Now Reading: Creating Safer Spaces: Interview with Shawna Potter from Feminist Band War on Women


Creating Safer Spaces: Interview with Shawna Potter from Feminist Band War on Women

July 6, 20177 min read

I’ll admit as a punk and rock fan, sometimes the genre can feel very male exclusive. Sometimes I just want a woman to belt out lyrics about the things I’m feeling. Before I only had old 90s riot grrrl bands to turn to but then I found War on Women. This band shreds through topics like transphobia, misogyny and abortion rights with fast beats and raw vocals. I talked with the lead singer Shawna Potter about her band, her workshop “Creating Safe Spaces” and feminism in the Trump era.

1. What are three words you would use to describe War on Women to someone who has never heard you guys before?

Feminist, hard-core and punk! We are spreading our message of feminism and equality across the globe. 

2. What’s your favorite song by War on Women and why?

My favorite song is “Diana la Cazadora,” we don’t play it a lot which makes me like it more because I can’t get tired of it!

The song embodies everything we like about our band. It’s dark and tough and it has that little extra something.

Our friend is reading a letter in Spanish, which brings a different element to the song that’s not usually seen in this genre. 

3. As a band from Baltimore, how did that community influence you?

We’ve been living in Baltimore for a long time and playing in other bands. I like that there is a lot of different types of bands and music in general, and there’s a lot of women playing in bands. Baltimore is really welcoming to all different kinds of music. 

4. Your song “Pro-Life?” shows the hypocrisy of many people in the pro-life movement. How important do you feel it is that music educates as well as entertains?

I think it’s immensely important! Music brings working class people to the mainstream, it teaches people about different issues. Bruce Springsteen has been doing that for such a long time.

5. Do you think punk is still very male exclusive?

Everything is… the world is male exclusive. In fact, punk and rock might be less exclusive than other genres actually. It’s really only pop that females have some dominance.

6. How can more women become part of the punk scene?

They should just start playing music and hopefully seeing other women in punk. Listening to the music and going to shows is also a great way to start.

I was inspired by seeing a woman play guitar. Until I saw that I didn’t know I could do that.

Hole and other riot grrl bands really showed me what women in punk looked like. You can’t be what you can’t see, it’s one of the reasons I started War on Women

7. How has Trump as president affected your music? Has it driven you to write your next album or fueled the fire, per say?

I wish I was inspired by it but I feel like I’m still so affected by it that I can’t process it into anything creative. Sometimes it feels like I’m writing a record right now but it never comes out the way I want. I’m not ignoring it but sometimes I can’t deal with what I see going on around me. I can’t look or think about him, but we should have an album out by next year, we’re hoping for a natural progression

8. What inspired you to create the workshop ‘Creating Safer Spaces’ ?

When we got the offer to do the tour, I thought if we were going to play we should bring the idea of safer spaces. A workshop is a good idea to go in-depth, we talk about it from the stage but we don’t have the workshop in our shows right now.

We try to promote awareness of sexual assault and harassment and teach people how to deal with it, both as a victim and as an ally. The most important thing is for people to talk about it but especially to let men know what is acceptable behavior.

Clubs need to be posting anti-harassment policies and we need to be pro-active to let people know what’s not ok. Unfortunately, women statistically have to deal with sexual harassment more than men, so it’s important that they know what to do in that situation because it can be scary and make you can feel powerless. 

9. What message do you want the people who come to your shows to leave with?

I’d like anyone that comes to see the band to feel empowered and feel that they have a right to speak out.

I’d like everyone to understand that just because you don’t have the same struggles as someone else doesn’t mean you can’t support them and that it doesn’t take away from your own struggles.

Men can support women’s struggles, we are a co-ed band in fact, and that doesn’t mean their struggles mean any less.

10. Finally, what advice do you have for young aspiring musicians?

Work hard and practice, those are the most important things you can do to make some sort of career out of music.

Photo taken by Shawna Potter. We pose for a selfie after the workshop ‘Creating Safer Spaces’

Answers have been slightly edited.

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Anais Rivero

Aspiring journalist, Latina woman, and film lover trying to stomp the patriarchy with my large combat boots.