Vagina Police: The Dream Nails Song Raising Money For The Abortion Support Network

Punk DIY band Dream Nails are calling for Ireland to chose compassion over criminalisation ahead of the referendum this May

dream nails

by Cheri Amour |
Updated on

Behind every social injustice, a protest song is born. From jazz legend, Billie Holliday tackling race struggles of the early 20th century in harrowing, Strange Fruit to Joan Baez’s Woodstock rendition of Joe Hill, in honour of the labour activist executed in 1915, women have been using their art to tell stories of political unrest and gross discrimination for decades. It’s not surprising then that as Ireland faces an upcoming referendum on abortion reform, London DIY gang, Dream Nails have decided to use their outspoken platform of power punk to tackle the subject of reproductive justice in latest EP, Vagina Police.

'Punk can be protest music. It should be protest music', guitarist of the band, Anya Pearson explains as we meet over a soft-drink in a local North London boozer. The foursome, billed as '100% DIY punk witches', are renowned for their high-energy, political pushing live shows and Pearson is only too aware of how that differs from more traditional macho mosh pits. 'We don’t buy into that bullshit, nihilistic punk. It’s punk to care for the world around you. It’s punk to try and make the world a better place. It’s punk to reject what people think you should be doing with your life'.

This idea of self-government is at the crux of Vagina Police, a song that broods over the 'frightening and creepy' anti-choice movement who feel that women shouldn’t be allowed autonomy over themselves. 'They’re so interested in policing our bodies and exercising decisions about them, whether that’s contraceptive pills, having access to STI treatment, gynecologists or abortion services', she adds. And this is exactly the scrutiny legions of women face in Ireland.

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Last September, thousands marched in solidarity with Irish expats across the globe urging the government to repeal the eighth amendment; the equal right to life of both mother and unborn child. 'At the moment, you’ve got the situation in Ireland where women are having to travel overseas to get abortions because they can’t do so safely and legally in their own country'. Worse yet are the horror stories of desperate women’s attempts to single-handedly abort their own pregnancies using coat hangers and drinking bleach. 100% of the profits of Vagina Police will go to the Abortion Support Network, an all-volunteer organisation providing accommodation and financial assistance to women forced to travel from Ireland to have a safe and legal abortion.

Of course, it’s not the first time that certain people of power have hit the headlines for exercising their control over women’s bodies. But against a backdrop of misogyny, there is also a real strength looming. International human rights organisations have repeatedly taken the state to task for its draconian abortion regime, observing that it violates women’s right to bodily integrity and self-determination. At the end of last year, American weekly Time’s Person Of The Year edition went to the ‘Silence Breakers’, commended for their courage and unleashing 'one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s', according to the magazine’s Editor-In-Chief, Edward Felsenthal.

But whilst global juggernauts like Time provide a platform to push forward a seismic shift in the perception of an issue, crucially these conversations need to lead to actual change. For the reproductive rights reform in Ireland, the subject extends far beyond abortion. The concept of ‘reproductive justice’ views this issue within a human rights framework. Developed by SisterSong, a Women of Colour Reproductive Health Collective in the USA, reproductive justice integrates 'bodily autonomy with social justice movements. It’s about the right to have or not have a child, the right to parent and the availability of services and education that enable your choices'. To tackle this breadth and influence direct action, Dream Nails turned to a well-known staple in the anarcha-feminism movement.

'Punk is amazing, it’s fun but it doesn’t really have a lot of nuances, especially the lyric writing. It’s very simple. We wanted to find a place where we could express ourselves more freely with some subtlety and zines are a really good way of doing that'. These cut-and-paste creations aren’t a radical concept when it comes to liberation. During the loud cries of a third wave of feminism in Olympia circa 1990, zines brought together communities of riot grrls across the States. However, within more recent years, an emphasis has been put on intersectionality within the movement. 'You know, the Riot Grrrl movement was very problematic that it didn’t, for example, have many people of colour or LGBT people, but it did start something and I think it’s important to take what was good about the movement and bring that forward. Update it', remarks Pearson.

Vagina Police’s accompanying zine about reproductive justice, Your Body Is Not Your Own shares the experiences of over twenty self-identifying feminists across the UK, from the forced sterilisation of trans-people to a touching journey of becoming parents for a Liverpudlian lesbian couple. '(For this zine) we’re actually the editors. We make space for other people to write because intersectional feminism involves learning, not just speaking about your feminism but learning about what other people’s struggles are and trying to connect them up', Pearson adds. Equally, the single’s video - made with Irish-Italian film director and abortion rights activist, Guen Murroni - aims to challenge assumptions around women as artists to be sexy, serious and mysterious. Dressed up as four hirsute police officers, we follow the band spoofing the actual policing of people’s basic reproductive rights. 'We’re using humour to take the piss out of people who are creepy enough to want to control women’s bodies'.

On the flip of the record, Fascism Is Coming sits as a proud A-Side - two sides of the same coin. A call-to-arms for our generation of slacktivists, the track rallies its indie troops to defend their world from the onslaught of fascist governments, politicians, and policies. 'When we were touring around Europe in 2016, we’d constantly turn up in countries where they’d just had a fascist representative elected. Countries like Austria. It really resonated with those crowds'. And it’s this kind of tactical galvanising of skepticism that is the biggest threat of all. Just as far-right groups might use racist rhetoric to exploit a migration crisis, there is an uncurrent of sexual shame when it comes to reproductive rights. Shame which makes a person think they should feel guilty for the privilege of choice. And isn’t that what it’s all about; the moral authority to choose.

Here’s to Ireland considering those morals as they choose between criminalisation or compassion this May.

Vagina Police/ Fascism is Coming is out now via Everything Sucks Music with 100% proceeds going to Abortion Support Network. Dream Nails play Get In Her Ears at The Finsbury, London on 13th April.

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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