What would fourth wave feminism sound like if it were put to music? The answer came to me earlier this month when I heard Childbirth’s punk album Women’s Rights. The album, packed with short, punchy and often funny songs is a current take on the lackluster experience of constructed expectations on women in the digital age. From “being nice” to online dating, to confusion over sexuality and going against societal expectations, Childbirth takes on the paradoxes of femininity through punk music, and they do so in 13 tracks that span 28 minutes.
The album bursts forth on crunchy guitars and pounding drums with the loud declaration: “Child Biiiirth, child Biiiirth, child Biiiirth, child Biiiirth/Women’s Rights! Women’s Rights! Women’s Rights!” That’s the first 39 seconds and then it jumps to my personal favorite track “Nasty Grrrls,” which defies the idea of femininity through inhabiting the undesirable and owning it as a declaration of independence. The detached at times and energetic voices chirp, “We’re nasty girls/We don’t wash our hands/We wipe our nose on our sleeves/We don’t take baths.” The back and forth is followed by “Tech Bro,” a swinging, grungy track dedicated to the know-it-all gadget-loving guy, who even feels the need to explain feminism to a date. “I’ll let you explain feminism to me/Tech bro, tech bro, if I can use your HD TV.” The sarcastic tone in each track adds a layer of commentary of the lived experience of women in the modern digital age from a millennial perspective.
Childbirth is composed of band members Julia Shapiro, Bree McKenna and Stacy Peck, a sort of side-project for all three band members, who are based out of Seattle. Shapiro is also a vocalist in Chastity Belt, McKenna is also a bass player in Tacocat and Peck is one-half of Pony Time. Although Childbirth’s delivery does not fit a “traditional” type of feminism, one where advocacy is the goal, the outcome is effectively a thought-provoking consideration about the still laggard place for women and how in some ways technology has exacerbated the already poignant structural gaps.
In Childbirth, the personal is political, and apparently, also musical. The back and forth between Shapiro and McKenna feels organic and delivered with a deadpan wit. The droll lyrics of “Siri, Open Tinder” lists the endless array of non-offerings in the dating scene, another tech bro, a dick pic, shirtless, gym rat are all rejected with a “swipe left” retort by McKenna. On another level, “Since When Are You Gay?” pokes fun at the assumptions behind sexuality. “Don’t you know you’re pretty enough to have a boyfriend?” sings Shapiro, a jab at the construction of gay as “the other” or a choice for those who aren’t good enough. Finally, Shapiro ends with a more honest conclusion, “Well, everyone is gay, anyway.” Indeed sexuality is not bound by physical attractiveness, even if a metrosexual type tells you so.
The album closes on a high note with a couple of fun tracks like “Baby Bump” and “You’re Not My real Dad,” which showcase that you can be critical and funny at the same time. If you don’t have a sense of humor, this album might be a challenge, as most lines are delivered with a sneering swagger, in true punk fashion. Chances are that if you ever contended with subjective judgment – either online or in person — for being a woman who dared not to conform, you will find a track in here to enjoy.
The album is out now, released by Suicide Squeeze Records. You can hear some of the tracks on their soundcloud. Here’s one: