Positive Anger, Understood Sadness

by Beck Macey

Positive Anger, Understood Sadness

Introduction to the Research:

During the 1970’s and 80’s we categorized youths with an interest in harder music as being those engaged in the most delinquent attitudes, having a negative commitment to school, and forming some of the most risk-taking behaviors in relation to social groups. (Brown, Hendee, 1989) Furthermore, the media has long criminalized the genre of punk and demonized the people who choose to identify with its style, thematic ethics and messages, and its culture as a whole. However, even before there was any real change in the way we view this genre, punk was doing a lot more for outcasted and emotionally vulnerable teenagers than what was being represented in the media. When early punk bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys took the stage, the music they were creating expressed the emotions and deep struggles that young people were facing in society at a time when economic uncertainty and political ignorance were rampant. The music was an act of rebellion that brought a community of struggling teens together and allowed them to be part of a resistance against societal factors that they hated. (Ferguson, 2018)

Over the last fifteen to twenty years though there has been a shift in the way we view punk rock and its effects on the adolescent brain. There has been thorough psychological and sociological research showing how sub-genres of music have allowed teens to feel connected to their peers, deal with difficult shifts in life, and find their identity. Hardcore, Pop-punk, Ska, and the entire family of the punk genre have been at the forefront of this. In order to better understand how punk music and it’s community play an important role in the development of the teenage self we will explore the following question: How does the genre and culture of punk effect struggling teenagers (specifically those dealing with mental health issues, social isolation, and difficult family backgrounds) and how do they use it as a helpful and even healthy coping mechanism. By answering this question, we will be able to gain a deeper understanding on why music plays such an important role in adolescent development and also be able to study how “tribe” community impacts the teenage brain.

Preliminary work and literature review:

Before starting my own research, I began with preliminary research work and a literature review that focused on answering three essential questions: What neurological and psychological effects does punk have on the teenage brain, how does the punk community positively influence teenagers, and how does punk shape teenagers ethics and identity and give them a purpose? The results were exciting and helped organize my personal objectives and goals when it came to conducting surveys, interviews and in-depth analysis.

When it came to looking at neurological effects of punk on adolescence, Dr. Kimberly Sena Moore, a music therapist and clinician has done extensive research into how punk can actually help regulate difficult emotions in the teenage brain. In a study conducted exploring the connections between anger and extreme music, neuroscientists invited young fans of punk and similar genres to participate in a 16-minute anger interview, after which: “half the participants were invited to listen to music of their choice for 10 minutes—they all selected extreme music the other half simply sat quietly for 10 minutes (the control condition). Participant heart rates were recorded throughout the process (to measure arousal), and they completed a questionnaire in which they rated feelings of hostility and irritability before the anger interview, after the anger interview, then again 10 minutes later following the music listening or silence condition (a subjective measure of anger).

The results showed that after listening to the music the participants were far calmer, relaxed and even inspired, indicated by their sustained level of arousal. What this means in other words, is that by listening to their preferred punk music it actually helped them “not just regulate and calm down but shift to a more positive emotional state”. While most people associate heavy and rageful music with emotional instability we might not need to worry so much when we hear teenagers blasting it (Moore, 2015).

Next, when considering how a music community can positively impact youth, I examined articles on how the punk and hardcore movement has the ability to spark real change in teenagers through healthy influences. Although a prominent feature in punk music is its loud and near angry sound, it’s not always about violence or risk-taking behaviors. In an article written for The Signal, a popular Georgia news source, music journalist Autumn Boekeloo looked into the way the hardcore and punk community gives kids a purpose and community. Punk and Hardcore’s sense of community has “given it the power to grow and spread different movements that can make a positive change on an individual like veganism as well as straight edge, which could better someone’s life by discouraging them from using drugs and drinking alcohol” (Boekeloo, 2016).

Many influential bands like Minor Threat and Good Riddance have often preached about the importance of living for the music and the political message of human and animal rights, rather than the preconceived notions of chaos and substance abuse. Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat discussed how it was disappointing that a lot of people he knew in high school could only rebel through partying and using drugs. His powerful music about anti substance abuse spread like wildfire among teenage outcasts which formed a community (known as straight edge) that lives on to this day. In an article from Rolling Stone discussing influential youth subculture’s and songs, Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes” was continuously noted. The lyrics read “You tell me that nothing matters/You’re just fucking scared/You tell me that I’m better/You just hate yourself/You tell me that you like her/You just wish you did/You tell me that I make no difference/At least I’m fuckin’ trying” for journalist Andy Greene, and many other straight edge kids, this song was an important landmark in their decision to stay sober as it dealt with a disdain for relationships in drug culture (Greene, 2019). Minor Threat and their songs were such an important band since they offered an alternate to punk-rock youth culture. For many straight edge kids, being an outcast in high school is hard, but by remaining “straight” you don’t have to lose hope, straight edge kids are energized not just by disavowing the status quo, but by building something positive, a supportive DIY ecosystem (Aron, 2016).

