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Vol. 2 No. 1 (2020): Early Career Americanists: An AYA Special Issue

The Sign as Battlefield: Punk, Gender, and the Power to Rebel

March 4, 2019


If we assume that culture is built by signs and their meanings and that ideology is what naturalizes those meanings, what follows is that the battle between the classes is often but a battle over the sign. Punk was an anti-capitalist movement that used this logic, making the attire of the individual the battlefield over the meaning of signs. Punks rebelled against the dominant ideology through the subversion of signs on the level of fashion, challenging hegemonic rule by destabilizing the meaning of its signs. However, as punk slipped from subculture into popular culture, the meaning of the signs once again shifted as they became re-integrated into mainstream culture. Punk thus proves to be a case study for the fluidity of the meaning of signs, one which furthermore foregrounds the sexist nature of meaning-making processes.

In this context, the contemporary fashion industry functions as a weapon that the bourgeoisie deploys to sabotage the use of style as a vehicle for carrying anti-hegemonic messages. This article aims to foreground the significance of gender in the mechanisms that attempt to preserve hegemonic rule. As I demonstrate, the journey of the meaning of the signs employed by punk illustrates the significance of female voicelessness to maintain capitalist ideology as the ruling ideology.


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