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

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

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”