Kettle Band of the Week: War on Women

Kettlemag, Music, Band of the Week, Womens Season, War on Women, Feminists, Punk, Kealie Mardell
Written by Kealie Mardell

War on Women are co-ed feminists from Baltimore, who kick things into high gear with a heavy dose of punk attitude.

Founded in 2010, earlier this year War on Women released their self-titled full-length debut album on Bridge Nine Records and have seen a growing success since, even embarking on a European tour. Compared to their previous releases, the tracks are described as a natural progression and a little more polished, while remaining as blistering as ever.

Disclaimer: Some War Women songs may be triggering, as they address issues including sexism, rape and abortion, in an openly confrontational and aggressive manner.

If you want to turn on the radio for some easy listening and meaningless lyrics, then War on Women aren’t the band for you. They send powerful messages with a furious hardcore punk sound, making noise in all the right ways.

Vocalist Shawna Potter has been quoted as revealing she has “plenty of material to pull from when it comes to writing lyrics, considering the pervasive sexism in modern America”. Potter also runs the Baltimore chapter of Hollaback!, an international organisation working to end street harassment and the issues of catcalling, raised on their track ‘Broken Record’.

Potter is joined by bandmates Brooks Harlan, Nancy Hornburg, Sue Werner and Rusty Haynie. Their songs form the pages of a much bigger story, the one of war on women. The one you hear about online, in the media, in politics, and now through music. In a quick run through of some of their tracks you encounter gender issues on “Effemimanie”, abortion rights on “Roe v World’ and ‘Pro Life?’, victim blaming in the cries of ‘Say it! Say it!’, and feminist conflict on ‘Second Wave Goodbye’.

They even deal with online harassment in the aptly titled ‘YouTube Comments’. One of issues faced by many people, especially women, with an online presence is harassment. Be that sexual, insulting, threatening or otherwise, there is a dangerous amount of online aggression targeted towards women. When you’re in a punk band, what do you do with those comments? Make a song about it of course.

This is punk as punk should be – heavy music with a real and relatable message. In an interview with PunkNews Shawna Potter said:

“Being in this position, being in a feminist band, I think it would be silly of me to avoid using this platform. It’s a really dangerous game if you go into this and hope to represent an entire movement and an entire people. You would be setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. I can only represent my own opinions, and how I feel about the world, but that is all through how I feel as a feminist. Not everyone who identifies as a feminist has to agree with everything, or maybe they feel some issues are important than others, and that’s fine. I respect that.”

These messages are brought across in music that is just as hard-hitting and intense. War on Women aren’t afraid to be brutal, with elements of thrash and metal drawing a heavier sound to the album. Speaking to Noisey about their influences, Potter said:

“It would be wrong not to acknowledge the influence riot grrrl had on all of us, even though that risks people doing a direct comparison, which I think is kind of silly. So then the DC punk scene in the 80s and 90s, being willing to stand up for something—of course that’s a part of it. But then there’s the other side where we all just love a good riff, you know?”

A feminist band which includes two men highlights the united front of feminism, and that the fight for women’s right doesn’t have to be fought by women alone. It takes everyone to take on the war on women, and what better place to start?