Stop Defending Pop Punk | Punktastic


Maryam Hassan breaks down why, on a basic level, how bros in bands get away with perpetuating misogyny and rape culture, and how to start holding them accountable (CW: assault, abuse, and sexual harassment).

One fave excerpt:

Young guys in pop punk bands with a massive female
following and no guidance are treating women like they’re groupies. It
always seems like they think this is part of what they deserve for being
in a successful band. The “we have female fans, they want to send us
nudes” attitude is harmful because the guys in
these bands are in a position of power. They are idolised and screamed
after and the “boys will be boys” mentality in the pop punk scene that Hayley Williams talks about is why they have no guidance and treat girls like groupies. 

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this. 

Stop Defending Pop Punk | Punktastic

Confessions of a Thirty Something Single Lady.


“I am stronger as a person figuring out the world alone than I would have been had I had a partner. I have surprised myself with bravado when I’ve had to count on myself unexpectedly. I’ve been intentional in how I’ve created a community of love in my life instead of expecting one person to carry that alone”Taz Ahmed

I made a decision earlier this year to stop dating. I’m 31 years old and in the last 18 years that I’ve been dating I’ve made the same mistakes over and over again. I’ve gained a lot of clarity in the last 8 months or so, and it makes looking back on the last 18 years easier to do. I should give you a little history I guess, I was in my first proper relationship when I was 15 and my last when I was 25/26 and in-between that I’ve had about 2 other relationships that have lasted about 2 years each. These have all been interspersed with hook ups and the usual mistakes one seems to collect as the years roll by, but though I’ve always been a good compartmentaliser when it comes to things I have always ended up invested in things that ultimately don’t go to plan.

So how do I change this? I decided the easiest thing to do would be to just stop dating, stop hooking up, stop going on any dating apps and just take some time out to figure myself out. I’ve never done this, but I know that if I was going to be making any gains with my mental health, my self confidence and my identity I needed to do it alone. It’s a decision I didn’t talk to anyone about really, it seemed pretty private and honestly the one friend I did tell made me feel awful about myself for not having had sex in a while. It’s like he’d never figured out women have vibrators, it’s really the least of my problems.

Jane Austen has written novel upon novel about women getting to certain ages and suddenly being in want of a husband, and their quests to get those husbands. I grew up with a mother who was obsessed with those books, but it wasn’t till I was older that I began to draw the parallels of Regency England with Muslim family attitude. As I ventured out of my twenties and further into my thirties marriage became a question on everyone’s lips, not just my parents, but on family and friends around me, on friends of my parent’s at weddings and parties. Have I met anyone? Have I used any websites? Advice on being productive and looking out for the right man, because he could be anywhere. My uncle on my dad’s side once came over and spent an hour telling me that I needed to find a man and have a wedding because we sorely needed to have a party. Every time he called he would ask me if I had met anyone, and I love him a lot, he’s a funny, clever man who has always thought I was great. We get along really well, but every time he asks I sigh a little, roll my eyes on the other end of the phone and reply “No-one has really taken my fancy just yet”.

When you are in your thirties and single in Asian culture you are suddenly everyone’s business and everyone wants to help you or has suggestions. They have men they know who might be appropriate for you to meet and you will get asked about having someone special in your life again and again and again. You smile, you take the comments, you reply politely and you try and move the conversation on to something else.

The notion of wanting me to be married isn’t coming from a bad place from anyone, the idea of having a child settled down is security to a lot of my family and my parents especially want to see it happen because they love me. I know this and I appreciate their concern, I love them for it. My family are not traditional in the approach of this really, my dad once laughed when someone asked him if they were looking for a husband for me. “My daughter will make her own choices, she would never marry a man we approved” which is partly true and my brother’s both met their wives without any of the traditional parent finding options, both have said they never wanted our parents to be involved in any way. This, combined with my stubborn need to be independent and do things my own way, means I’m spared the nightmare of prospective husbands and their parents coming over one afternoon for tea and samosa, that I have to serve, whilst the family asks me questions and decides if I am good enough for their son and vice versa. I almost chastised myself for writing such a stereotype but I have seen it happen.

The thing here is that my parents are thinking about marriage, they want me to be have a happy, stable, idyllic married life with whoever I choose in whatever country I choose but I don’t seem to be able to see that far ahead. There are no words to describe how, at 31, I have decided that I have to like myself more before I even think about dating again. Whilst I don’t blame myself for some of the bad relationships I’ve endured in the last 18 years I do think that I’m making the same mistakes and ended up in the same situations because I’ve never been on my own and just found myself. Being in a relationship is about communication and balance but how can I have someone understand me if I struggle to even identify with myself at times? My anxiety forms a cloud over my self confidence, at times I refuse to look in the mirror just because I hate what I see looking back at me. I’ll just stare at my face and wish I was prettier, I wish my hair was better, that my nose was smaller, that my teeth were perfect, that I weighed less, that my boobs were smaller and my legs were longer. I can stare at myself in the mirror and pick out every tiny thing that is wrong, and then go out and never have it cross my mind anyone would ever look twice at me, because why would they when I can barely stare at my own reflection? That attitude in myself is something I need to change, and working on my self confidence is something I can only do by myself.