This then plays over into the vegan punk movement. Punk’s have been vegans for a long time, as rebellion, animal rights, and veganism go hand in hand. Artists such as Propagandhi and Morrissey have led the movement as they sing and promote the values of healthy and intentional eating. Furthermore, there has always been a punk commitment to providing free vegan meals to those in need, or sharing recipes, which in turn could be interpreted as vegan outreach in a capitalist society. By sharing food or working in conjunction with Food Not Bombs (an anarchist/ punk organization that provides food to the homeless), punks can also work to subvert capitalist economic practices (Tilburger, Kale, 2014). But how exactly does this positively influence teenagers? There is a new generation of young vegan punks, who look up to these older influences, who are then using their platform to promote the message of the subculture, which in turn is catching on fast. One young man who is paving the way in Northern Ireland is Jack McGarry, guitarist of Belfast band SX-70. McGarry went vegan about a year ago. Since then, he has felt the need to spread the word of veganism through his music (Donaghy, 2020).

However, the vegan movement in punk, and its influence on youth has not only been guided by the actions of older punks, but also by the words that they preach in their music. In the prominent anarchist zine ‘Nailing Descartes to the Wall’: animal rights, veganism and punk culture authors Len Tilburger and Chris Kale note how Prophagandi’s message of “consider someone else: stop consuming animals” from the song “Meat is Still Murder” has gone on to become a motto of sorts for many punks and pushed them to work with their communities to set up benefit gigs and record releases that work directly with animal rights organizations (Tilburger, Kale, 2014). As young punks listen to new and old artists singing about the importance of animal equality and veganism, it has subsequently encouraged them to join the environmentalism, sustainability and animal rights movements.

The emo revival and pop punk genres have also frequently been noted for showing emotional vulnerability in their lyricism allowing many kids struggling with depression and other mental illness to find a genre where the music states, “you’re not alone” and “I understand what you’ve been through”. Bands like My Chemical Romance have resonated especially deep within the queer-punk community, which has subsequently given many people a community when that was the thing they never had. MCR emphasized the notion of sexuality and gender in their songs and performances with so much emotion and candor, especially about the unsettling feelings that are almost hallmarks of the young gay experience (Hartenstein, 2019). This community has then given strength to so many kids who were at critically low points, telling them to keep living, there’s music that’s here for you.

Finally, when asking how punk could shape a young person’s ethics and identity in a way that gives them purpose, I looked for first-hand accounts discussing the impact the music has had on the individual. Sean Irving, a prominent journalist and author discussed how many people

have noted the importance of punk on their youthhood, but what exactly does this mean? Punk has always been a genre and community for the outcast. A place where those who didn’t fit in could go and be accepted. It has never mattered what your socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is, the community emphasizes radical acceptance. Irving explains how because punk has this acceptance of all backgrounds, it ultimately gave him a more humanist perspective on the world. When racist, sexist, homophobic, and other controversial news or information has been thrown his way, punk taught him to question things, to explore them beyond surface level and evaluate them critically. (Irving, 2021) Irving then goes on to say, “I credit punk music for fostering a lot of skills that have helped me in my subsequent adult life, the DIY ethic espoused by the music has held me in good stead long after I stopped listening to The Misfits” (Irving, 2021).

Furthermore, punk has specifically influenced its young female community in many interesting ways. In Lauraine Leblanc’s Pretty in Punk, Leblanc discusses the positive role that punk has played on the way girls involved in the scene develop self-esteem. It is shockingly sad still that as girls begin to go through adolescence, they lose self-esteem in their attempt to conform to the constraints and demands of the female gender role (Leblanc, 1999). Teenage girls start to judge themselves and each other as they try to reach the impossible feminine ideal that is portrayed throughout the media and in many corners of their lives (Leblanc, 1999). However, Leblanc found through surveys, research, and interviews, girls involved in punk vs. those in the mainstream engaged in active resistance to the prescriptions that overpower many contemporary adolescent girls. By doing this and challenging the mainstreams culture of gender, girls involved in punk retained a far stronger sense of self at a much younger age (Leblanc, 1999). Punk has long resisted the concepts the mainstream holds to be ideal, and by challenging femininity, and engaging in a reconstruction of these norms, the girls involved in punk have built a deeply feminist community that empowers girls and promotes change. Leblanc found her research through interviewing and surveying over 40 punk girls in four different North American cities from a diverse range of backgrounds. Other important pieces of data gathered from Pretty in Punk deals with development of moral codes in punk communities, as the author notes that in popular media “depiction of punks are corrupt and contemptible, but the girls interviewed expressed considerable moral outrage” when it came to ideas of bribery and stealing.

