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Hang on the Box and women’s identity in China

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In recent decades, a solid and successful underground punk subculture that also found its ways into the West developed as a part of the Chinese youth culture. However, despite punks’ empowering and inclusive character, some – especially female – musicians, face harsh pushbacks within the Chinese underground punk scene. This article examines the emergence of punk in China, the way it comments on and challenges social problems of modern-day China by using the example of the first all-female punk band, Hang on the Box. Based on postcolonial concepts by Homi K. Bhabha and Gayatri C. Spivak, this article explores the subversion of women’s identity in a patriarchic system in a time of self-advancement and self-enrichment, but also of economic instability and personal uncertainty. With songs about abortion and machismo, the band tackles Beijing’s sexist rock norms and addresses topics of social inequality. At the same time, the band members express their individuality and personal freedom in a society that values the collective over the individual. Hang on the Box unveils a third space, in which existing power relations are negotiated, aiming to challenge and deconstruct gender stereotypes and cultural identities that are forced upon women and therefore endanger both their freedom and gender equality.
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Keywords: China; Hang on the Box; punk; strategic essentialism; third space; women’s identity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Paderborn University

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • Punk & Post-Punk is a journal for academics, artists, journalists and the wider cultural industries. Placing punk and its progeny at the heart of inter-disciplinary investigation, it is the first forum of its kind to explore this rich and influential topic in both historical and critical theoretical terms.
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