I recently realized that I’ve been having more and more discussions with people about how women are treated within the metal scene, and music in general. Turns out my knee-jerk reaction to throw jokes at the problem wasn’t the best way to address it. This goes a lot deeper, and regardless of how it may make people uncomfortable, it’s a discourse we need to have—and keep having—because the problem isn’t going away; in fact, it’s getting worse.
I need to be very clear about this: As a man, I have no idea—nor will I ever—about what it’s like to be a woman; the lingering worry every time I leave the house because of how men behave on a day-to-day basis is a concept I can ponder, but I don’t really know shit about it. I can’t pretend to express these experiences from a woman’s perspective. But I do know how I feel about what I see and what I hear. And what that has become is a near daily batch of shit rolling down an endless hill—except Sisyphus isn’t around to move it back up to the peak.
A theory has been circulating that metal drives women away for aesthetic reasons; I’m sure by now you’ve seen comments like this. A lot of times, guys who say this are generally older and lived through the time when “Cherry Pie” was in constant rotation, gently promoting the idea of women as things to collect with the ease of a sledgehammer to the back of the head. It wasn’t a new idea; the ’70s were basically full of arena bands’ future depositions on statutory rape. Once the ’90s dawned and Seattle was the new Babylon, it seemed that the culture surrounding the mystique of women in rock/metal as mostly toys for those that now sell used cars disappeared. On more than one occasion, someone older than me has complained that Nirvana basically ended their access to easy sex—as if the idea of actually talking to a woman was this complex puzzle, like a hairstyle that wasn’t causing their own personal ozone hole. While the '90s washed away at least a good amount of this publicly, it gave way to a superficial sense of equality. But like all bullshit facades, it crumbled fairly quickly in many circles, which leads us to these dynamic modern times.
I was at a show the other night, and, in between discovering I hate well whiskey and being critical of the bands (because I’m a dick), I had a conversation with a few women about men’s behavior in public at shows, which was pretty fucking shocking and disgusting. They all had stories about being touched, groped, grabbed and, at the very least, talked to in a manner that is dehumanizing. This wasn’t just one woman’s experience; it’s been every woman who I’ve talked to on this topic.
As a man, I’ve never gone to a show worried that someone was going to grab my dick or give me a drink with some bullshit drug in it. It’s not because I don’t think I’m pretty; it’s because this is shit that doesn’t happen to men (I understand someone in the comments section will have a story saying that it does, but for the sake of argument, please shut the fuck up). It’s just not something we have to worry about. Women have to shrug this behavior off because they’re afraid if they speak up that it’s going to be turned around on them due to what they’re wearing, or their sexual history, or the simple fucking reason they have a vagina and guys are taught from a young age through marketing and media that we’re entitled to that. Movies and other forms of storytelling glamorize women going to shows to fuck and nothing else. The idea that they’re there because they love the music seems as absurd as a cop telling the truth during a trial.
I recently had a heated debate with a man over women going to shows and the pervasive idea that they’re objects for men’s enjoyment to be used once and either passed on or discarded. He tried to use the defense that our biology dictates this behavior because we’re programmed to propagate the species through extensive seeding with as many partners as possible. But what about common decency? Or talking to a woman like she’s a person and not an activity? I was told this was also in our biological programming in order to trick the woman into carrying our children. When challenged, he resorted to calling anyone who disagreed with him “emasculated.” What a shitty way to look at life: to believe our paths are solely dictated through our DNA and we, as men, have no responsibility to treat women as people. This is how a living, breathing person actually feels, spreading this belief with clenched teeth and a dry dick. If the idea of men treating women like people makes one “emasculated” and not a decent human being, then fuck it, label it how you want since reading comprehension is obviously not one of your hobbies.
This all started because I simply said, “A woman who will not sleep with you is not a whore.” Can you imagine if the tables were turned and men were the minority? Don’t for one second think they wouldn’t be trying to fuck anything with a pulse and feel no shame (sort of like we do now, I guess), and yet women are looked at like their worth is reduced because of this. Fuck.
But here’s the thing: So what if they’re there to fuck someone? What does that have to do with you? Does that give you the right to grab onto them or make them feel like shit? No. No, it fucking does not. I get that you’re jealous of who they’re going home with, but that’s their choice and has fuck-all to do with you. And if they’re going to fuck someone in a band, who cares? Men go out on tour and try to fuck, and no one calls us anything derogatory unless it’s their girlfriend or they’re jealous. This double standard has been documented to death, but it needs to be repeated ad infinitum until it sinks in: As grown adults, we all have the right to take home a willing participant in whatever fucked up weird sex we both consent to. This goes for women and men. Shaming a woman for her sexuality with the reasoning that she won’t fuck you is absolutely hypocritical, and displays your insecurity to the world like the fucking Bat Signal.
