Update: Recording of Barnard Panel Talk on Women in Rock and Metal

I meant to share this back in June, but of course so many things were happening. I was conferencing like a fiend, researching, and finalizing my new job status! On top of that, Vish and I were visiting pre-schools for Ella. Afterwards, summer hit, and all I could think about was fiscal close procedures at work and how to plan for Ella’s birthday.

So with all of that finally behind me, I’ve now have a tiny bit of relief in my schedule and am trying to get back on the horse with blog posting. Some of you might remember that back in May I co-moderated and organized a panel at Barnard College about women in the rock and metal music scene here in NY. It was panel born out of my thesis research. And although I posted about the wonderful shout-out we got from the online magazine, The Tempest, I wanted to share the recording that my husband did of the event.

So without further ado – here’s Part 1 and 2 of Women in Rock and Metal Music.

Panel speakers were: (from left to right) Charlotte Price (co-moderator), Joan Jocson-Singh (me!!), Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine), Laina Dawes, (music journalist), Justina Villanueva (photographer), and Cristy Road (artist, musician & zinester)
Disclaimer –  In Part 1 you can hear a bit of my daughter’s babble, but it’s only for about a minute and half.

It gets better. Enjoy!

Part 1

 

Part 2

Advertisements

“If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us.” -Kiran Ghandi

Just read this post by marathon runner Kiran Ghandi, who some of you might have heard of on the news because she dared to run a London marathon during her period, without, (gasp), a pad or tampon!

kiran1

While I wouldn’t personally do this–I think it takes great balls (pun intended) to brave this out and make it a statement — which is women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. I know my own reasons stand to be looked at critically regarding why I wouldn’t do this, which is also why I can say being socialized a certain way disservices both men and women in our society. Acts like Kiran’s make me re-examine what I think about body hair, bodily fluids and perception. This self-reflecting my friends, is a good thing.

There was a great point made about how people wouldn’t look twice if someone ran with a nosebleed and blood all over their shirts. Yet somehow women’s bodies fall under a specific category of policing – it’s both fascinating and disturbing. We need to ask why.

On another note, to tie in with my love of all things music– Kiran’s also the drummer for several bands, including – M.I.A, Thievery Corporation, Madame Gandhi. Being a female drummer in itself is another avenue in which women can break stereotypes. I love it! If you ask me, it’s very metal and it’s very feminist.

Kiran2

All in all, I’m glad she brought attention to an issue all women go through with regard to body image.

As I’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be sure I’ll be reading more about Kiran Ghandi.

Finally in her words, “If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us.”

Popular Culture Conference, April 1-4 2015

pca-2015-montageb

My colleague Angela Washington and I presented at this year’s Popular Culture Association (PCA) Conference in New Orleans. This presentation was more aligned to my first love– art librarianship and not to metal music, though I did attend a metal panel at this conference.

Sailor Moon manga - MMA Dark Kingdom-2We presented our paper entitled, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library” under the Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Research panel. We decided to present on how we started the graphic novel collection at the Met’s Nolan Library when I was working there back in 2010. It was right before we hired the current Public Services Librarian who is now conducting the teen and children’s programming. We were first up on our panel and got to meet and see wonderful presentations from the head bibliographer at Tulane and librarians from  both San Diego State University and Florida International University. Overall, our presentation went very well and Angela did a great job at explaining the Watson and Nolan’s collection policy and its unique nuances involved with selecting, purchasing, processing and programming at the libraries.

Below was our panel line-up:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library The libraries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are home to over 900,000 books and periodicals… Angela Washington

Joan Jocson-Singh

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Paper
Poodle with a mohawk: Collecting cat and dog comics in an academic rare books department In New Orleans, with its wealth of distinctive popular culture associations, it may not surprise… Joshua Lupkin Tulane University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Paper
NSFW: Sexually Explicit Comics in Academic Libraries Sexually explicit topics have been safely explored in the academic bubble for decades. However,… Anna Culbertson San Diego State University Paper
Doujinshi and Libraries Doujinshi are Japanese publications, usually created by amateurs and fans, though occasionally… George Pearson Florida International University Paper

Of course, I was most excited to attend the Music (metal) panel because of the papers presented (see below). A highlight for me was hearing Victoria Willis’s presentation on The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video, because of her theoretical framework and it’s relation to feminism.

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Sunn O))) – A Camp Dimension? In a video posted to YouTube, the drone metal band Sunn O))) can be seen performing an… Albert Diaz UCLA Paper
“Rime of a Metal Mariner” “Rime of a Metal Mariner” looks at Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as an adaptation… Justin J. Roberts University of Kentucky Paper
The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video In this paper, I examine the role of twerking in Mastodon’s recent video for “The Motherload.”… Victoria Willis Georgia State University Paper
Hype, Visual Personae, and “Real” Music: The Example of Lana del Rey Before Lana del Rey’s first album, ‘Born to Die,’ hit the stores, she was an internet sensation… Mark Allister St. Olaf College Paper

And the panel on Music (Gender) was too great to pass up:

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin Sasha T. Strelitz: “Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin”

Many…

Sasha Strelitz University of Central Florida Paper
“Bootylicious” with “Love on Top”: Female Empowerment and Performing Sexual Agency at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show In the middle of an exclusively masculine contest of muscle and strategy between the Baltimore… Claire Anderson University of Washington Paper
“Papa, you ain’t got no mama now”: Analyzing Female Agency in Race Record Ads When it comes to analyzing and understanding blues music, many researchers have turned to the… Catherine Gooch University of Kentucky Paper
“What a Great Song…Except for the Lyrics!: Examining Rape Culture in Popular Music”

In this paper, I explore the cultural and social landscape that popularizes music that…

Melinda Mills Castleton State College Paper

I’ve been telling folks for years that the Popular Culture Association is the most interesting academic conferences I’ve been to. Because it deals with popular culture, it really spans disciplines and is one of the more affordable conferences to attend if you’re not a member. You can present as an independent scholar which is also nice. I had a great time meeting other academics and really enjoyed learning about the varied research that’s going on all of the states.

Next year’s conference will be in Seattle – so I’m really looking forward to that.

About Me: Depth & Transgression

JoanI realized, the “About Me” section in this blog is a bit wanting and I thought that even though I’ve been relaying all the sordid details of my research, I haven’t really let my audience know about me (although one can argue that you’d get a feeling about who I am if you’ve been reading my posts!)

But anyway, here’s some details about me and where I’ve been going both academically and professionally. First off, this blog was started back in 2011 as a way for me to get my bearings with writing in academia as well as a way to force me to just, well, WRITE!

I’ve always been a fan of all types of music, especially 80’s New Wave, Classic Punk, and, as you can tell–Extreme Metal. By Extreme metal, I am mostly talking about Death, Doom, Sludge and some Grind.

My first life was spent as an Art lover and student. I went to SUNY Albany for my Bachelors in Studio Art (Drawing) and Art History (Medieval Art and Architecture). Having experienced first hand working in a Visual Arts Library, I thought to myself, wouldn’t becoming an Art Librarian be cool???And I wouldn’t have to be a starving artist to boot! So about a year after I graduated college, I went to Pratt for my Library degree in Library/Information Science with a Certificate in Archives (which is gathering dust by the way).

In the midst of my Pratt life, I ended up, very luckily, working at The Thomas J. Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I worked there for about 6 years as an Art Librarian, enjoying the highs and lows that accompany art reference, cataloging and inter-library loaning! This was a great way to merge my love of art with reading and organization.