Discovery Section:

Methods:

There were a few main methods that were pulled from when doing my research. First however, before starting my methods I did some preliminary in depth reading on how to gather data. There were a few books that were stand outs in helping guide my research: The Riot Grrrl Collection, Pretty in Punk: Girls' gender resistance in a boys' subculture, and Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo. What was most important about reading these books, was it allowed me to look at information garnered by other researchers and see what they did in order to conduct their research and gather questions for interviews, conversations, and surveys. It also gave me access to more data that speaks to a longer period of time (as the books all came out in different years ranging from 1999 to 2013), showcasing a range and length in the importance of punk on teenagers over the decades. I then re-watched the documentary Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk as it highlights one of the first scenes to not only be an all- ages community, but also be noted for being a supportive and welcoming atmosphere to all who entered. The documentary was beneficial because it furthered helped with analyzing ways of collecting data. Furthermore, I then went and used my own resources. As a member of the punk and DIY music community, I run my own music zine and house venue.

Through my platforms I created a survey of six questions that complemented my research question*. This was then further shared in a few different Facebook groups. The Facebook groups were ones that were Philadelphia based punk and DIY collective spaces, Punk tour posting groups, as well as a group for older fans of punk in the Philadelphia area (this was in order to gain a range of ages). My pool of people answering the questions ranged from 15-65, identified as male, female, trans, and gender non-conforming, and hold a variety of racial/ ethnic identities. When the survey entry time was concluded, there were 75 participants. However, this didn’t feel like enough data. After the survey period, I went back into the groups and inquired about conducting interviews. Over the course of two weeks, I conducted six interviews with people of varying ages and genders this included two teenagers, three young adults, and one middle aged individual.

Analysis:

When it comes to the books used, I gathered the most important and relevant statistics as well as took down the information from the interviews in the books on questions related to my overarching question of: How does the genre and culture of punk effect struggling teenagers (specifically those dealing with mental health issues, social isolation, and difficult family backgrounds) and how do they use it as a helpful and even healthy coping mechanism? I filed them into a research document that also contains the data I got from my own survey and notes from the movie. When it came to the personal survey, five out of the six questions were open ended as I wanted to give people the chance to hash out their thoughts on the questions. I wanted more than simple “yes” or “no” bubbles because I wanted people to explain why they felt like it positively influenced them. The google survey then categorized which answers were mostly positive, which answers appeared to be negative, and which answers were somewhere in between. The interview process was next and the questions that were asked were slightly different from the survey, as the goal was to get people to discuss their answers like stories. The interviews allowed me to gain first-hand accounts and learn about in-depth experiences that have impacted the lives and values of those involved in punk, starting from a young age.

Results:

The data that was found was fantastic. Both the survey and the interviews proved to support the research questions posed as there was an overwhelming amount of positive data. When it came to finding a supportive community there was an overwhelming “yes” as almost all the answers to this question were reflected with positive remarks ranging from:

• Absolutely, yes! Being able to feel a sense of camaraderie with a group of people or in the lyrics you find can be an immense help in feeling understood while going through transition in your teen years.

• Yes, punk and its sub genres led me to a group of friends who were some of the best I had in high school and helped solidify the idea of treating people with fairness and kindness, just like how I was treated when I was welcomed with open arms into a community I was very new to.

• Yes! “found family” has always been very important to me and that absolutely started when I started going to shows at 13

When it came to “helping you through tough times with family friends and school”, punk almost always uplifted those who were involved with it. People answered the following:

• The music and the friends I have made through it were my lifesavers through school troubles, one of my parents passing away, and the fallout of all of the above.

• Yes, it was, and a lot of times still is, my go-to for when I was sad, angry, lost, depressed, etc. It always felt and still feels directly relatable to me. At the same time, it gave me the 'energy' (sorry I don't know a better word for it at this point) to pick myself up and move on, knowing I will always have that one song or album a click away to back me up.

• Yes. When my parents divorced, punk music was an extremely safe place for me. DIY helped me feel comfortable and work through difficult family times.

When asked if punk helped you accept parts of yourself and or helped you develop better self- esteem, the answers were once again overwhelmingly positive. Survey takers stated:

• Yes, I can confidently say it either led directly to or laid the foundation for almost all, if not all, aspects of who I am today and gave me the strength and esteem to grow to this point.

