Shout-out from the Tempest

Lovely writer, Esther Merono Baro, over at the Tempest website wrote up a nice re-cap with quotes from last week’s panel that I organized on Women in Rock and Metal @ Barnard College.  5 women in punk and metal who give zero f*cks about their bitch face

I was glad to see folks enjoy our talk and get insights into the work we do. Hopefully this can become something we do annually!

And here’s some photos from the slideshow I put together of our panelists (some photos courtesy of Justina Villanueva). Unfortunately, Kristen Korvette wasn’t able to make it.

 

Panel talk: Women in Rock & Metal Music

flyer-womenrockmetal

Join the Barnard Library for a lively discussion on gender, race, violence, and acceptance in the NY rock and metal scene with panel speakers Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine creator/editor), Kristen Korvette (creator of feminist website Slutist), Laina Dawes (author of ‘What are you doing here? A black woman’s life & liberation in heavy metal‘), Justina Villanueva (photographer & artist), and Cristy Roads (punk musician, zinester, & artist).

Moderated by Columbia University librarian and metal scholar Joan Jocson-Singh, and Barnard Library’s own performing arts librarian Charlotte Price, this event is open to everyone. Check out the Facebook event

Here’s the event page over at Barnard college:
http://library.barnard.edu/events/Women-Rock-Metal-0

Many thanks to Justina for designing this web flyer!

Upcoming Metal Music Conferences, Panels and CFP’s – 2016

heavy metal
Yes I know I’ve been MIA but there’s plenty of reason! Night school, work and metal music events, have taken over. To make up for my absence, I thought I’d compile a list of upcoming metal related events.

emp_pop_conference_2016

There’s the very cool EMP Pop Conference taking place next week from April 14-16 in Seattle. I’ve been wonderfully invited to speak as part of a roundtable called, Noise Breeding Silence- Heavy Metal Voices along with my colleagues, Laina Dawes, Jeremy Wallach, Ester Clinton, Kat Katz and Steve Waksman. Steve is actually the moderator, so you know it’s going to be a great talk! For those of you who don’t know his work – Steve is a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and wrote the seminal books – Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience and Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. 

grimposuimAlso taking place next week for NYC locals is the traveling Grimposium – a touring festival that brings musicians, journalists and academics together to showcase and foster discussion on all things metal, coordinated by Vivek Venkatash, professor and metal scholar at Concordia University. This latest event is called, The Sign of An Open Eye: Grimposium 360 and will be taking place on April 14th in Brooklyn at MINY Media Center by IFP. Register here.

clap back

On April 30th, we also have Women CLAP BACK in Music and the Arts at The New School taking place from 10am-5pm. Several women involved in the local metal scene here in NY will be there, like the wonderful Laina Dawes! I’ll be helping with moderating the panel called, Navigating Race and Feminism in the Music Industry.
And of course I’ve got to plug this – I’ll be co-moderating an evening talk on Women in Rock and Metal Music at Barnard College the evening of May 4th, 2016 (registration and info page COMING Soon).

Below is a description of the event – ALL ARE WELCOME!

Women in Rock & Metal Music – 
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 7 PM – 9:30 PM @ Barnard College – Julius S. Held Lecture Hall.

Women have had an increasingly steady presence as performers, fans and supporters of rock and heavy metal music, although previous studies have emphasized these spaces as predominantly masculine and white. In the 21st century, women still face challenges in participating and negotiating this historical gendering of space. While New York City is quite often perceived as a product of its own bubble of exceptionalism; race, sexism, and authenticity remain problematic areas of discourse for many women who take part in these musical scenes.

An evening with Women in Rock & Metal Music seeks to address these issues, exploring how women of varying ethnic backgrounds, gender identities and sexuality, so often marginalized, navigate their participation and construct spaces of liminality through their art, musicianship and voice.

Please join us for a lively discussion and exploration of gender, race, violence, and acceptance in the NY rock and metal scene with panel speakers – Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine Creator/Editor), Kristen Korvette (Creator of the feminist site -Slutist ), Laina Dawes (Author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal), Justina Villanueva (Heavy Metal photographer and artist) and Cristy Roads (Punk Musician, Zinester and Artist).

In addition to these US-based happenings – there are other, just as amazing, conferences coming up – especially abroad. There’s the Bournemouth University Metal Conference on Metal and Politics, being held in the UK on June 3rd as well as the Modern Heavy Metal Conference in Helsinki, Finland – June 30 through July 3rd. You can register for MHM here.

Also in the UK, is the Dark Leisure and Music Symposium taking place at Leeds Beckett University on September 16, 2016. There’s still time for submission as the deadline is May 15th.

Back in the US, we got the Metal in Strange Places conference taking place in the Fall at the University of Dayton on October 21st – 23rd! If you remember from my previous blog posts, I presented my thesis work on Women in NY’s EMM scene at the 2014 conference in Dayton where I met some of the most awesome people in metal academia.

Proposals for Metal in Strange Places are due by April 22nd.This year’s keynote speakers are Gabby Riches, whose book Caught in a Mosh is a great resource that I’ve referenced in my own work and Tracy Reilly who will be talking about intellectual property and entertainment.

As for CFP’s – here’s a list of current and ongoing calls for conferences, journals etc.:

Metal Music Studies (Intellect)
The deadline for submissions for 3.1 is September 10, 2016
The deadline for submissions for 3.2 is December 10, 2016

IASPM’s page for CFP’s (International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland)
Various deadlines and CFP’s

19th Biennial ISAPM Conference – Additional CFP’s

Shifts and Turns: Moving Music, Musicians and Ideas – 39th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia Adelaide, Australia (November 30 – December 3, 2016)

3rd International Digital Libraries for Musicology workshop New York, NY (August 12, 2016)

Society for American Music, 43rd Annual Conference Montreal, Québec, Canada (March 22 – 26, 2017)

That’s all I got for now!

 

War on Women

Here’s a recent article that was published over at the Washington Post called, “Rape, street harassment and trolls. This punk band has a song for that” about the hardcore band War On Women and Feminism. It’s both an interesting and discouraging article about what female musicians face in the punk, hardcore and metal music scenes and goes on to speak about the band’s origin and experiences performing. In particular, like the article’s title suggests, band lyricist and vocalist Shawna Potter talks about fans’ reaction to her as a woman performing and her experiences of harassment.

War-On-Women-2014-1024x819WOW_logo_original-600x154

It’s sad to say, but Potter’s experiences are really no different than what many of the women I interviewed here in NYC spoke about. Even though a majority of metal news sites, commenters, and bloggers in the blog-o-sphere might argue differently, these moments of violence, mistreatment and racism still occur. It’s very much a “still happened, even if it didn’t happen to you” kind of thing.

I am glad to see articles like the Washington Post one being published because these issues of rape, racism, and sexism still are and should be ongoing discussions, lest we forget– see what I did there? –But seriously… the discussions shouldn’t stop at just media highlighting white women of more noticeable bands – there needs to be a focus on the intersectionalities occurring – women of color, of ethnicity, of varying gender identities etc.

And before folks get all uppity about there not being enough bands with women of the intersectionalities I just mentioned, you can just look to bands like NY’s Castrator or the site Female Vocalists of Extreme Music– the name implies only vocalists but it really includes a very in-depth listing of bands worldwide with women as musicians & vocalists.

Women in Metal Music – A Reading List

Ever since I got my hands on Kim Gordon‘s book “Girl in a Band,” I’ve been thinking about reading lists with female musicians- especially the lack of books and materials about female metal musicians. With all of the gender and metal research I’ve been doing, I found myself sadly unsurprised that there wasn’t very much commercially-written about female metal musicians in terms of bands, memoirs or biographies. I’m not quite sure why that is, considering that I’ve come across so much scholarly work by women in metal studies and I’ve met so many awesome musicians who are women.

In any case, I thought it would be helpful for me and other folks to have a reading list of more commercially-known books written by or about women and metal. I’m not sure if I’ll end up creating a list in Amazon’s Listmania but I might make an ongoing page here on my blog.

I also plan on compiling a scholarly list of articles, papers, and books written by female academics writing in metal studies, since much of my own thesis work has referenced women like Sonia Vasan, Gabrielle Riches, RoseMary L. Hill, RoseMary Overell, Jasmine Shadrack, Sarah Kitteringham, Kristen Sollee, Heather Savigny, etc. There’s lots more!

Below is a list I started compiling via my very random searches through Amazon as well as books that have been recommended to me during my research. By no means is this list comprehensive. All the books are available on Amazon, just follow the links and grow your library collections!

And yes.. compiling such a list appeals to the librarian side of me.

  1. Baulch, Emma (2007) Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali
  2. Bond, Jaclyn (2009) The 100 Best and Absolute Greatest Heavy Metal Albums in the World, Ever
  3. Clerk, Carol (2002) Diary of a Madman: Ozzy Osbourne: The Stories Behind the Songs
  4. Dawes, Laina (2013) What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
  5. Ford, Lita (2016) Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir
  6. Giroux, Annick (2010) Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook
  7. Herron-Wheeler, Addison (2014) Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960’s to Now
  8. Hughs, Jill (2014) Not Just Tits in a Corset
  9. Kajzer, Jackie, Lotring, Roger & Weiss, Mark (2009) Full Metal Jackie Certified: The 50 Most Influential Heavy Metal Songs of the ’80s and the True Stories behind Their Lyrics
  10. Leggett, Carol (1985) Heavy Metal Bible
  11. Mape Ollila and Olga Pohjola (2006) Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biogrpahy 1996-2006
  12. Napoleone, Amber C. (2015) Queerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent
  13. Nolteernsting, Elke (2002) Heavy Metal: die Suche nach der Bestie
  14. Phillipov, Michelle (2014) Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits
  15. Purcell, Natalie J.(2003) Death Metal Music: The Passion and the Politics of a Subculture
  16. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Heavy Metal: Kunst, Kommerz, Ketserei
  17. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Die Bands, Die Fans, Die Gagner
  18. Roxx, Rita R. (2012) Once Upon a Rock Star: Backstage Passes in the Heavy Metal Eighties- Big Hari, Bad Boys
  19. Weinstein, Deena. (2000) Heavy Metal: The Music and it’s Culture, Revised Ed.
  20. Weindl, Dina (2006) Musik und Aggression: Untersucht anhand des Musikgenres Heavy Metal
  21. Weiermann, Ursula (2010) Heavy Metal: Entstehung und Entwicklung
  22. Yseult, Sean (2010) I’m in the Band: Backstage notes From the Chick in White Zombie Heavy Metal

Death’s Metal Maiden: The Portrayal of the Grotesque Female Body on Extreme Metal Album Covers

I’m taking a much-needed break from writing my actual thesis and instead looking at the art produced for extreme metal music albums. In this way, I feel like I’m paying homage to my first love in academia: art history.

I recently came upon an interesting CFP on my blog feed from the University of Winchester. This upcoming summer, they are holding a conference on Death, Art, and Anatomy and put out a call for papers on any research having to do with the following topics:

  • Death and art
  • Anatomy and death
  • Anatomy and art
  • History of anatomy
  • History of death
  • Religion and anatomy
  • Religion and death
  • Medieval and early modern death beliefs and practices

It got me thinking, and I started to explore the idea of how some extreme metal album art could be an extension of the medieval concept of grotesque realism.

So I began reading and discovered previous research making this claim by author and Professor Karen Bettez Halnon. In her paper, Heavy Metal Carnival and Dis-alienation, she examines the use of grotesque realism in performance, lyrical construction, and the appearance of bands like Gwar, Slipknot, and Cradle of Filth. Although these bands are not all categorically extreme metal, it made me think about controversial extreme metal cover art that has been produced in the past few decades.

Referencing philosopher and critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Halnon defines grotesque realism in relation to her study as a form of “heavy metal carnival,” whereby the noise of commercialism is dismantled and transgressed by heavy metal’s ability to challenge societal norms of conduct, dress, taste, morality and civility (Halnon, 2006). What this encompasses is a fandom and culture that encourages the obscene and bizarre, disassociating it from general musical audiences that would favor more socially-accepted styles of popular music, visual art and fashion.

As an example, she cites the band Gwar, who spray their “slaves” (the audience) with red-colored water (symbolic of blood) and other bodily fluids, effectively enacting a spectacle of grotesque through fantastic and fictional displays of human dismemberment, torture and beheadings. On its most base level, this spectacle transgresses the limitations of real and fantasy for participating fans. Like Halnon believes, “the display signifies the creative life-death-rebirth-cycle”. (Halnon, 2006)

GwarWithin the paper, Halnon echos Bahktin’s own definition of grotesque realism as:

“Eating, drinking, defecation, and other elimination (sweating, blowing of the nose, sneezing), as well as copulation, pregnancy, dismemberment, swallowing up by another body—all these acts are performed on the confines of the body and the outer world, or on the confines of the old and new body. . . . The grotesque image displays not only the outward but also the inner features of the body: blood, bowels, heart and other organs. Its outward and inward features are often emerged into one.” ([1936] 1984: 317–18)

Does this not sound like extreme metal to you? Hanlon goes on in her paper to talk about inversion within the heavy metal carnival. What really caught my attention was the following:

“The carnival-grotesque is not only exposing the deep (hidden, vile, disgusting), interior aspects of anatomy but also what is spurned, spoiled, stained and hidden in the body politic. Inverting the ordinary devaluation, invisibility, or “symbolic annihilation” of those positioned at the bottom of (social) hierarchies (Larry Gross quoted in Gamson 1998:22)”

These two statements mark further evidence of the grotesque for lyrics constructed by extreme metal bands like Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, or Deicide. However controversial the works of these bands and bands like them can be construed, it made me curious to explore the imagery depicted on albums of this nature.

Furthermore, I wondered if the often violent and horrific covers of extreme metal albums were indeed an extension of both the medieval grotesque and heavy metal carnival, then what research, if any, was being conducted specific to the treatment of women, so often depicted in controversial images flagging the albums.

If I decide to write a paper for this conference, I think it will broadly speak to the use of grotesque imagery on extreme metal albums as a form of intentional aesthetic and then move more specifically to the depiction of women, particularly the thematic imagery of Death and Women on covers.

\m/ –Hail Metal– \m/

Heavy Metal Studies and Gender

MeralandGenderLast week, an article was published over at No Clean Singing that caught my eye. The article,A Metal Gender Study is a follow-up post by cultural anthropologist David Mollica who put a call out through No Clean Singing last March to recruit participants for his study about gender and metal.

Since Mollica’s research is very much aligned with my own work with regard to gender, I thought I’d share my thoughts on his article in hopes of opening a discourse about how gender has been examined in the past as well as how the perspective of women conducting the research themselves can offer different insights than previous studies done by men.

We_Can_Do_It!First off, though Mollica’s writing is aimed at the general audience in the blog post, I wondered about several aspects of his study. For one, he writes:

“…I ended up interviewing 6 women and 5 men, making this the first study of its kind that I know of to have equal gender representation.”

Since I’ve had to research a lot of literature on this topic, I found this statement to be  misleading and, with no sources cited, I also question the depth of his actual research. In the last decade or so, though statistics may have not shown an exact and equal ratio of men and women on studies like Mollica’s; the fact is there has been research done with women and men regarding the subject of gender and metal.

One example is the research done by scholars Leigh Krenske and Jim McKay entitled,Hard and Heavy: Gender and Power in a Heavy Metal Music Subculture“, in which gendered structures of power in a specific music club within the heavy metal subculture in Brisbane, Australia were studied. In this study a total of 10 participants were interviewed, 6 women and 4 men.

Additionally, in my own research, I have referenced academics such as Sonia Vasan from the University of Texas, whose dissertation,Women’s Participation in Death Metal Music was extremely influential on much of my ethnographic approach. Likewise, Sarah Kitteringham from University of Calgary has written and interviewed a variety of women from the Canadian Extreme Metal Music Scene, authoring her findings in her thesis, Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses.  There are other scholars from around the globe – Rosemary Hill, Gabrielle Riches, Jasmine Shadrack, Laina Dawes, Pauwke Berkers, Julian Schaap, and Keith Kahn-Harris – who have written about women in and around metal music. This also assumes one has referenced older and staple academic works written by Arnett, Walser, Wallach, Hickam, Purcell, Pillipov and Weinstein which mention and address different aspects of gender in metal. I’m sure I’m forgetting more.

