I’ve always thought I am the opposite of punk. On the whole I’m very well behaved and seldom question authority for fear of offending or stirring up trouble. I’m like a Labrador that is rarely naughty unless you leave a lamb bone lying around unattended. I suppose most of us who were brought up in households with average levels of parental discipline are pretty similar, just getting on with things, being well behaved humans. As I’ve got older I’ve become a bit more outspoken, and less likely to put up with stuff that disgruntles me. Mean people, awkward situations, slow restaurants, bad shows, rudeness, people wasting my time or taking me for granted. I can be more easily provoked to be critical now than ever before. But on the whole I am very unpunk. I care about what people think, I think. Maybe that is why I have been drawn to writing a play about it. To let myself off the leash.
I decided that Punk would be the theme for my new play last year, and it was only in January that I discovered it was a fortuitous choice that coincided with the forty year anniversary of punk.
Through my research of a period I was not alive for, I’ve become more aware of quite what a different world it was for women to be in back then. I’ve been looking at the fashion and the attitudes and think it must have been a massive time of liberation for women who all of a sudden could overthrow the constraints of accepted female behaviour; who could stick two fingers up at the consensus of what makes us feminine. They could be rude, they could be aggressive, they could be openly dissatisfied. This was the next stage on from the miniskirts of the 60s. There was a self-empowerment; an almost sexless pride in scanty clothes, in the slashed t-shirts and the fishnets, in the leather and studs. The dog collars didn’t say that the women could be led, but rather “don’t come too close, we might bite”. Female punks have since said they felt included by men, and not sexualised. For all the flagship rude behaviour of the movement, the famous swearing and the anarchy, the fighting and the spitting, they were respected. The brashness of it all countered women’s usual position of being objectified; the ethos was anti-typical, in sex and style and outlook. It’s an inspiring thing to research. It’s made me consider whether it was the last great rebellion of women before this latest wave of feminism.
When I come to think of it, maybe all of us are a little bit punk in spirit. Punk doesn’t have to be about music or fashion, it can be that little spark of rebellion we’re all capable of. Like, I bet some of you do the odd spurt of 35 in a 30MPH zone. I bet some of you leave work a little early if you can get away with it, or throw a sickie, or wear novelty pants under a serious suit because the secrecy of it makes you smile. Some of you might even be the kind of punk who picks up your dog’s poo then flings the bag in a tree like some kind of year-round faecal Christmas decoration. (To be honest, I think I’d rather you pogoed in my front garden with a can of Stella then headbutted the postman.)
If living in world where it is essential to stay critical so that we may play a part in how it is shaped, do we actually owe it to ourselves to be a little punk?