• Yes, how these punk stars present them self-showing that they don’t really care what others think helped me with myself a lot

• Punk music gave me a confidence boost. I felt heard, understood and kind of badass.

Furthermore, the graph showing if punk brought about positive memories was overwhelmingly positive with “yes” at 97.3% and “no” only reaching to 2.7%*.

After conducting my six interviews, the data gathered only backed up the survey. It also allowed for me to analyze how punk has been positively effecting adolescents for over six decades. When talking with a 15-year-old from rural Kentucky he answered that he: “didn’t have a lot of friends until a few years ago when I started really getting into punk.” He also felt that punk improved his self-confidence because he: “finally has a way to truly express myself”. This message was seconded by two of the young adults I interviewed. One stated that growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska meant that he was surrounded by kids mostly playing sports but when he found punk rock, he: “was given a positive community and a ‘thing’ that truly felt like my own”. The other from Philadelphia described punk as: “helping delve into my emotions and become a little more introspective towards myself.” The 54-year-old I interviewed from Toledo Ohio explained that: “when I still see other people wearing similar patches to me on the street, I feel a sense of belonging among them, even at 54.” The remark was finished with a warm smile.

Conclusion:

Discussion:

Before going into this research project, I was not entirely sure I was going to find what I was looking for. However, the data both discovered through readings and personal research effectively proved otherwise. When analyzing how punk positively effects teenagers, both my personal data as well as other researchers data showed that teenagers can find community and a better sense of self when involving themselves with punk rock. For young women it allowed them to challenge the stigmas of sexism through defiance of gender norms, and punk has also proved to help promote healthy lifestyles of veganism and sobriety. It also showed that when suffering from mental illness, punk rock could actively understand what the teenager was going through and could also connect struggling queer teenagers together through inspirational messages and camaraderie. My research showed that when considering identity and ethical development, punk was an overwhelmingly good influence because it helped people craft a stronger identity from a young age and form accepting beliefs on gender, race, and class.

Limitations:

While I was proud of the research I have done and conducted, I wish I could have spoken and surveyed a few more current teenagers. Although I reached out on several social media platforms, and did get some teenage responses, I know that a good 60% of my data was from young adults and the remaining 40% was a range of teenagers and those older then 35. If I were to do it over again, I might specifically ask for teenagers to participate rather than allowing it to be open to anyone. Unfortunately, I have no teenagers in my family or close friend circle so gathering data that way was not possible. However, when reconsidering this I could have asked my friends if their younger siblings wanted to participate.

Future Research:

When considering future research there were a few questions that continued to pop up. One was a deeper dive into queer culture and punk music and the question of how the genre might particularly appeal to young queer youth. Another thought revolved around a closer examination of politics and punk youth and how they influence each other. And lastly exploring the way punk impacts youths from different geographic communities was also an intriguing thought. If this research were conducted, I would think more critically about traveling to different communities to gather information, much like in Leblanc book Pretty in Punk.

However, through and through, this was an incredibly thought provoking and interesting project to get to work and research on.

Appendix:

* Total list of questions asked from survey:

Did punk and sub genres of punk allow you find a community of supportive peers?

Did punk and sub genres encourage you and inspire you to pursue your passions and artistic visions?

Did punk and sub genres help you through tough times in your life (with family, friends, school)?

Did punk and sub genres shape your political and social values? Did it encourage you to be more outspoken?

Did punk and sub genres help you accept parts of yourself and or help you develop better self- esteem?

When listening to punk and sub genres does it bring about positive memories?

*Graph from The Effects of Punk Music on Teenagers Survey

Citations:

Irving, S. (2015, November 06). What i learnt from being a teenage punk. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from https://acclaimmag.com/music/learnt-teenage-punk/

1, O., Boekeloo, A., Jenkins, J., & Maxouris, C. (2018, March 01). Influence: How hardcore, rap and punk are impacting youth. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from https://georgiastatesignal.com/influence-hardcore-rap-punk-impacting-youth/

Moore, K. (2015, July 30). Punk music isn't "bad". Retrieved February 28, 2021,

N. (2016, October 12). Straight edge: How ONE 46-SECOND song started a 35-year movement. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://timeline.com/straight-edge-movement 67544e6f8d88

Donaghy, M. (2020) Veganism and punk rock: An Unexpected duo. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from

https://theveganreview.com/veganism-and-punk-rock-an-unexpected-duo/

Leblanc, L. (2008) Pretty in punk: Girls' gender resistance in a boys' subculture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Gm, W. (2020, January 05).

Hartenstein, L. (2019) The kids from Yesterday: Queer community through MCR. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from

http://www.wecb.fm/milkcrate/mcr-queerculture

Greene, A. (2019, September 07). Thurston Moore: 5 songs that influenced me early on. Retrieved April 26, 2021, from https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/thurston-moore-

sonic-youth-influences-patti-smith-glenn-branca-880204/

Tilbürger, L., & Kale, C. P. (2014). ‘Nailing Descartes to the Wall’: Animal rights, veganism and punk culture. Active Distribution.

Positive Anger, Understood Sadness

by Beck Macey

Positive Anger, Understood Sadness

Introduction to the Research:

During the 1970’s and 80’s we categorized youths with an interest in harder music as being those engaged in the most delinquent attitudes, having a negative commitment to school, and forming some of the most risk-taking behaviors in relation to social groups. (Brown, Hendee, 1989) Furthermore, the media has long criminalized the genre of punk and demonized the people who choose to identify with its style, thematic ethics and messages, and its culture as a whole. However, even before there was any real change in the way we view this genre, punk was doing a lot more for outcasted and emotionally vulnerable teenagers than what was being represented in the media. When early punk bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys took the stage, the music they were creating expressed the emotions and deep struggles that young people were facing in society at a time when economic uncertainty and political ignorance were rampant. The music was an act of rebellion that brought a community of struggling teens together and allowed them to be part of a resistance against societal factors that they hated. (Ferguson, 2018)

Over the last fifteen to twenty years though there has been a shift in the way we view punk rock and its effects on the adolescent brain. There has been thorough psychological and sociological research showing how sub-genres of music have allowed teens to feel connected to their peers, deal with difficult shifts in life, and find their identity. Hardcore, Pop-punk, Ska, and the entire family of the punk genre have been at the forefront of this. In order to better understand how punk music and it’s community play an important role in the development of the teenage self we will explore the following question: How does the genre and culture of punk effect struggling teenagers (specifically those dealing with mental health issues, social isolation, and difficult family backgrounds) and how do they use it as a helpful and even healthy coping mechanism. By answering this question, we will be able to gain a deeper understanding on why music plays such an important role in adolescent development and also be able to study how “tribe” community impacts the teenage brain.

Preliminary work and literature review:

Before starting my own research, I began with preliminary research work and a literature review that focused on answering three essential questions: What neurological and psychological effects does punk have on the teenage brain, how does the punk community positively influence teenagers, and how does punk shape teenagers ethics and identity and give them a purpose? The results were exciting and helped organize my personal objectives and goals when it came to conducting surveys, interviews and in-depth analysis.

When it came to looking at neurological effects of punk on adolescence, Dr. Kimberly Sena Moore, a music therapist and clinician has done extensive research into how punk can actually help regulate difficult emotions in the teenage brain. In a study conducted exploring the connections between anger and extreme music, neuroscientists invited young fans of punk and similar genres to participate in a 16-minute anger interview, after which: “half the participants were invited to listen to music of their choice for 10 minutes—they all selected extreme music the other half simply sat quietly for 10 minutes (the control condition). Participant heart rates were recorded throughout the process (to measure arousal), and they completed a questionnaire in which they rated feelings of hostility and irritability before the anger interview, after the anger interview, then again 10 minutes later following the music listening or silence condition (a subjective measure of anger).

The results showed that after listening to the music the participants were far calmer, relaxed and even inspired, indicated by their sustained level of arousal. What this means in other words, is that by listening to their preferred punk music it actually helped them “not just regulate and calm down but shift to a more positive emotional state”. While most people associate heavy and rageful music with emotional instability we might not need to worry so much when we hear teenagers blasting it (Moore, 2015).

Next, when considering how a music community can positively impact youth, I examined articles on how the punk and hardcore movement has the ability to spark real change in teenagers through healthy influences. Although a prominent feature in punk music is its loud and near angry sound, it’s not always about violence or risk-taking behaviors. In an article written for The Signal, a popular Georgia news source, music journalist Autumn Boekeloo looked into the way the hardcore and punk community gives kids a purpose and community. Punk and Hardcore’s sense of community has “given it the power to grow and spread different movements that can make a positive change on an individual like veganism as well as straight edge, which could better someone’s life by discouraging them from using drugs and drinking alcohol” (Boekeloo, 2016).