KarynCrisisOn top of the lack of reference and context (which in Mollica’s defense, was probably due to not wanting to sound too academic on a commercial website), I thought the sample size of 6 and 5 to be small. In my own research, I interviewed – either in-person or electronically – around 80 participants from the NY area alone. If not for the cut-off period instituted by the IRB, there would have been many more – something I will probably use for a follow-up paper.

In addition, I’m left wondering about other aspects such as the demographics of his interviewees–Where was this study conducted? How old were his interviewees? What were their ethnicities? What were their educational backgrounds/careers?

Mollica points to conducting inductive research, assessing patterns as they arise. While this is a valid form of research, asking and answering such demographic questions is integral to finding out the patterns among his participants.

For example, in my study, I found that many of my online participants (which were women only) identified with Caucasian or Hispanic backgrounds. Asians, Native Americans, and African Americans had the lowest representative numbers. This becomes an important part of understanding identity construction, especially within an area like the NY tri-state region which is considered to be quite diverse.

Moreover, the women in my study (of which 72 were surveyed online) identified with the following stats: 18% between 18-24 years of age, 56% between 25-34 years in age, 18% between 35-44 years in age, 5% between 45-54 years in age and finally and most surprisingly 3% between 65-74 years in age. Considering age demographics is one way to reveal listening reasons. One can infer the musical styles that would have been around during the participants’ birth years for each age group and what may have been influential as well as what they were moving both away from and towards.

Also interesting – and not surprising – were the differences in our observations of women participating and producing within the scene. Mollica writes,

“Another thing that was mentioned was the stereotypically feminine tendency to herd up, move in groups, and sometimes stand on the periphery of the action.”

Though his interviewees mention this as fact, I and many of my participants witnessed otherwise – at least as the NY-area goes. Interestingly, many of the local extreme metal shows I attended had women attending by themselves. Perhaps this was due to the age of the women I noticed attending; they were often older and more mature, in their late 20’s and on, whereas younger adult women attended in groups, both mixed and unmixed. But, there are reasons outside of metal for this, and men are shown to move with their friends as well.

He also talks about authenticity within the metal scene, mentioning the similarities with geek culture and the acceptance of women within that subculture. I agree with his point and would add that this “burden of proof” placed on women to show their true fandom and authenticity elicits a form of tokenism, whereby they become objects which are judged and criticized. Schaap and Berkers work, “Grunting Alone? Online Gender Inequality in Extreme Metal Music”, explains this tokenism within extreme metal scenes, further supporting how sexism is widespread and cultivated throughout the subculture.

Finally, on Mollica’s last section, “What’s the Point?”, he writes:

Overall, most metalheads are probably not sexists who don’t want women in their “club”, as some other research has concluded. The reality is probably more that we bring our ideas about the world to heavy metal when we make ourselves part of the group.

I think I’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. For starters, this might be the case for the particular region of Mollica’s study. Since I’m not sure where that was, all I can offer are my own insights and experiences as a woman from the NY tri-state area. Most of the women I met with and interviewed felt that the extreme metal scene in NY was an arena that could be both restrictive and open in its acceptance of women as consumers and producers. Though many women felt established and included with the community, they also cited the difficulties in getting there.

My interviewees cited that their acceptance within the subculture did not eradicate the constant “testing” of their authenticity once there, whether it was being tested as a musician, fan, music journalist, or critic. Many women felt that this openness and acceptance also changed regionally, often telling me that once they were outside of urban and diverse areas like NY, they were more likely to experience sexism, racism and violence at shows.

castrator1In addition, the construction of the lyrical content does not offer many avenues for the dismantling of misogynist and sexist content. I can only think of NY’s Castrator as an example of a band that has turned traditional death metal lyrical content on its head.

With that, I leave you with a quote from one of my anonymous participants:

“Heavy and Extreme Metal still have a long way to go”