“Bitch” might have started out as a negative term, but the women (and man) behind Norman punk act John Wayne’s Bitches are hell-bent on making it a positive one.
“Women are called bitches all the time because they don’t do what society wants them to do,” guitarist Katie Hawkins said. “If a girl has an opinion, thinks for herself and makes her own decisions, people whisper, ‘What a bitch,’ behind her back. If that’s what a bitch is, then we’re proud to be bitches. It’s just a word that’s been used in the past to try to keep women ‘in their place.’ And we think our place is wherever the hell we want to be, doing whatever the hell we want to do and getting paid and respected equally for doing so.”
That passion fighting for equality — and against consumerism and the business of war — goes on full display with Bitched Out, the band’s first album, which is being celebrated with Saturday’s release show at Opolis. Hawkins, singer Naomi Loughridge, bassist Nikki Philips and drummer Rhett Jones recorded the effort with Trent Bell (Bell Labs Recording Studio) and dedicate it to all their rebellious brethren.
“Being bitched out is something all punk kids have been through, with parents, bosses and other authority figures. It’s a common experience we rally around,” Hawkins said. “We’re judged by everyone for our clothes, our hair, our taste in music, our values. We don’t believe in this cookie-cutter American Dream that’s fronted by mainstream society, because it doesn’t exist for us. We see the grime the folks at the top are desperately trying to sweep under the rug, and we won’t be silenced for speaking out against it. This is our turn to hold the microphone.”
And while the band has faced sexism from most of the other aspects of their lives, they find the punk scene — both locally and elsewhere — to be overwhelmingly supportive.
“In our experience, the majority of punk men are feminists and enjoy being around and working with strong women. I think many of the bands that mentored us — Debris especially —really thought of us as their younger sisters and were so protective and
encouraging. They took us under their wings and helped us get to where
we are today,” Hawkins said. “In the past four years, we have grown so
much, and we definitely hold our own musically. I think there’s an
initial thought of, ‘Look. They’re girls,’ when we get on stage, but
once we start playing, the role of gender seems to disappear.”
The band is eyeing festivals, music videos and perhaps another album in 2014, but they might be most excited about acting as mentors at the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Oklahoma City over the summer, helping mold another generation of empowered, vocal fighters and musicians.
Hawkins said, “We’re going to teach those girls how to rock.”
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