Many influential bands like Minor Threat and Good Riddance have often preached about the importance of living for the music and the political message of human and animal rights, rather than the preconceived notions of chaos and substance abuse. Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat discussed how it was disappointing that a lot of people he knew in high school could only rebel through partying and using drugs. His powerful music about anti substance abuse spread like wildfire among teenage outcasts which formed a community (known as straight edge) that lives on to this day. In an article from Rolling Stone discussing influential youth subculture’s and songs, Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes” was continuously noted. The lyrics read “You tell me that nothing matters/You’re just fucking scared/You tell me that I’m better/You just hate yourself/You tell me that you like her/You just wish you did/You tell me that I make no difference/At least I’m fuckin’ trying” for journalist Andy Greene, and many other straight edge kids, this song was an important landmark in their decision to stay sober as it dealt with a disdain for relationships in drug culture (Greene, 2019). Minor Threat and their songs were such an important band since they offered an alternate to punk-rock youth culture. For many straight edge kids, being an outcast in high school is hard, but by remaining “straight” you don’t have to lose hope, straight edge kids are energized not just by disavowing the status quo, but by building something positive, a supportive DIY ecosystem (Aron, 2016).

This then plays over into the vegan punk movement. Punk’s have been vegans for a long time, as rebellion, animal rights, and veganism go hand in hand. Artists such as Propagandhi and Morrissey have led the movement as they sing and promote the values of healthy and intentional eating. Furthermore, there has always been a punk commitment to providing free vegan meals to those in need, or sharing recipes, which in turn could be interpreted as vegan outreach in a capitalist society. By sharing food or working in conjunction with Food Not Bombs (an anarchist/ punk organization that provides food to the homeless), punks can also work to subvert capitalist economic practices (Tilburger, Kale, 2014). But how exactly does this positively influence teenagers? There is a new generation of young vegan punks, who look up to these older influences, who are then using their platform to promote the message of the subculture, which in turn is catching on fast. One young man who is paving the way in Northern Ireland is Jack McGarry, guitarist of Belfast band SX-70. McGarry went vegan about a year ago. Since then, he has felt the need to spread the word of veganism through his music (Donaghy, 2020).

However, the vegan movement in punk, and its influence on youth has not only been guided by the actions of older punks, but also by the words that they preach in their music. In the prominent anarchist zine ‘Nailing Descartes to the Wall’: animal rights, veganism and punk culture authors Len Tilburger and Chris Kale note how Prophagandi’s message of “consider someone else: stop consuming animals” from the song “Meat is Still Murder” has gone on to become a motto of sorts for many punks and pushed them to work with their communities to set up benefit gigs and record releases that work directly with animal rights organizations (Tilburger, Kale, 2014). As young punks listen to new and old artists singing about the importance of animal equality and veganism, it has subsequently encouraged them to join the environmentalism, sustainability and animal rights movements.

The emo revival and pop punk genres have also frequently been noted for showing emotional vulnerability in their lyricism allowing many kids struggling with depression and other mental illness to find a genre where the music states, “you’re not alone” and “I understand what you’ve been through”. Bands like My Chemical Romance have resonated especially deep within the queer-punk community, which has subsequently given many people a community when that was the thing they never had. MCR emphasized the notion of sexuality and gender in their songs and performances with so much emotion and candor, especially about the unsettling feelings that are almost hallmarks of the young gay experience (Hartenstein, 2019). This community has then given strength to so many kids who were at critically low points, telling them to keep living, there’s music that’s here for you.

Finally, when asking how punk could shape a young person’s ethics and identity in a way that gives them purpose, I looked for first-hand accounts discussing the impact the music has had on the individual. Sean Irving, a prominent journalist and author discussed how many people

have noted the importance of punk on their youthhood, but what exactly does this mean? Punk has always been a genre and community for the outcast. A place where those who didn’t fit in could go and be accepted. It has never mattered what your socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is, the community emphasizes radical acceptance. Irving explains how because punk has this acceptance of all backgrounds, it ultimately gave him a more humanist perspective on the world. When racist, sexist, homophobic, and other controversial news or information has been thrown his way, punk taught him to question things, to explore them beyond surface level and evaluate them critically. (Irving, 2021) Irving then goes on to say, “I credit punk music for fostering a lot of skills that have helped me in my subsequent adult life, the DIY ethic espoused by the music has held me in good stead long after I stopped listening to The Misfits” (Irving, 2021).

