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

Gender Reassignment and the Metal Music Community

I came across an interesting interview the other day over at Invisible Oranges on the male to female transition of one of the members in the heavy metal band, Cretin. The interview was posted in June of 2011 so I’m sure I’m pretty late on the news, but I guess that’s bound to happen when your knee deep in researching and learning new things. I added this tidbit of information into the “learning new things” category. Although it’s not about women and their participation in the Metal Music community, it’s of course related and is actually quite a fascinating read!

I was drawn to this interview because I wanted to know first-hand what kind of challenges Marissa Martinez, formerly Dan Martinez, received upon coming out to the metal music community.

Below: a pic of Martinez pre-transition and post-transition:

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From the interview it looks like most of Martinez’s hesitations were internal and that the metal community didn’t react or treat her horridly. Though it wasn’t an easy transition  it seems she was able to, with support of her ex-wife and band-mates, experience a therapeutic and cathartic transformation. I’ve seen that the majority of the time this isn’t the case.

In one comment, Martinez says that she was approached at the 2011 Deathfest by supportive fans who knew her pre-transition and that some young girls who were new fans had said that it was awesome to see a woman who could grind. This of course made Martinez laugh and only supports the fact that Metal still has its marginalized groups that exist within it.

I think the most surprising thing I digested from the interview was Martinez’s upbeat and optimistic attitude. I thought it was great that her story had a successful outcome, one where she had great support from her fellow band-mates and her fan base. It was great to see she wasn’t only striving to produce creative music but that she took an active role in participating in the transgender community and speaking out about her experience.

And of course, it puts more meaning to Cretin’s song Daddy’s Little Girl, which I love: