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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘YDTMHTL’ By War On Women

The Baltimore feminist hardcore punk band War on Women released a compelling protest record earlier this month. It’s titled “Capture The Flag,” and it follows their 2015 self-titled album.

Their song names alone are an apt entry into their politics: “The Violence of Bureaucracy,” “Predator in Chief,” “Divisive Shit,” to name a few.

“Capture The Flag” sees the band instilling their music with their years of feminist organizing work. The band describes their music as being about “religious subjugation, gun violence, armchair activists, gender orgasm gap, female genital mutilation, the fetishization of motherhood, and toxic relationships.”

The album opens with a song about gun control titled, “Lone Wolves” where Shawna Potter sings over pummeling drums and aggressive riffs: “Another boy grows up, is still a brat / a single mother gives in, she’s tired as fuck / then the analysts wonder if he got enough hugs / another cycle of ‘too early to mention guns’ yet another last breath let out of lungs.”

As a band, War on Women are committed to using their music as a tool for education. They offer an option to purchase a “college-level workbook based on the lyrics and themes of ‘Capture the Flag,’” along with their album.

They are known to not only bring their music on the road but also their activism. For example, when they were invited to play Warped Tour, they held workshops and training sessions on bystander intervention and safer spaces.

“You can’t measure the larger impact of your activism under a capitalist definition,” Potter sings on the album’s title track.

This all comes to a head on the album’s second-to-last-track, the epic and explosive “YDTMHTL,” which stands for “You Don’t Tell Me How To Live.”

The song features vocals from Kathleen Hanna, who joins the group to powerfully belt out that mantra together.

It is a song about asserting your own agency in the world: “Your skirt’s too short, your dress too tight / You don’t tell me how to live / You sleep all day, stay out at night / You don’t tell me how to live.”

Listen to “YDTMHTL”:

Dairy farm in Vermont. Photo by catchesthelight on Flickr.
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Liz Pelly

Liz Pelly