There’s also the issue of I don’t want to make an effort with a stranger right now. When I moved to Chicago I went back on Tinder and OKCupid and I was messaging people, and when I didn’t forget about them they would ask me out on a date but the idea of having to make small talk with a stranger in a bar for a few hours just wasn’t appealing to me. I hear the “you need to try it Maryam, if you don’t try and see how will you find anyone” ringing in my head, but I ignore it. Online dating still feels so forced to me, and if I feel uncomfortable already before we even go on the date I can’t see it going well when I’m on it. It never did in London, Chicago isn’t going to be much different. I grew up with Jane Austen novels, period dramas full of romance and what I look for is this big, life changing, incredible connection. Nothing has ever lived up to that and yet I am still being told that when I meet the right man I will know I’ve found the one. Online dating keeps churning out men who are not the one, your morale starts to die after a little while. If I don’t meet a man who doesn’t generate some sort of spark do I have to spend two hours making small talk in a bar with him?

I’ve grown up with an issue with identity and belonging, where I’ve craved the need to be a part of something, whether that’s been me making my own family or in some cases in my youth having a boyfriend because I thought that would make me feel more secure. What I’m starting to realise is that to find this solid ground I’m searching for I have to work on myself and the relationships with the people I love around me first. My identity is become more secure as issues with my immediate family back home healed, I have for once found myself at a point where I feel less insecure than ever. Working on myself is what has helped that, taking steps back and making cuts in my life to help me regain clarity and work through my issues rather than pushing them to one side for the quick fix. To me, right now, being with someone is the quick fix and the risk with things like that is they will derail the progress I’ve made. It’s not that I don’t want to go back to being that flirty, super social Maryam who found it easy to date, I do, but I need to go back to that once I am grounded in myself.

I don’t know if I’ll ever meet my parents hopes and settle down and get married and have kids, it’s not a bad thought for the future, it’s not something that makes me recoil at al,l but I’ve never met a person I’ve been able to see that far ahead with. My culture sees the hope for my future, but I need to be routed in my present and have to ignore this Jane Austen fantasy of what true romance is. The older I get the less likely I think that will happen. I started this piece with a quote from Taz Ahmed, who is someone I aspire to be more like. A modern, Muslim woman who embraces her culture, knows her identity and who embraces art, music and writing to make her stamp on the world to show them what being modern and Muslim is all about. I may not identify with the Muslim part but I am still learning about my Pakistani side and that’s something that needs to be done alone, where people won’t be questioning my decisions.

My world is what’s important to me right now. There is no giving up on love, or going celibate but once I can look in the mirror and smile at myself I’ll be able to embrace whatever relationship comes my way. I’m not a pessimist, I know something will happen and I don’t put a timeframe on that. It could a month away, it could be years away, but limiting myself to only focusing on my life with someone else would be wrong. There’s so much I want to explore by myself, there’s so much creatively in me that I want to unlock that taking a break for a while doesn’t even seem like a struggle to me, I barely even think about it. I don’t know if I will ever get married, or even find a person I want to spend a large chunk of my life with but I do know that I can still live to my full potential on my own.

Red, White, Blue, Green, Moons and Stars and Stripes.


Today is Independence Day in America. I’ve never been in the USA to celebrate the day they kicked the English out of their country and threw a bunch of tea into a bay or a lake or a sea. That’s a goddamn waste of tea.

In America it’s hard to walk anywhere without seeing the flag. It’s outside someone’s house, it’s hanging from buildings, it’s painted on to things. It seems like everyone wants to celebrate how much they love America. We have two flags up in our living room currently, the Connecticut flag, where my roommate is from, and a Pakistani flag. I’m an English born, Pakistani woman living in America, but having an English flag on the wall didn’t feel like it represented me, it just felt a little too nationalistic. In my mind that flag is what people like UKIP throw up when they are telling refugees to go home, it’s what racist, National Front skinheads have tattooed on them.

The culture clash is hard to deal with. When I was kid I was totally English, I was never Pakistani. All of the Pakistani culture was embarrassing to me when I was younger because I just wanted to be like everyone else around me. When I got older I felt more Pakistani and realise how important it is to have that as part of me but I never felt like I understood the background I came from enough to embrace it. The big issue here being that I couldn’t speak Urdu. When you can’t speak your home language you feel disconnected no matter how hard you try. I couldn’t communicate with some of my family back home, I couldn’t understand the stories being told and I honestly, desperately wanted to hear them in their original form not being translated second hand by someone to me. It’s constantly made me feel like there’s a barrier between me and my own background.  

