Male bands dominate the scene of punk, but there are surprisingly a number of female groups that have been around for decades. These bands have shaken the music industry with flashy shows, activism, and genuine punk spirit.
Here, we have listed 13 of the most famous female punk bands in history. Read on!
Although technically more of a mixed-gender band than a purely female punk band, Blondie has always centered around female lead vocalist Debbie Harry.
Formed in 1974, the group released six studio albums, earning several notable awards and nominations (including a Juno Award for “Heart of Glass”) before splitting in 1982. However, the group reformed in 1997 and has remained active since, touring worldwide.
Their music runs with an eclectic mix of styles. Punk is a heavy component, but they’ve also included reggae, funk, disco, new wave, and even some early experiments in rap. The result is a discography that covers a surprisingly wide range of music.
2. The Donnas
Running from 1993 to 2012, the Donnas were a four-girl group with a party-like punk style.
The four original band members came together as self-taught musicians for a performance in high school. However, they decided to keep making music after graduating, eventually growing big enough to sign with Atlantic Records towards the end of 2001.
Throughout their career, they released seven studio albums, but commercial success came with Spend the Night. “Take It Off” from the album is their most successful, making marks in several US charts. Punk has never been as popular as some other genres, so this is an impressively high result for the group.
3. The Runaways
Although only active from 1975 to 1979, the Runaways quickly became a hit outside the United States with their release of “Cherry Bomb,” a standout early hit in the punk genre. The song was also #1 on the charts in Japan, a nation significantly more accepting of the band than traditional western markets.
Although the punk genre wasn’t as popular at the time and the band was never a worldwide hit, the Runaways have since become an influential part of pop culture.
Notably, many modern female bands cite them as an inspiration, showing that the band’s style truly exemplifies what we know today as punk music.
Named for a road intersection where they practiced, Sleater-Kinney is a particularly notable punk rock band formed in Washington state in 1994. Their original run lasted until 2006, but they reformed in 2014 and have remained active in recent years.
Sleater-Kinney has released ten studio albums, with two of their albums hitting #2 on the US Indie chart. Their single, “Worry With You,” from the album Path of Wellness also reached #19 in the Adult Alternative Airplay chart.
Critics cite Sleater-Kinney as a particularly notable rock group, labeled as the best rock group at the time.
5. White Lung
Canada isn’t particularly famous for producing punk bands, but White Lung stands out as a notable force, winning the Punk/Harcore Group of the Year award in 2011 at the Canadian Music Week Indie Awards.
Running from 2006 to 2022, White Lung did particularly well after their recognition in 2011, producing five albums in total.
Their songs trend shorter than some other artists, with their second album Sorry coming in at just 19 minutes. The music is short and aggressive, the way punk listeners like it.
White Lung has recently announced disbandment after their last album, Premonition, scheduled to be released at the end of 2022.
Not to be confused with an Australian band by the same name, the American band X launched in 1977. Like Blondie, the band is not an all-female group but is led by their vocalist, Exene Cervenka.
However, some of their songs became soundtracks to a few 1980s films—”Breathless” was in the 1983 movie of the same name, and “Wild Thing” was in the comedy Major League.
The band has gone through several member changes, but X has remained active since their start, touring with different groups and receiving strong support from critics and fans.
7. Skinny Girl Diet
After four extended plays released earlier in their career, the group switched to longer studio albums, with the most recent being 2019’s Ideal Woman through Fiasco Recordings.
Skinny Girl Diet isn’t quite as well-known outside of the UK, but their focus on improving female representation throughout the music industry exemplifies the bold and independent spirit of the entire punk movement.
8. Shonen Knife
Our next group, Shonen Knife, is one of the older punk bands still running, operating almost continuously since their debut in Osaka in 1981.
Shonen Knife has released 21 studio albums throughout their career, starting with Minna Tanoshiku on cassette in 1982 and mainly on CDs ever since. Aside from their generally high quality, the band’s sheer consistency means there’s a lot of music to listen to if you like their style.
9. Sheer Mag
Formed in 2014, Sheer Mag is partially a tribute to the 1970s style, with everyone from Rolling Stone to Coachella recognizing their up-and-coming status.
After releasing a trio of EPs to general acclaim, Sheer Mag released several studio albums, each featuring the band’s wide range, intense vocals, and blazing guitars.
Although Sheer Mag isn’t exactly a chart-topper, they’ve placed quite well on multiple lists, with Rolling Stone putting their debut album as the 22nd best release of the year. Considering the number of competitors, that’s an impressive placement for any punk band.
10. Hey Violet
Launching in Los Angeles in 2008, Hey Violet started off with hard and alternative rock before sliding into punk and pop sounds. Its original members came together in middle school but have shuffled around a little since then.
Hey Violet’s early years started as an opening act for some other bands, including winning the Next Big Thing at the Teen Choice Awards in 2016 and Musical.ly’s Next Wave April award in 2017 for their single “Break My Heart.”
Although they have a few studio albums, Hey Violet often focuses more on singles, drawing inspiration for the lyrics from their personal lives.
11. Doll Skin
Following their debut in 2013, Doll Skin’s members have blended punk, rock, and pop to create a solid selection of tracks. Its original members met at the School of Rock in Scottsdale, earning a near-perfect score in a local battle of the bands.
David Ellefson (from the band Megadeth) was present as a judge, and, convinced of their potential, he eventually started helping manage and produce their music.
Although most of the band’s members have since left, Doll Skin has an impressive slate of awards, including Breakout Band of the Year from the Heavy Metal Television Awards and #14 in the Best Rock and Alternative Songs of 2019 from Billboard magazine.
Running from 2003 to 2013, Gallhammer was an aggressive Japanese band mixing darker metal with crust punk, a style emphasizing a mix of British punk rock and extreme metal sounds.
The group released three studio albums and a selection of EPs during their run, but unlike some other punk bands, they don’t cite a specific political outlook for their music.
Gallhammer’s second album, Ill Innocence, is particularly notable for its mix of influences from metal and non-metal sources and stands out as an option for listeners who want to depart from popular punk and hear something different in the genre.
13. Pussy Riot
Founded in 2011, Pussy Riot is recognized as one of the most controversial punk bands. Aside from their aggressively provocative lyrics, the group’s bold stances on feminism and civil rights in Russia have further accelerated their growth.
Pussy Riot often has performances in unexpected and unpredictable locations, like church fronts. Members frequently cover their heads during shows, and in every way, this band stands out from the crowd.
Pussy Riot is even more outspoken than most other punk bands, to the point their activities occasionally land them in legal trouble. Some arrests have gotten the group international attention and support, further accelerating their prolific rise.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Female Punk Bands
Female punk bands remain one of the most powerful forces in the genre, with groups around the world participating in its ideals.
Punk is also a flexible genre, from the more relaxing tributes of Sheer Mag to the aggressively outspoken surprise performances from Pussy Riot.
While every band on this can be a great starting point, consider listening to Blondie or the Runaways first. They were some of the earliest female punk bands, and many later groups have taken inspiration from their lyrics and style.
Have we left off a group that should be on this list? Let us know and we’ll add them!