A Failure Inside

I think it’s important to include bands I love when they fuck up (as I have done with multiple bands mentioned here), as well as songs that are both modern and old – so today’s punk bullshit is “Rolling Balls” by AFI, which is both oppositionally sexist and trans-misogynistic.

Bowling is my life and it has always been my dream
to be a member of the local bowling team, but I’m not very good.
The guys won’t accept me, I guess I try the girls team
and lose a part of my anatomy then balls will roll.
I think I want to be…
Balls will roll, I think it’s time,
it’s time for me to be a girl.
It’s a very big decision, it’s going to change my life.
I’ll have to make all new friends, I’m gonna lose my wife.
But that’s okay with me. There’s something in my soul.
It doesn’t matter who’s the better man, it the man who gets to bowl.
Balls will roll. I think I want to be…
Balls will roll, I think it’s time, it’s time for me to be a girl.
Go! I’ve made my decision, I’m gonna make the change.
There will be rolling balls, I’m gonna play my game.
It’s gonna be so great. It’s gonna be the best,
besides, I’ve always told myself I look good in a dress.
I’m gonna cut ’em off, I’m gonna cut ’em off, I’m gonna cut ’em off.
I’ll never have to cough.
Now I’ve made my change and I’ve fulfilled my dream.
I’m now a member of the women’s bowling team.
I hope I throw a strike, cause I’ll never score again.
My first game is tomorrow, I will go to play and then…
Balls will roll. I think I want to be…
Balls will roll, I think it’s time, it’s time for me to be.

Cue the tired excuse for shit like this: “It’s just a JOKE!” First of all – no shit! I know that Davey Havok did not end up transitioning to join a women’s bowling team. Obviously it’s a joke – an extremely transphobic joke that it’s easy for cis men such as AFI to laugh about, because they don’t deal with actual transphobia.

Just a few of the trans women stereotypes and prejudices perpetuated in this song:

  • It’s not a real transition unless bottom surgery is done.
  • Nobody wants to be friends with a trans woman.
  • Trans women are actually still men.
  • Trans women must follow stereotypes of what it means to be feminine.
  • Nobody could possibly be attracted to a trans woman.

You know, jokes are a lot funnier when they don’t marginalize or poke fun at an oppressed group. Just sayin’.

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About punksexism

bringing light to the constantly ignored sexism (and endless other discrimination) in punk!
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2 Responses to A Failure Inside

  1. While I don’t disagree with your assessment of this song (I’ve never heard it, but knowing AFI, this probably sounds like shit put to tape), I think it’s worth making a clearer point that this song was recorded in 1993 – 17 years from the date of this blog post. That band has definitely changed and grown from the time of this recording, and I’m sure they wouldn’t stand by it today. I see it as akin to holding the Beastie Boys as still being assholes for a lot of the shit they said on Licensed to Ill (of which they HAVE publicly apologized for). Of course I can’t find a link of AFI and their stances nowadays on issues, but I don’t have the impression that “Rolling Balls” is their status quo anymore.

    Like I said, your assessment of the song isn’t wrong, but I think it’s just as important to show readers that it’s possible for bands and people to change, and while we should acknowledge bad shit people used to say, we should also acknowledge the new things they are saying that may help elevate punk rock to what it’s supposed to be – a response to all of the awful shit that’s taking place in the mainstream world.

    Ben

  2. punksexism says:

    If AFI did publicly apologize for this song, as the Beastie Boys did for their mis-steps, I would be more than happy to post about it. The fact remains that they wrote a song poking fun at an extremely oppressed minority, and as far as I have been able to see (though I would be glad to find out I was wrong), have never apologized for it or spoken out against their past actions. People still shout out requests for this song at AFI shows.

    Ultimately, it’s sexism in punk. It’s a historical example of attitudes that prevailed at one time, from one specific band, but certainly are still carried by many others within the “scene” to this very day, and I did take care in mentioning in the initial post that the song is old.

    I definitely agree with you that it’s important to acknowledge positive messages punk bands are promoting today, and I have a tag called “Getting it Right” for those kind of posts – I’m always happy to take submissions if you have any tips/ideas about punk-related bands that are elevating rather than harming, or for bands that have done harm in the past and since apologized, so feel free to let me know if you’d like to see a specific band mentioned on here that fits the criteria. Thanks!

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