Furthermore, punk has specifically influenced its young female community in many interesting ways. In Lauraine Leblanc’s Pretty in Punk, Leblanc discusses the positive role that punk has played on the way girls involved in the scene develop self-esteem. It is shockingly sad still that as girls begin to go through adolescence, they lose self-esteem in their attempt to conform to the constraints and demands of the female gender role (Leblanc, 1999). Teenage girls start to judge themselves and each other as they try to reach the impossible feminine ideal that is portrayed throughout the media and in many corners of their lives (Leblanc, 1999). However, Leblanc found through surveys, research, and interviews, girls involved in punk vs. those in the mainstream engaged in active resistance to the prescriptions that overpower many contemporary adolescent girls. By doing this and challenging the mainstreams culture of gender, girls involved in punk retained a far stronger sense of self at a much younger age (Leblanc, 1999). Punk has long resisted the concepts the mainstream holds to be ideal, and by challenging femininity, and engaging in a reconstruction of these norms, the girls involved in punk have built a deeply feminist community that empowers girls and promotes change. Leblanc found her research through interviewing and surveying over 40 punk girls in four different North American cities from a diverse range of backgrounds. Other important pieces of data gathered from Pretty in Punk deals with development of moral codes in punk communities, as the author notes that in popular media “depiction of punks are corrupt and contemptible, but the girls interviewed expressed considerable moral outrage” when it came to ideas of bribery and stealing.

Discovery Section:

Methods:

There were a few main methods that were pulled from when doing my research. First however, before starting my methods I did some preliminary in depth reading on how to gather data. There were a few books that were stand outs in helping guide my research: The Riot Grrrl Collection, Pretty in Punk: Girls' gender resistance in a boys' subculture, and Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo. What was most important about reading these books, was it allowed me to look at information garnered by other researchers and see what they did in order to conduct their research and gather questions for interviews, conversations, and surveys. It also gave me access to more data that speaks to a longer period of time (as the books all came out in different years ranging from 1999 to 2013), showcasing a range and length in the importance of punk on teenagers over the decades. I then re-watched the documentary Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk as it highlights one of the first scenes to not only be an all- ages community, but also be noted for being a supportive and welcoming atmosphere to all who entered. The documentary was beneficial because it furthered helped with analyzing ways of collecting data. Furthermore, I then went and used my own resources. As a member of the punk and DIY music community, I run my own music zine and house venue.

Through my platforms I created a survey of six questions that complemented my research question*. This was then further shared in a few different Facebook groups. The Facebook groups were ones that were Philadelphia based punk and DIY collective spaces, Punk tour posting groups, as well as a group for older fans of punk in the Philadelphia area (this was in order to gain a range of ages). My pool of people answering the questions ranged from 15-65, identified as male, female, trans, and gender non-conforming, and hold a variety of racial/ ethnic identities. When the survey entry time was concluded, there were 75 participants. However, this didn’t feel like enough data. After the survey period, I went back into the groups and inquired about conducting interviews. Over the course of two weeks, I conducted six interviews with people of varying ages and genders this included two teenagers, three young adults, and one middle aged individual.

Analysis:

When it comes to the books used, I gathered the most important and relevant statistics as well as took down the information from the interviews in the books on questions related to my overarching question of: How does the genre and culture of punk effect struggling teenagers (specifically those dealing with mental health issues, social isolation, and difficult family backgrounds) and how do they use it as a helpful and even healthy coping mechanism? I filed them into a research document that also contains the data I got from my own survey and notes from the movie. When it came to the personal survey, five out of the six questions were open ended as I wanted to give people the chance to hash out their thoughts on the questions. I wanted more than simple “yes” or “no” bubbles because I wanted people to explain why they felt like it positively influenced them. The google survey then categorized which answers were mostly positive, which answers appeared to be negative, and which answers were somewhere in between. The interview process was next and the questions that were asked were slightly different from the survey, as the goal was to get people to discuss their answers like stories. The interviews allowed me to gain first-hand accounts and learn about in-depth experiences that have impacted the lives and values of those involved in punk, starting from a young age.

Results:

The data that was found was fantastic. Both the survey and the interviews proved to support the research questions posed as there was an overwhelming amount of positive data. When it came to finding a supportive community there was an overwhelming “yes” as almost all the answers to this question were reflected with positive remarks ranging from:

• Absolutely, yes! Being able to feel a sense of camaraderie with a group of people or in the lyrics you find can be an immense help in feeling understood while going through transition in your teen years.

• Yes, punk and its sub genres led me to a group of friends who were some of the best I had in high school and helped solidify the idea of treating people with fairness and kindness, just like how I was treated when I was welcomed with open arms into a community I was very new to.

• Yes! “found family” has always been very important to me and that absolutely started when I started going to shows at 13

When it came to “helping you through tough times with family friends and school”, punk almost always uplifted those who were involved with it. People answered the following:

• The music and the friends I have made through it were my lifesavers through school troubles, one of my parents passing away, and the fallout of all of the above.

• Yes, it was, and a lot of times still is, my go-to for when I was sad, angry, lost, depressed, etc. It always felt and still feels directly relatable to me. At the same time, it gave me the 'energy' (sorry I don't know a better word for it at this point) to pick myself up and move on, knowing I will always have that one song or album a click away to back me up.

