Mothering: The Extreme Metal Way

metal mom shirtI mentioned in a previous post that in between thesis writing, book/music reviews, work and parenting, I’ve begun researching motherhood and metal. It’s a side interest that came up with my thesis research that I’m finding fascinating because I’m a new mom and a metalhead and sometimes that can be strange to folks; especially when, as a new mom, you’re trying to make friends with other moms.

I didn’t really think too much on it before, but through interviews and surveys, I started to notice that enjoying extreme metal seems to be at odds with parenting. One example, which totally upset me-though my husband found it humorous because its most likely a “fake” page, was a Facebook page that I recently found while researching called, “Moms Against Heavy Metal“. Whether or not this page is authentic, it construes an idea that heavy metal negatively impacts on the social and family values of adolescents and continues an idea that has been around for decades, when people thought that rock-and-roll music was evil and Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips would shred the moral fabric of the children of the 50s. This continued into the 80’s and 90’s with crusades against heavy metal and other kinds of music – ala Tipper Gore. Some would argue that musical censorship like this can even be traced back to historical times with the Church banning music that included the tritone, which of course features prominently in heavy metal.

Started by the supposed mom who has a son whose life was almost ruined by heavy metal. She writes this on her About Me page:

“8 years ago, my son started listening to Cannibal Corpse (a hardcore metal band). Ever since then he began wearing all black and wouldn’t listen to his mom or dad. Today, my son has been finally left rehab after 2 years. This is all because of metal music.”

To me, this is sad on a couple of fronts. For one, although it might all be tongue-in-cheek, it points to a more serious matter of how metal’s reputation is so often negatively perceived. Secondly, there are assumptions and accusations being made about people which are derived solely from a person’s musical taste. I can’t help but think of how ignorant words like, “The music made me do it,” or “I saw it on TV so I did it too,” sound.

Understandably, younger children can be influenced by a variety of things that they see in the media and elsewhere, including the home, but that’s where we have a problem–parents need to explain things, not just restrain or avoid when they think that something might be inappropriate. Children need to know “why” to begin to build rationality and a moral compass. Nowhere on this mom’s FB page does she talk about asking why her son listened to metal or what he thought about her own reactions towards the music. Thirdly, if you’re going to accuse music of corrupting morality, know something about the music!!! It’s comedic to me that Cannibal Corpse gets labeled as hardcore….ummmm NO.That’s a different type of music that comes from punk rock, not heavy metal. The sad fact is, I have met real people who are very misinformed on topics that they’d argue to death. I’m sure you’ve all met them – arguing about religion, politics, feminism, economics and race, without a real understanding of the subject matter.

Getting back to Moms Against Heavy Metal – has this person ever read interviews with the band? They’re pretty articulate and express what they think about writing the music that they do, justifying it as art in the same sense that movies and video games express often fantastic content, why should music be any different? How different are writing horrific lyrics and producing movies with horrific content? Should we be taking artistic license away? If so, a plethora of books would have to be taken off the shelves. Not to mention artwork. I don’t see an outcry to ban Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft or the Saw movies.

Granted, there are many bands out there that spread agendas full of hate, misogyny and racism – but entire genres shouldn’t be blamed for these people and their opinions. And of course, it’s not just metal music. You can find hate in rap, folk, and pop …just read about some of these musicians and their backgrounds.

Additionally, I have to wonder what she would think of metal bands like Amorphis, whose lyrical writing is Finnish storytelling at its best. Or again, my favorite – Crisis, with songs of proto-feminist themes. Or even transgenderd musicians like Marissa Martinez of Cretin or Mina Caputo from Life of Agony, both musicians who found compassion from the metal community. Would she be against bands like Blotted Science or Conquering Dystopia? These are both extreme metal bands, with members of acts like Cannibal Corpse, but which create instrumental music. Is she blaming the sound, the lyrics, the tempo, or some other combination for her son’s behavior?

Personally, for me, heavy and extreme metal music have been empowering. It is for a lot of metal heads. As a transgressive form of music, it can alleviate feelings of alienation, abuse and grief. I believe for this mom, exploring her son’s psychology, and her own, would be a better way to get to the root and resolve the issues they have, not starting a crusade against an entire musical genre that has millions of positive, productive fans globally. If this mom was a little more enlightened, she’d realized there is a very open discourse on metal music and she’d not only see benefits of listening to the music but the benefits of being a musician and performing.

Luckily, on the flip side to this are real moms like Lisa Petty over at the blog Parenting: ten to twenty who sees this benefit for her and her son. She’s written a funny post about being a metal mom, called “I Am a Metal Mom – Not a Soccer Mom” where she acknowledges her son’s passion for the music and encourages him to be comfortable with himself, even if he’s different from everyone else around him.

With that, I leave you with some pics from this adorable “My Mom Wearing Heavy Metal Shirts” Tumblr page….(this was genius!)