However, somewhere down the line, I ended up thinking about getting a second masters degree. I remember talking to some mid-level librarians who told me that in order to work in a college library, having a second masters for specialization was helpful. So that’s what I did. I decided to go to Hunter’s CUNY program in Anthropology with the beginning intention to write about Anthropology and the Pacific. Having found out that most schools in the NY didn’t really have faculty focused in that area-unless you’re going for the PHD, I was outta luck. So I started thinking about what else was fascinating about humans and culture.  And then I had an enlightening conversation with my husband. He brought up Karyn Crisis from Crisis and her influence as seminal person in the death metal scene in early 90’s NYC metal. It got us to thinking about women in Heavy Metal Music. And it most certainly led me to researching what, if any, academic literature was written in Anthropology about women and their experience in these often “hyper-masculine” and “misogynistically” described musical genres. We talked about Dawn Crosby from Fear of God/Detente, as well as women who were musicians  not vocally fronting in bands, like Jo Bench. I wondered what led them to participate in this sub-culture of extreme metal and I wondered if they felt marginalized or empowered by the scene.

Side cutFor me, around 2007, my reasons on listening to Death Metal became apparent. For one, my ears had slowly become trained to actually listening to the genre as form as oppose to just hearing loud noise. And two, no other music for me could correlate to the passing event that I had just overcome, that of my mother’s death. Down-tuned guitars, heavy bass-lines, and blast beats all lent itself nicely to both the angst and grieving I was undergoing. Finding women as vocalists and musicians in the scene served as a way to connect. This became very poetic for me and it’s what I believe happens to people when they connect to a particular style of music. It was a transgressive experience.

But where has this left me? It’s left me at a point where I am still learning from many of the women I have surveyed and interviewed during my research. I am finding, that like me, they are empowered by the music and their acceptance. Although bad experiences exist in any sub-culture, emerging patterns of tolerance have also been relayed to me. I am finding that in NYC, diversity and gender are ever the forefront in cultural concerns. What that may mean for women in the EMM scene can have a variety of meanings. For one, if feminism, especially that of the third wave feminism can be applied to EMM, then the make-up I am seeing, which is fairly diverse when compared to EMM scenes outside of NY, aligns itself well with the third wave.. There is a predominantly Hispanic population of women involved in the the local EMM scene and it does indeed encompass, “many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds”.

In the near future, my professional plans are to finish up this thesis and disseminate it. After that, I plan on going back to my first love of art and perhaps dabbling in creating music. All of this research has cemented to me that there isn’t many female artists lyrically writing about what it is to be a women, if they even get to write the songs!

For example, what would it be like to hear something like Cannibal Corpse’s “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” from the point of view of the victim? Or maybe lyrics that relay the pain, terror, and joy when birthing a child? How about lyrics about being a female serial killer or the pain felt when having a miscarriage, etc? These are all reasonably within the motifs of Death Metal but align themselves with a feminist agenda. It’s something I have yet to hear with maybe Brooklyn’s Castrator being an exception.

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:

15062_artist

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:

Zines Zines Zines and Jo Bench

zines1As my research on all things Extreme Metal and Women continues, I’ve made a wonderful side discovery of a Metal Fanzine Archive called Send Back My Stamps! thanks to my wonderful metalhead husband for passing this one onto me. The librarian in me is so wonderfully ecstatic to see the preservation of unique material like this. To add, there’s a nice drop down menu of bands listed alphabetically on the right side of the page which 1) let’s you know how many bands he’s indexed and 2) let’s you jump to zines referencing said band. Also included is a page for Fanzine PDF downloads as well as a links page.

My husband was the one to point to me that zine collecting is rare in general, and metal zines are even rarer to find, especially ones from back in the day. So it’s nice to see that some attempts of preserving metal history were made.

The collector is Jason Netherton, vocalist/bassist of the band Misery Index and in his About This Site page talks about how he’s always intended to find a way to preserve Metal History. He dedicated the site to displaying zines of the metal underground during the mid 1980-1990’s. For what it’s worth, I think he’s doing a great job.

I hope to spend some more time looking through the collection and see what I can gather, if anything, on women mentioned in the zines.

On my first perusal, I did see an interview with Bolt Thrower from the zine Conscious Rot 2 and a question about Jo Bench caught my eye:

“You got Jo Bench on bass, who is female. How is she feeling in this menzone and what do you think about her as a musician? Isn’t it too hard for her to play in such a heavy band as Bolt Thrower?”

