Today rocked so hard. It was grey and rainy, I’m still mopping up student advisement woes, deadlines are crowding my brain. But, seriously, any day where you play The Ramones in class and point out that the Trench Coat Mafia was a media fabrication is a win in my book.
To complete the semester in my senior level Gender, Communication & Culture class* I wanted a short text and film that would bring together the wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches we’ve encountered this semester but also be interesting enough to keep stressed out, burned out student engaged. Enter punk rock and youth subcultures.
For the next two weeks, we’re reading Goths, Gamers & Grrrls: Deviance and Youth Subcultures by Ross Haenfler, an associate professor of Sociology at The University of Mississippi. This is a small book, targeted towards an undergraduate population, that does an excellent job of laying a foundation of subculture theory before embarking on chapters devoted to everything from heavy metal to virgin pledgers. The introduction was a nice recap of cultural studies theory we have been working with all semester, but put in conversation with sociological approaches that are new for my students. Today we focused on understanding social ecology and spent some time unpacking Dick Hebdige’s work on subculture and commodification of style. I wanted a bit more on this important topic than Haenfler covers in the introduction, so we lingered over the process of a subculture moving from obscuring to deviance to mainstream to being commodified by corporations for profit. Then, we skipped ahead to discuss Chapter 3: Punk Rock, Hardcore, and Straight Edge – Status and Hierarchy in Subcultures. The chapter is quite brief, so we had plenty of time to start watching The Other F Word, a documentary that follows veteran punk rockers as they navigate the world of fatherhood.
This film is an excellent punctuation to the end of our semester, giving us a chance to discuss:
- How does the violence of the punk rock scene in LA compare to our discussions of White masculinity and masculine violence in ads, film, and sports?
- What are the class dynamics at play in the punk subculture?
- How do punk rockers define their masculinity and their identities as fathers in relation to traditional notions of fatherhood?
The conversation continues in a few days and I am stoked.
* As I tell my students, this may be the official title of the course, but I teach it as “Gender, race, class, sexuality, mass communication, and popular culture.” No one ever said being interdisciplinary and caring about intersectionality was easy, but it is oh, so very necessary and rewarding.