‘Britishness’ has been something that’s been on my mind since the UK voted to leave the EU. Hate crimes have gone up by over 50% since the vote happened and leave won. You see constant videos and reports of people being harassed and having abuse hurled at them on the streets, being told to go home and that they were voted out of the UK. I lived in London for 30 years, a lot of that time I lived in Ilford which is a largely Asian and Polish community. East London has always been where people coming over from different countries ended up living and because of that there’s a harmony between nearly everyone that lives there. I love East London so much, but of course there’s the downside. Barking, which is a 15 minute bus ride from where I live in Ilford, voted for a BNP councillor a few years back which is insane considering how many people from different cultures live in that area.

I am the daughter of immigrants. My dad moved to the UK when he was 19 and my mother moved when she was 3. In the 60’s and the 70’s they dealt with racism on levels I can’t even imagine, when your teachers call you a paki at school, when people come into the shop you work in and shout at you to go home. Weirdly this is the culture the UK seems to be heading back to now that leave has won. Being openly racist to people is suddenly approved in some people’s because of that vote and that makes me worry about my family back home. My parents have worked hard to make something for themselves in the UK, they had four children, own a house, one of them worked for almost 30 years at NatWest bank. Their kids own businesses, give back to their communities and help everyone around them. Their grandkids are already incredibly smart and they make me hopeful about the new generation of Asian kids growing up in the UK. They will make great choices and have a positive impact on the world around them. Immigration is what makes a country more diverse, stronger. When you get to out point where we have the third or forth generations of our family being born in the UK we don’t feel like the outsiders anymore, even though people will still look at us like we are. Honestly for the UK, immigration is really what improved the food they were cooking. The national dish of the UK is Chicken Tikka Masala right now. We are almost all children of immigrants if you go back far enough and no matter who you are your life is probably better because of people moving to your city from other parts of the world.

It took me almost 28 years to accept my Pakistani side, but not only that to see it’s actually the culture that dominates me and who I am even though I was born in England. I identify as an English born Pakistani, and occasionally here people think I was born in Pakistan and ask how my English is so great. English is my nationality, Pakistan is my heritage and the great mix that I make with both of those, and that so many first or second born generations make, is unique and is really want makes me interesting. Embracing that side of me and being able to talk about it to friends and people I meet has helped my self confidence, my anxiety and has kept me calm over the last few years.

It’s strange that I found and accepted all of my identities by leaving one country and putting myself somewhere entirely new. There are aspects of my personality that I find much easier to put out there in America and this has definitely helped with my confidence levels. But it’s made me look back on London and my family back home and see what I’ve really come from and to really appreciate that. I come from a supportive background, not always perfect but right now supportive and loving. I grew up in a part of London that was culturally diverse and taught me a lot about life. I have this cultural heritage that is full of stories, that crosses borders. My family started out in Afghanistan and Iraq before they moved to India and then Pakistan. My dad tells stories of my grandfather and how he moved from Afghanistan to India and met my grandmother, of family I’ve never met all over the Middle East, of a history that spans back thousands of years. There is so much about our history that I don’t know and that I need to learn Urdu to appreciate properly Understanding all the places you came from is how you know where you’re going to go, but finding balance between all the different places is how you find harmony in yourself. It’s the finding the balance that is really hard.

Coincidently it’s also Eid this week, which is the end of Ramadan and a big religious festival in the Muslim calendar. This is my first Eid without my family in England, and I am excited to be able to share the day with my family in Chicago. I sent a bunch of stuff back home for my cousins and nieces and nephew, and I know they’ve sent a bunch of stuff over for me here. Breaking traditions is hard and makes me miss home. The night before Eid we would go to Ilford Lane and eat ice cream. There would be thousands of people out celebrating Eid being the next day. My brother always joked that it felt like we’d gone bak to Pakistan. Eid in the UK was where we would go to my aunts house, all of my mum’s side of the family, and we would have a massive lunch and sometimes go to the park. It was a great family day, everyone dressed up in their Eid clothes and celebrating together. Then I would go to my friend Meena’s house and spend one of the days with her family, who are an extension of my own family really, again eating food, being with people I love and playing a lot of board games. I am excited to be a part of new Eid traditions here with my family in the USA this year. 

In celebration of my first ever 4th of July in America I’m going over to two of my best friends back yard to BBQ, let off fireworks and sing Party in the USA till my lungs give out with a whole bunch of my friends. That right there is what it’s all about, being with people you love and I’m finally in a place where I can recognise just how awesome it is to be in Chicago and how much I’ve grown in the last 8 months being here. Happy Independence Day.

The first time I heard ‘July’ was at some point near the start of the year (or maybe the end of last year) when I went over to see Chel Boren (who is coincidently one of those people I’ve met in life who have just made my world so much better) and she had just written the chorus hook line. I spent from that moment onwards singing that same bit over and over again. Chel has a way with words, her songs are heartfelt and strong and her vocals pretty much just soar, pair all of that with the most absolute perfect band you’ve got something super special. I’m super proud of everyone in this band, I’m so happy to be working with them all to show the world how brilliant their music is and I’m mega proud of Chel for being one of the most talented kick ass women I know.

Third Twin Sister really are a Midwest punk band with an Americana soul. 

You can listen to ‘July’ over here: