gross drunk guy was going to come up behind me and touch me inappropriately, and, unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident.
ATB: What can each of us do to defend girls?
Allie: Never ever ever shut up. Always speak up when you see something wrong, do not be afraid to call anyone out. Sympathize with victims of injustice forever and always.
ATB: In November of 2016, you organized a show in Illinois. How did it go?
Allie: For the lack of a better term, it was LIT. It was really really cool to be able to bring people together to support women and allies in music. I can’t wait to put on another one!
ATB: How did you come up with the idea of a concert? Was it hard at all to create an inclusive bill?
Allie: I figured that a show would be the best way to get our message across seeing as we are critiquing the scene. At first it was rough finding bands with women in them, I contacted three bands I had previously seen before, As We Once Were, Dead Split Egos and City Mouth to see if they would like to participate. Unfortunately, City Mouth couldn’t, but they suggested so many bands with girls in them and that’s how I got Pelafina. Then, I literally googled “awesome bands with women Chicago” and instantly fell in love with Blizzard Babies. Then, I asked Jackie Heuser of City Mouth to do an acoustic set because I love her, and then Caving, a good friend of mine, was recruited and we ended up with a totally awesome line up. Putting together this show really broadened my network and music taste.
ATB: You identify as intersectional feminists. How did feminism come into your lives? How important is this identification for you, as people and as a movement?
Allie: I’ve really been a feminist for as long as I can remember. Every year in elementary school, I would do a project on women my little heart found to be badass aka Susan B Anthony, Juliette Lowe, and Helen Keller. I never really started identifying as a feminist until my freshman year of high-school, though. Intersectional feminism is so important to me. I am unabashedly a social justice warrior and I will stop at nothing to ensure every human being regardless of race, sexuality, class, gender, etc. has achieved equity. Intersectional feminism is also important to our movement because, if we didn’t have this identification, our words would be fruitless and this movement would have no real meaning.