Heavy Metal – Women and Perception

All-Female Blackened Doom Metal Band (Japan)

I’m constantly scouring the internet in hopes of finding new articles, books, and comments regarding women in extreme metal, let alone heavy metal, for my research. So it was nice to see this post over at The Metal Advisor blog. http://www.themetaladvisor.com/2013/07/a-maze-of-thoughts-women-and-heavy-metal.html

The author rightly points out some of the most interesting female musicians who often go under the radar. What’s nice to see is that the author (whom I can only guess is male) validates some of the typical misconceptions and stereotypes female musicians receive, almost always having to do with their not being judged on musical ability, but rather on their appearance. Vocal quality and it’s likeness to how male metal vocals are produced is mentioned, though if you ask me, it interesting to note how women have to negotiate both vocal and bodily acceptance in the hyper-masculine environment; meaning recognition is given when a woman can sound undecipherable from male vocals/growls/shrieking or if she embodies the male musician look/style.

In some of the research I’ve come across, this issue of negotiating the female body and it’s place in the heavy/extreme metal scene seems to be very black and white. Women are judged not only by the males in the scene (both musicians and fans) but by other women as well. What results is a very simplistic perception of female participation as either “hyper-serialized feminine personas” or “masculine ones” (Walser 1993).

Sonia Vasan’s analysis of this very issues applies a social exchange theory in order to make sense of what is sacrificed by the female fan in being included in the Death Metal scene. In her paper, “The Price of Rebellion: Gender Boundaries in the Death Metal Scene“, Vasan argues that in order for female death metal fans to be perceived as authentic, they must be willing to conform to a hegemonic masculinity.

It’s this questioning of negotiation and sacrifice that is extremely fascinating to me. With my own research, I hope to answer what these characteristics might be, not just for female fans who are accepted into the scene, but for the female producers/creators. I wonder how this negotiation impacts female musicians and their artistic vision within the scene. Are they able to re-appropriate commonly masculine themes within the genre and make it their own or do they submit the to hegemony? Can they approach themes of death, rape, brutality, and violence through a gendered lens of feminist theory? And how would/has that changed the common themes written about in heavy metal?

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