A lot of the people spouting this shit are the same guys who post memes on Facebook about being a nice guy that no one wants to fuck. Look, if you need to broadcast that you’re a “nice guy,” chances are good you’re absolutely fucking not. And asking a woman if she’s a groupie is unacceptable. I don’t care if you’re convinced you’re in a popular band. You’re not starring in one of the Decline movies, and it serves no purpose other than projecting your own glaringly shit ego. If you really need an opening like that, just fucking try “hi” unless you like announcing your failures like the coming attractions before a film we all try to skip.
Another point that was brought up by these women was how men constantly fail to take them seriously in any kind of musical conversation. They said they felt their opinions were looked at as invalid, if at all. They felt relegated to being decorations rather than someone who has interest in the music and can contribute to discourse about it. “Quiet, dear, the men are talking.” That kind of bullshit, like they’re holding court in a smoke-filled room while sipping on brandy and trading banking secrets. This is somewhat ironic considering a lot of what men say in these conversations is vapid and meaningless as well, and dick size isn’t measured in your ability to memorize discographies or what records you own. Gender does not dictate knowledge. If you’re going to discount someone, don’t do it because of their parts; do it because they’re full of shit, male or female.
For a scene so concerned with “posers,” we certainly let a lot of shit slide, huh? This may seem like a minor point compared to the previous ones, but it’s still important. How would you like to be made to feel as if your opinions weren’t even worth any attention, be it positive or negative, because of something out of your control? I’ve seen this not only in individual discussions at wherever fine metal discussions are held, but also in regards to female journalists and even musicians.
Speaking of musicians with vaginas: Jesus Christ, does every fucking reviewer or journalist need to point out that a band is female-fronted, or if they have a woman in the band somewhere? It just reeks of shitty journalism more interested in clicks than actually covering anything of value about these bands. It’s a selling point. And lonely guys everywhere eat that shit up either by using their purchasing power to buy the music and a tissue/lotion combo on Amazon or talking it down because of said description. Myrkur took a ton of shit for that last year, and probably will again this year because we’re Americans and we fucking love reruns. Arch Enemy is another example that gets thrown around any time estrogen and metal are combined in a sentence. This is marketing at its finest, but I don’t blame the bands for it. I blame the culture which needs things to be sold to them so they can either love it or take to the comments section to talk about how they’d fuck the women in the bands.
I don’t dislike Myrkur or Arch Enemy because they’re fronted by women; I dislike them because their music doesn’t appeal to me. The fact that gender has to be a part of the reason why these bands get so much hate is a strong indicator that we’re being overrun by the lowest common denominator, and these guys haven’t had an ejaculation they didn’t cause themselves in a long time. A lot of times, someone will bring up Jo Bench from Bolt Thrower as an example of a woman in music they respect, but then it’s constantly followed by some comment either about how they want to fuck her or they don’t, because both of these important points really matter in how her bass-playing helps create Bolt Thrower’s tone for the last few decades. Is your dick so much of a priority that you can’t have a conversation without having to inform the rest of the world if you’d want to see them naked or not? Because it’s obvious that no one else shares this priority with you.
There’s so much more than could be said on this topic. We like to think that this is an enlightened genre that’s above pop music in terms of intellectual stimulation and purpose. But then we have issues like this that really take us down to the level of some song you’ll hear in the club about fucking in someone’s bathroom on a pile of money. For a scene with so much pride, you’d think that would be a sore point, but it’s not. Women in all walks of life get shit on daily. I’m no angel, and I know I’ve been guilty of my fair share of shit behavior in my day, but if I can recognize it and do my part to stop it, then so should you.
Feel free to call this social justice, call me a “faggot” for trying to get men to treat women better, say whatever you want. But one day you’re going to wake up old, alone and with a dry dick, and you’re going to reflect back on every woman you mistreated because you thought your appearance of masculinity was going to get you somewhere either in your social scene or into someone’s bedroom, and you’re going to see that you’re a failure. You can’t get that time back. So, either listen to the Ghost of Christmas Future and try to be less or an asshole, or prepare for the day when you’re old, alone and shopping for a rope.