Testament mom

death metal momMetal moms

Heavy Metal, Motherhood, and Parenting

Lately I’ve been in a writing rut with regard to my thesis research on women in metal. All the things I usually try to do to get out of said rut are failing. I went to Yoga, started reading material not pertaining to my research, and I even thought about painting again; anything to get my mind off schoolwork.

Instead, while browsing an old sheet of notebook paper with ideas about possible thesis topics, I ended up revisiting this idea I had when I was pregnant with my daughter, Ella. It was on researching mothers and motherhood in heavy metal. I decided to give more time to researching this topic.

During the course of my research with women in NY’s extreme metal scene, the concept of motherhood came up a handful of times, both during the one-on-one interviews and in the online survey. In general, women said that future motherhood would be a challenge to them simply because of the lifestyle change. A few said that they look forward to figuring that lifestyle change out, while the majority of my interviewees said it wasn’t in the cards, mostly because they couldn’t see themselves as both musicians and moms. I found this bit intriguing, as I bet male musicians rarely think of this concern, or at least, not in the same way. It’s not like they would have to be drumming insane blast beats while being 7 months pregnant or anything.

Motherhood and metal also became a reoccurring theme in my daily WordPress musings because 1) I’m a newish mom myself and so I follow parenting blogs here and there (see beautiful pic of my daughter below) and 2) women in my age group are starting to settle down and have children.

Ella_motorhead2

It wasn’t surprising that when I read a review of Kim Gordon‘s forthcoming book, Girl in a Band, I was immediately fascinated with her memoir of life on the road as a musician, performer and new mom. As a rock icon, I definitely look forward to reading her book. To add, motherhood and balancing everything else is a challenge that Gordon seems to have successfully managed.

On top of women like Kim Gordon, there are others, specifically in metal that I was curious about. One example being women like Simone Simons from Epica (see video below):

It’s amazing to me that the topic hasn’t really been explored. Considering that all these musicians came out of somewhere, you’d think the topic of moms and motherhood would have been researched. There’s a dearth of information about home environments and adolescent studies with regard to reasons for listening to metal and it looks like there’s little on the way about mothers and their influences on these musicians. I would like think that in one way or another (whether it’s positive or negative) it would be highlighted.

On that note, I unfortunately found this video while I was researching that made me upset. It’s a recording of a conversation between a mother and her musician-son..well sorta. Understandably, we don’t have the entire context of why this mother felt so disgusted with her son. I’m sure anxiety and being afraid of something she didn’t understand played a big role in her reaction but it was disheartening to see the approach she took in addressing her son.

And yet, over at places like the Jarakarta Globe, psychology lecturer Gita Soerjoatmodjo writes on her experience of being a mom who doesn’t feel a need to reconcile being a metalhead with parenting. She references society’s perception of metal music and talks about, how for her, it’s an empowering and constructive force, not something to simply be rebellious or violent about.

In addition, I’ve noticed a wave of new parenting columns catering to the metal community. Both Decibel and Hellhound magazines offer new parenting columns in their issues. Just look at the cover of Decibel’s March 2015 issue:
Decibel cover_1024x1024So it goes without saying, while I’m on break with my thesis work, you’ll probably see me writing something researchy about what it means to consider motherhood within the heavy metal community.

Reblog from Pearrls.Com – Fine Art Degree – Will-I-Ever-Practice?

Over at Pearrls.com, there’s a great post on gender inequality and the practice of fitting in Art Making after one’s graduated.
http://pearrls.com/2014/02/26/a-fine-art-degree-will-i-ever-practice/

It’s a great read. I especially liked the part below as it’s definitely been a struggle for me in the past:

The experiences of the panel highlight that motherhood and maternity remain as complex an issue in the art world as in any other sector. Despite a perceived flexibility in working hours reducing one problematic element for artists with children, women continue to battle age-old ideological obstacles. If women artists are feeling the need to hide (as in one case related by Boyce) and downplay motherhood, or, as Sarah Maple admitted, muse about how best to fit childbirth into an exhibition schedule, it is clearly a tangible concern.

And the part:

Evidently, the extraordinary experience of having a child is unlikely to negatively impact the quality of an artist’s work. Therefore it is more likely that gallerists – as are huge swathes of other managerial professionals (of both genders) – feel some sort of socially-generated nervousness about investing their time and money into those who they fear will either fall victim to some sort of child-induced creative lobotomy, or prove incapable of juggling their careers and families.

Monday Musings

Lately, my blog posts haven’t been totally of the academic nature; I’ve realized I’m becoming more and more entrenched in the daily activities of a mom and a working mom at that.

But today, I’ll speak to a balance of both things academia and motherhood.

This Monday morning was done in it’s usual fashion, a quick and then slow progression of doing things on automatic and then having time on the train to contemplate all the things I needed to do or did. I remember sitting on the train not too long ago, praising myself for actually being able to make it to work on time today! I hate being late, but somehow it’s become routine ever since having a baby.

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