‘Children should be seen and not heard’ was the Victorian adage that seemed to hang on a bit until the 1960s. Then it seemed to become acceptable for boys to be rowdy and run around with cowboy guns and footballs whilst the 1970s gender-prescribed roles for girls involved quietly arranging fuzzy-felt or combing the hair of a bodyless head.
A fascinating interview with Viv Albertine reveals (at 4’50) just how quiet girls were expected to be:
“I thought girls shouldn’t make a noise when they have sex…. and then to hear Patti Smith grunting and growling… I’d never heard a female let go…. There were almost no female athletes.. there was nowhere that I was hearing a girl let go or see her grunt as she threw a javelin or in a tennis match. There was nowhere to feel you could let go and I used to look at boys playfighting… and wish that I could let go like them.”
The reason punk was such a breakthrough for women was that punk music and singing let go of traditional control and constraints to make a right old racket. For girl singers and listeners it was a chance to hear female rage, exuberance and sexuality dished up in yer face. The Raincoats, The Slits, Patti, Siouxsie all did it with extra loud bells on.
Nowadays you can get a bit of grunty sex on most TV channels, or you can see and hear women giving birth with the most primeval screams, but being loud first became a good thing with punkgirls. I won’t mention je t’aime (moi non plus) because that’s a completely different story.