PREVIEW: Julien Baker / Strength in Vulnerability

Photo by Morgan Martinez

Photo by Morgan Martinez

This is a preview of Issue #15 featuring Julien Baker, Panteha Abareshi, Cabrona, Lucy Dacus, Sarah Bogosh + more that will be available for read on June 24th. To be notified when this issue is available for read, click here to subscribe ahead of time

By Rivka Yeker

Identity can become awfully confusing, especially with growing up in the hardcore scene, which is and was aggressively male-dominated. As a young girl, and especially as a young queer girl, we discussed the overbearing push to defeminize yourself to fit in, to be accepted. Julien’s initial response to me bringing up how isolating it is to be a girl in that scene was,  “you gotta be like a dude.” Plain and simple. It’s the same when applied to sexual identity, because when Julien came out to her band, they started treating her like a dude, because as Julien jokingly put it, “It’s like the minute you come out as a lesbian, you have to get a mullet and wear cut off flannels.” These stereotypes exist even in alternative spaces, even in those that claim themselves as safe ones.

It’s the same notion that every young femme person experiences when growing up attending hardcore, punk, emo shows, that, like Julien says, “you don’t even realize you’re surrounded by only guys,” and that it takes effort to unlearn your own internalized misogyny and to step outside for a minute and learn that there is something very off. After referencing Jessica Hopper’s new book The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, she admits, “I didn’t realize any of this until I was becoming more aware,” essentially saying that the norm still lies in the presence of men, and we have to unpack the reasons that make this a problem.

While we know that the scene we’re so intensely apart of is a boys club, as a queer woman songwriter, Julien Baker decided to take on the responsibility of purposefully creating music that didn’t fall into the cliche lyricism that some of her biggest influences did.

“When I listened to The Promise Ring or Death Cab, I run this risk of doing the Straight White Male Wants Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Fulfill His Romantic Needs trope, and sometimes I start to see my phrasing emulate those people because they’re huge influences, but I want to be conscious,” Julien tells us, and she is conscious, because she works hard at deflecting those cliches that we’ve seen done over and over again by our favorite musicians and in our favorite movies.

“I have to start writing songs that don’t revolve around girls existing to fulfill my romantic needs, I need to be conscious of how I speak about women, how I treat women, as a public figure and as an artist, because that’s a secondary influence,” Julien explains, “and that’s how you construct a new social idea while pushing against the dominant culture.” Julien accepts that it’s easy to fall into the traditionality of songwriting, but she is always checking herself and making sure she is defying the patriarchal standard that lingers above us.