To which the drummer Andy Whale replied,

“Jo is a very good bassist and has no problems playing music we play. She doesn’t have any problems with people harassing her. To us, she is a bass player not a female.”

Jo BenchOk-I get the part about looking at Jo Bench and admiring her skill to play bass. I get that. But to totally disregard her gender doesn’t sit well with me. Neither does the sexist manner in which the interviewer belittles her ability to play in a heavy band!

I mean, does gender have no bearing whatsoever? I also find it hard to believe that she has never encountered any harassing. She’s one of the earliest female bassists to play in heavy metal, especially during a time when women were less involved then they are now.

Over at the Queens of Noise Zine blog, Jo Bench was quoted saying,

“My main purpose since day one was not to draw attention to the fact I’m a woman, and that has helped me massively. I feel like just another musician in the band, and have been treated as such, and I think that has gained me more respect in the long run. I’m very grateful for that.”

I remember reading that and feeling a duality of understanding and confusion. I felt that for Bench to be respected she had to negotiate her gender into a role that fit into the hyper-masculine world of metal. How wonderful would it be if she didn’t have to do that? Is it possible to be seen as a women and an equally awesome musician? Why would one have to be negotiated over the other?

 

 

Jucifer

jucifer2Over at NPR, I saw an interesting article titled, Gazelle Amber Valentine: ‘Gender Is Not A Genre’. It’s an interview with Ms. Valentine from the band Jucifer; a band made up of married couple Gazelle Amber Valentine on vocals and Edgar Livingood on  drums. They’re considered a sludge metal band though from what I keep hearing about their live performances, they are anything but sludgy, and in fact, have been known to have intensely emotional performances.

I bring up this NPR interview because the author Kim Kelly (an awesome metal writer by the way) asks some important questions regarding gender. I found Gazelle’s answers to them to be quite interesting especially if we look at them through a Third Wave Feminist lens. Since my thesis aims to examine how both female fans and female musicians look at gender, I was curious to see what Gazelle had to say. Below are some interesting excerpts from the interview:

Q: To detour for a moment and revisit your own roots: How did you first become interested in and aware of feminism, and womankind’s fight for equality? How has living your life as a musician and metalhead affected your identity as a woman?

My identity as a woman was always secondary to my identity as ME, if that makes sense. Being a musician and metalhead might not have even happened if not for that. I’ve had to reject a lot of socialized bullshit to openly be what I am: a woman who is, and is at ease with, simultaneously embracing traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine things. I don’t find they conflict, but society says they do. People have told me both literally and figuratively that “girls can’t” do just about everything. Fortunately I never believed them and will do it anyway. The truth, of course, is that gender doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s capabilities. If anything, my life in metal has cemented everything I already guessed about the world. You know; the highest compliment I can get after a show is, “I thought you were a dude until I got close.”

And:

Q: Metal’s “woman problem” that has been mentioned all over the media and in barroom conversations from here to Timbuktu. It’s a question we’ve been asking for years, but: why? Why is it still an issue that a woman is interested in metal, especially extreme metal? What are men – and some other women – afraid of?

Society trains us from a very early age to be male or female, so as long as people believe metal is “dude stuff,” women who enter the metal world will create some discomfort. It’s really sad, because there are lots of guys who’d probably be stoked to hang with a woman who appreciates their music … except that somehow it threatens their sense of self. Everybody’s trained into this adversarial relationship that benefits absolutely nobody — we’re set up to argue and complain about each other, and in too many cases have lifelong relationships with someone we resent.

Obviously that’s a generalized, cisheteronormative analysis. But that’s the axis of metal’s tradition of women problems. Metal is considered a male toy, women are considered toys for males. When your toy steals your toy it’s a mindfuck. As far as intragender hating, the main thing I notice about women within metal is actually something men do to one another too: judging others on style choices or which bands they like. It’s fuckin’ dumb, y’all. What’s the point of seeking outlaw, non-mainstream stuff just to turn around and police it?!

Continue reading