Circle Pit, Vol. V, May 2016: “Women in Metal”

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The idea behind Circle Pit has been simple: talk about uncomfortable and polarizing topics in this non-judgement zone, allowing the internet at large to hopefully react, interact and move forward as a collective. This month, we decided to address the way women in music are handled, particularly in metal journalism.

“Women in metal [and women in music in general] have always been present. We go to shows, see them in the crowd and in bands, we see them online writing reviews and showcasing art. There have been recent movements in the community to make sure that women feel safe and represented, particularly online, but a lot of the time these efforts, while well-intentioned, lose focus on what’s really important. 

What are the positives and negatives of the current situation of women in music, and what, if anything, can we as a community do to make it better?”

Jaci aka Dæmoness: I’m sure you don’t have time to unfurl and absorb a scroll that would be roughly 17 miles worth of rant about how sick I am of reading the same type of shit, so I’m going to offer up instead a quick list of suggestions on how to improve things. I feel like it’s possible for writers to be more thoughtful in their approaches — we don’t need to be hit over the head repeatedly with a vagina-shaped brick.

1. Do not press your personal agenda on anybody.
Chances are if I’m reading a review or an interview, it’s because I’m interested in who the author wrote about, not the author themselves or their value system. It’s very easy for a writer to skew a piece by awkwardly crowbarring gender politics in — there are literally infinite other questions to ask or angles to cover. Not every woman in music wants to answer questions about what it’s like to have a slot in a sea of mostly tabs. If it’s a topic that the band wants to mention or is part of their point of view, it will find it’s way in organically through their responses.
2. No blanket statements.
Not all men are misogynistic assholes; not all women are patient saints. Do not raise women up by putting men down. Additionally, do not raise up a woman by comparing her to other women.
3. INDIVIDUAL FIRST; NOT GENDER.
I want to read reviews / interviews that cover the band members’ musical style, their sources of inspiration, their writing process, their recording process, their art. Those things take effort and time and that’s what I want the opportunity to respect. I want to read about what makes those people special. Do I care about what they have in their pants? An emphatic NO.

Jesse Degytarov: Let’s start with the negative. One thing that will not improve the situation of women in metal is a vomitory stream of think pieces in which writers treat both the metal ‘community’ and women as singular entities to be used in the umpteenth transparent attempt at virtue signalling. Metal is huge, diverse and terribly inconsistent. As soon as you start getting noticed, there will be people who love or hate your work for reasons right and wrong. And women? Well, they’re not exactly a hivemind either, and telling them to collectively feel offended is precisely what you should not be doing.

Contrary to the implications of such irradicable outrage porn, there is no despotic conspiracy to keep women out of metal. No matter how the narrative is spun, there are no gnarly gatekeepers stopping girls from picking up an instrument and writing some riffs. And if local scenes experience problems with women being harassed at metal shows, perhaps they should examine the flaws of their direct environment instead of projecting these woes – with due amounts of snark – onto metal communities around the globe.
What should be done? Simply subject each artist’s work to the same critical standards regardless of their sexual, racial or religious background. This works both ways: a band is not bad because it features women, just as it is not good because it features women. Consequently, claims that metal is too dominated by ‘white heterosexual males’ and subsequent attempts to bring bands from so-called ‘oppressed groups’ to the foreground reek strongly of politically motivated favouritism that supersedes legitimate criticism for petty, extramusical purposes.
For this particular question and metal as a whole, being intellectually honest with the music is really all there is to it. With reviewers increasingly neglecting their duties of being actual critics over two-penny pamphleteers, their view on what is Good For Metal should be the least of your concerns.
— 

Manny-O-War: Ah. Where to begin. Let’s begin with the positives. Right off the bat I think it’s clear that we are living in potentially the most open, accepting and inclusive metal community known to human existence. Women have always been a big part of not only metal but the music scene in general both as performers and as more behind-the-scenes label and promotion types. So it is not only the presence of women that speaks to a positive situation. But, much like many maligned groups (and there has never been a group more maligned than women who have historically always taken a back seat to other social movements despite being the majority of humans walking the earth) it’s important for women to have solidarity movements, support each other and ultimately protect each other. I think many of the female journalists out there have been very great at carrying this torch. Of course, sometimes, I wince at how far they go, or perhaps the battles they pick (because I see many of them as too small to worry about). So, here’s where I start to lean towards the negatives.

For starters, I think the idea being bandied about by journalists (led by females but supported by a fair share of males) that women are being “pushed out of metal” or “forced to the sidelines” is simply false. The vast majority of metal fans (particularly in America) are reasonable, modern human beings who do not simply malign a group simply based on their chromosomal makeup. Thus, they do not need to, or perhaps want to, be preached at by thinkpieces when all they initially wanted were a few good music suggestions.

It’s a gross fact that people do attempt to malign women simply because they are women. These people, however, are a minority that should not be validated by think piece after think piece. Dedicating 1,200 words to what a single misogynistic male said is only validating that behavior. Rather, the journalists of the metal scene should merely focus on the positives and move forward. (#NiceMetalTwitter has been blowing up in 2016.) Even when offended, journalists in the scene should always seek to rise above save for when the outrage is so irreprehensible that no weapon mightier than the pen can be used to admonish.

In reference to improving relations and comfort for women in the metal community I propose that there isn’t any active, revolutionary steps to be taken. Rather, I think women should continue to carry on being leaders of the metal scene by writing, producing, composing, performing, etc. We all, as individuals, need to put gender to the side and, for the sake of metal, honor solid work on all side of the coin regardless of who or what was behind it. Be who you are regardless of what people say or think.

Women have always been a part of music (and metal) and they will forever continue to be a huge part of it. Anyone that believes differently is simply a draconian troglodyte that refuses to accept reality. Thus, they can go join each other in a cave and attempt to create Wardruna style drum chants.

Tenebrous Kate: One of the beautiful things about metal is that it’s a malleable form of music, with innumerable styles and subgenres for musicians to explore. As a result of all these avenues of expression, there’s space within the boundaries of metal for people of any background to vent in a number of cathartic, creative ways. It only makes sense that diversity in metal will increase with the rise of cheap and user-friendly channels of internet distribution. Signal-boosting woman musicians–or musicians of all races, creeds, and nationalities–is great when the intent is to uncover exciting new music. Simply put, there’s no down side in giving everyone a fair shot at expressing themselves through metal.

Where things start to get dicey is when signal boosting an artist becomes virtue signaling on the part of the writer. There’s a sense that a disproportionate part of the “Women in Metal” conversation focuses on the things being done to women instead of on the things these women are doing. Women shouldn’t be assumed to be victims or–worse still–members of some monolithic, genitally defined bloc. It’s crucial to talk about women as fellow fans and creators, and to let their unique work, philosophies, and personalities stand on their own merits, almost as if they were human beings after all.

Josh Stewart: To start with and just so we are crystal clear: anytime a person attempts to step in someone else’s shoes whether to write a piece, comment on something, and/or try and sympathize with a situation this person is automatically wrong. Period. Until one actually walks in their subjects shoes — and this can never happen — it is literally impossible to know what the subject is going through, has lived through or even their take on life in general.

My stance on women and even race, gender identity, etc is that you absolutely and unequivocally never treat anyone differently than you would want to be treated yourself. This isn’t difficult and I’ve never understood why so many want to make it difficult. Seriously, we are all human beings, we may look and act different, but at the end of the day we are all the same. So all the think pieces on empathy for women fail from the start, unless of course said piece is written by a woman. As a man I can never understand precisely what women go through. I’ve had women in my life for over 40 years be it family, friends, my wife, and now my daughter. So without a doubt, it’s true I know them and I know where they come from but I can never know — deep down — what it truly means to be them and feel what they feel and know beyond a shadow of doubt what they experience when I’m not around.
With all that said, the positives of women in music are bountiful. They come from a completely different perspective and have insight that us men could only dream of having. So obviously a review or feature or interview of the same album/band from a man and a woman will come out different and that is a great thing. From a writing standpoint the more voices we have to be exposed to the better we are in the long run. Then there’s women in bands: take Couch Slut, Eight Bells, and Wildspeaker, just to name a small few, and tell me that you can find more passion and conviction anywhere. I dare you. And let’s touch on women at shows for a second. Think about the last truly heavy show you’ve been to and I gaurantee you there was at least a handful of women there that went harder than any man in the crowd. And men basically stand there and nod — yes you and be honest — whereas women get into it completely and could give zero f’s who’s watching. No choice but to respect that and even kind of wish your own balls were that big. Don’t even get me started on the asshole creepers at shows that are captain obvious when it comes to making women uncomfortable. Just stop. If you’re ‘that guy’ you should be punched in the face with a spiked brass knuckle and be afforded the opportunity to bleed out.
As for negatives of women in metal, music, writing, or whatever they decide to do there are none. And we, as men, just need to get the hell out of the way and let them do it. And for f’s sake stop trying to walk in a pair of shoes we will never, ever get to walk in. The fact that women are objectified, debased, and treated like less of a person, not to mention are the largest populace targeted for abuse, is ludicrous and appaling. It has to be stopped and we can stop it. How the hell would you feel, as a man, if you were treated this way just because you look a certain way or because you voiced an opinion or were simply just different than the norm? Exactly, you’d be furious and eventually — if continually exposed to this — you’d just want to give it all up. No one and I mean no one should have to deal with that nor should they have to deal with anyone trying to guess how they feel. We can make all this better by simply treating each other equally and better. I’ll never understand why we are still stuck in this rut of saying ‘we can make it better’. Dammit lets do it already and stop talking about needing to do it.
In closing, whether in art, music, armed forces, white or blue collar jobs, or whatever else you can come up with women make this world a better place so how about we, as men, treat them with respect and the same adoration that we would hold for a close friend or family member. It’s that easy. Really. Women have as much right as anyone does to do whatever they feel with their lives and the world and all of us as a whole are better off for it.

Jeremy Hunt: First up, I probably need to to own up to my own contribution to the problem. As a fan of heavy music, most of the bands I listen to are male-centric. I don’t always go out of my way to seek out female-fronted bands (or bands with female members), so that’s something I personally need to do a better job of.

Beyond that, I think the bigger issue comes down to the continued inequality between men and women in all spheres of life. The issues we see in the music scene are symptomatic of the illness everywhere. Whether it’s pay inequality, assumptions about how a “female version” of something will automatically suck (oh hey new Ghostbusters), or the continued bigotry against women in leadership in the Church (at least in the traditions of my childhood), it’s beyond embarrassing that we haven’t made more progress.

On the one hand, yes, sexism and misogyny are as old as time and it’s likely that we’ll be battling them until the Sun burns this planet to a crisp. On the other hand, it would be nice to think that we could be the shift that fully grasps basic concepts like: women are human beings, they deserve respect and every opportunity than men receive and lots of other ideas that are so fundamental it’s pathetic that we have to spell them out (maybe they should be able to go to a show or walk down the street without getting catcalled or groped or harassed).

And so at the end of the day, I think it’s on us men, not to “save women” or somehow treat them as damsels in distress, but to be much more vocal and supportive of the women in our lives. I’m a big believer in working to bringing about change in the spheres of influence that we have in our daily existence. Not to downplay the importance of larger movements, but I think lasting change often comes from regular men and women taking continued, repeated stands for what’s right in their everyday lives.

As the father of four girls (soon to be five), I can’t tell you how often I’ve had complete strangers say some variation of:

“Holy cow, you have four daughters? I’m so sorry. Just wait until they’re teenagers!”

Are you kidding me? Why in the world would I want sympathy for having four amazing young women to raise? What a privilege for me. So part of my goal (and my longterm contribution to the solution of the original question) is to raise my daughters with the knowledge that they are fully capable and empowered to do whatever they set their minds to…and more specifically, to hopefully embrace music in all its forms and to give life to the songs that are already present in their hearts.

And that wraps up Volume V of the Circle Pit. Have a any thoughts to add? Of course you do. Hit us up on Twitter (@_NineCircles) or leave your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, feel free to drop Circle Pit suggestions at us at NineCirclesBlog@gmail.com.

The Nine Circles Team

 

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