Maria Sherman

Maria Sherman is a music and culture writer living in New York City. She’s the Managing Editor of TrackRecord, a new Gizmodo Media Group site. She contributes regularly to publications such as NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, SPIN, Complex, Pitchfork, Alternative Press and more. An emo kid since adolescence, much of her written work is dedicated to giving voice to the young women who make the pop-punk/alternative rock scene conversation-worthy.

"Misery Business: Exploring the Sensitive Masculine in Modern Pop-Punk & Emo"
As one of rock music’s most maligned tribes, pop-punk and emo sit in a unique space of subcultural celebration and critical disdain—a combination that often allows its customs to ignore the progressive dialogues and language of accountability that pervades conversation in other genres. Now more than ever, male musicians guilty of harassment and assault are being outed for abusing their positions of power to real consequence: lost record deals, tours, and premiere placement on streaming networks. In the two decades of its mainstream success, pop-punk and emo (the 21st century iterations of each, talking Green Day to My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy to the present) has been a hotbed for abusive behavior…which is quickly forgiven. At the heart of the issue is a confusion of status and gender—a predominantly teenage and female audience keeps the scene afloat as men in their 20s, 30s and beyond perform fundamentally misogynistic music. In a phrase: pop-punk and emo has a toxic masculinity problem.

As part of our panel on expressions of masculinity in contemporary music, I want to explore the dangers of gendered restrictions in modern pop-punk and emo as it applies to a culture of abuse and internally in the music itself: sexist lyricism, musical virtuosity that directly reflects gendered limitation and convoluted power structures (nasal/throaty/testosterone-affected singing by its male vocalists, an ugly luxury often not afforded women.) I will look to social theories of performativity (Garfinkel and Goffman) to break down fundamental ideas of social processes that inform expressions of masculinity as they apply to art and the live setting (Judith Butler.) Studying documentaries and concert footage of modern pop-punk and emo performances will be crucial—manspreading/phallic guitar stances are common on and off Warped Tour, the genre’s annual gathering.

I will explore pop-punk and emo’s superficial flirtation with the feminine: male musicians often dressing in female fashion, using eyeliner, women’s skinny jeans, long hair and the drag history it pulls from. Perhaps most importantly, I will unpack emo masculinity’s expression of sensitivity-without-sensibility, where its participants often seek to appear gentle, the “good guys,” but often prescribe to the same patriarchal powers that have defined rock music since its inception.