• Yes. When my parents divorced, punk music was an extremely safe place for me. DIY helped me feel comfortable and work through difficult family times.

When asked if punk helped you accept parts of yourself and or helped you develop better self- esteem, the answers were once again overwhelmingly positive. Survey takers stated:

• Yes, I can confidently say it either led directly to or laid the foundation for almost all, if not all, aspects of who I am today and gave me the strength and esteem to grow to this point.

• Yes, how these punk stars present them self-showing that they don’t really care what others think helped me with myself a lot

• Punk music gave me a confidence boost. I felt heard, understood and kind of badass.

Furthermore, the graph showing if punk brought about positive memories was overwhelmingly positive with “yes” at 97.3% and “no” only reaching to 2.7%*.

After conducting my six interviews, the data gathered only backed up the survey. It also allowed for me to analyze how punk has been positively effecting adolescents for over six decades. When talking with a 15-year-old from rural Kentucky he answered that he: “didn’t have a lot of friends until a few years ago when I started really getting into punk.” He also felt that punk improved his self-confidence because he: “finally has a way to truly express myself”. This message was seconded by two of the young adults I interviewed. One stated that growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska meant that he was surrounded by kids mostly playing sports but when he found punk rock, he: “was given a positive community and a ‘thing’ that truly felt like my own”. The other from Philadelphia described punk as: “helping delve into my emotions and become a little more introspective towards myself.” The 54-year-old I interviewed from Toledo Ohio explained that: “when I still see other people wearing similar patches to me on the street, I feel a sense of belonging among them, even at 54.” The remark was finished with a warm smile.

Conclusion:

Discussion:

Before going into this research project, I was not entirely sure I was going to find what I was looking for. However, the data both discovered through readings and personal research effectively proved otherwise. When analyzing how punk positively effects teenagers, both my personal data as well as other researchers data showed that teenagers can find community and a better sense of self when involving themselves with punk rock. For young women it allowed them to challenge the stigmas of sexism through defiance of gender norms, and punk has also proved to help promote healthy lifestyles of veganism and sobriety. It also showed that when suffering from mental illness, punk rock could actively understand what the teenager was going through and could also connect struggling queer teenagers together through inspirational messages and camaraderie. My research showed that when considering identity and ethical development, punk was an overwhelmingly good influence because it helped people craft a stronger identity from a young age and form accepting beliefs on gender, race, and class.

Limitations:

While I was proud of the research I have done and conducted, I wish I could have spoken and surveyed a few more current teenagers. Although I reached out on several social media platforms, and did get some teenage responses, I know that a good 60% of my data was from young adults and the remaining 40% was a range of teenagers and those older then 35. If I were to do it over again, I might specifically ask for teenagers to participate rather than allowing it to be open to anyone. Unfortunately, I have no teenagers in my family or close friend circle so gathering data that way was not possible. However, when reconsidering this I could have asked my friends if their younger siblings wanted to participate.

Future Research:

When considering future research there were a few questions that continued to pop up. One was a deeper dive into queer culture and punk music and the question of how the genre might particularly appeal to young queer youth. Another thought revolved around a closer examination of politics and punk youth and how they influence each other. And lastly exploring the way punk impacts youths from different geographic communities was also an intriguing thought. If this research were conducted, I would think more critically about traveling to different communities to gather information, much like in Leblanc book Pretty in Punk.

However, through and through, this was an incredibly thought provoking and interesting project to get to work and research on.

Appendix:

* Total list of questions asked from survey:

Did punk and sub genres of punk allow you find a community of supportive peers?

Did punk and sub genres encourage you and inspire you to pursue your passions and artistic visions?

Did punk and sub genres help you through tough times in your life (with family, friends, school)?

Did punk and sub genres shape your political and social values? Did it encourage you to be more outspoken?

Did punk and sub genres help you accept parts of yourself and or help you develop better self- esteem?

When listening to punk and sub genres does it bring about positive memories?

*Graph from The Effects of Punk Music on Teenagers Survey

Citations:

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Moore, K. (2015, July 30). Punk music isn't "bad". Retrieved February 28, 2021,

N. (2016, October 12). Straight edge: How ONE 46-SECOND song started a 35-year movement. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://timeline.com/straight-edge-movement 67544e6f8d88

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http://www.wecb.fm/milkcrate/mcr-queerculture

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Tilbürger, L., & Kale, C. P. (2014). ‘Nailing Descartes to the Wall’: Animal rights, veganism and punk culture. Active Distribution.