It’s no secret that the world is not yet an equal place. In fact, in many senses, it’s downright ass-backwards. Misogyny is one such example of how inequality continues to plague society. The oppression of women still exists globally and manifests itself in many alarming forms, from female circumcision to spousal abuse to denied education rights. On a grand scale, these are the issues we need to work towards resolving. However, there are a slew of other, perhaps more subtle, but definitely serious implications of misogyny that girls everywhere are continuing to be subjected to, which we also must work to abolish. Being a girl in the world of metal, a predominately male scene, I’ve witnessed a great deal of this misogynistic behaviour first-hand, and have often fallen victim to it. Write what you know, the saying goes. And that, my friends, is why I (with a little help from my friends) am here to fill you in on some of the not-so-pleasant details of being a female fan in the metal scene. Stay tuned as I bring you up to speed on the conflicting and abrasive nature of groupie culture, objectification, and invalidation of opinions.
I can recall, with a great deal of embarrassment, a cringe-worthy incident that played out at Warped Tour years ago, where I found myself amid a group of young girls reaching up to have a grope at Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes. There was no shame or sense that what we were doing was wrong. We were proud of what we’d accomplished. Oli himself wasn’t even phased. In fact, he grinned at us cheekily as we grabbed at his legs. This is what’s expected, this is how young girls interact with band members, this is the norm.
Fast forward a great number of years that I’ll exaggerate in order to imply separation from the above shameful experience. This past summer, Ahmed Hasan, also part of the Heavy Blog crew, and I met a certain member of a certain band with a certain bit of controversy behind some of its members. Long story short, we ended up hanging with this dude and thought he was the greatest. To this day, I would not deny the fact that he is a good guy, though perhaps a little misguided. I know people who do shitty things are capable of change.
Believe me when I say I’m not quick to judge a person based on hearsay. But I also know when to trust my gut and when to avoid a situation. I know by now when a guy has ulterior motives. That’s why, months later, when this band was about to make its rounds to Toronto for the first time since July, I found myself at first excited at an invitation to join one of its members for lunch, and then immediately disheartened at the specific request to not bring Ahmed along, but to come alone. Factor in a couple dozen ;)’s and you can absolutely count me out.
I must vouch for this fella and say he backed off somewhat when I explained I’m dating someone, but I still get the vibe that he, and many others, often mistake female fans for groupies, which, as a genuine female fan, I find to be genuinely frustrating. I’m not awarded the same permission to hang out with a musician I look up to, the way my male friends are, without it being misconstrued as sexual interest.
And this annoys me.
Just to get it out of the way: in no way am I bashing consensual hook-ups between two adults who are in a condition to make sound decisions. Hook-up culture is hook-up culture. If a girl wishes to partake in a one-night stand with a guy in the band and understands it at face value, good on her. You go, girl. What’s problematic here is the mentality that a hook-up is what’s expected. What we need to abolish is the fear that a girl will be faced with backlash or have her passion for a band discredited if she chooses to deny the advances of one of its members. We as a community teach young girls that groupie culture is the expectation. It shouldn’t be. It’s okay to like a band but to be disinterested in its members. No girl should be deterred from seeing her favourite band live because she runs the risk of being harassed.
TL;DR: The whole, “Hey, I’m in a band, and I want to have sex with you! How lucky! You, get to have sex with me, a guy in a band! You win!” mentality needs to go.
One of my biggest pet peeves with the metal scene is that often it doesn’t seem to care what I think, but rather how I look. While this isn’t often said in an outright manner, it’s alarming how often this sort of mindset is perpetuated. I can recall a post I happened across earlier this year on a certain frontman’s blog, likening girls wearing band tees to “twelve-year-old boys,” or something to that effect. Right, okay. I don’t wear band tees to appeal to the eyeballs of men in the first place, I wear them to support the bands I like. Not long after that post, the same band released some new items to their merch store, including booty shorts and crop tops. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for booty shorts and crop tops, but on my own terms, and not solely for the satisfaction of men. Heck, at the time I would have been all over those crop tops, had it not been for that post rolling on girls who wear band tees. That was the deal-breaker. No way am I buying a crop top because I “look like a boy” in a normal band tee. No way am I doing it for the approval of a dude. Nope. It’s upsetting to see a band feel the need to sexualize their female fans. It’s insulting.
I wish I could say that behaviour like this has no further implications, but this is not the case. Unfortunately, there’s a trickle down effect. Fans often look up to the members of their favourite bands, sometimes to the extent that they will condone, or even mimic their behaviour without much question. It is prudent, then, that musicians take responsibility and set a good example by respecting their female fans. I’ve been at shows where bands have encouraged concert-goers to “go hit on [their] merch girls”. I get that this is meant to be a less direct way of saying, “go check out our merch and maybe throw us a little money.” However, it also sends the toxic message that girls are present at the show not for the music, but for the enjoyment of male fans. This is usually not the case at all, and it’s this type of thinking that leads to more damaging behaviour, such as ass-grabbing in the pit (do not ass-grab in the pit).
Being judged solely on my looks isn’t all bad, though! Sometimes, being a girl in metal “works to my advantage”. I say that in quotations because I’m being completely sarcastic. While I have been given opportunities based on how I am perceived by men in the metal scene, these offers are usually based on a complete and utter bullshit premise. Being the “token metal chick” is an issue that stems from objectification, and it is one that I have myself faced. A little bit of background: I’m extremely new to metal. Until about two years ago, I was very much immersed in the pop punk sphere, with Protest being the exception to the rule.
As I began blogging, often about Protest, suggestions started pouring in about other bands I’d enjoy. Fast forward two years and my scope is still pretty limited, but it’s definitely improved. I’m trying to play catch-up and stay on the cutting edge simultaneously, and while it’s time-consuming, it’s definitely rewarding. However, my limited scope comes back to bite me in the ass in more ways than one. Perhaps the most problematic is that people don’t give a flying fuck how little I know. Straight up, I’ve been asked to write for metal blogs because I’m “hot”. Oftentimes, I’ve explained my hesitancy to write for a blog, citing my limited knowledge as a contributing factor, only to be countered with a “Yaaa, but we can probably get some thirst likes out of it because you’re a good-looking girl who likes metal.” Welp, it’s good to know my views on music are being taken seriously! Disclaimer: this blog was not Heavy Blog. If it were, I would not be writing for them!
What I’m getting at is that girls should not have their value in the music scene set based on appearances. Basically, if you think a girl that happens to like metal is cute, great! Don’t like the way a girl dresses? Not really any of your business. Of course, you are entitled to any of these opinions, but none of them really have anything to do with what we’re talkin’ about here, and that’s music.
INVALIDATION OF OPINIONS
I cannot begin to express the number of times I’ve been boiled down to a fan girl. As I’m sure is evident by now, I’m a huge fan of Protest the Hero. I have a fairly decently sized following as a result of this. Not only am I acknowledged by the band, but Rody and the boys often go out of their way to make my day (i.e. inviting me and my non-existent singing skills on stage to sing ‘Sex Tapes’, wheee!). I’d like to think that such gestures are merely a “thank you” for my dedication. However, even in my extreme dedication to something I am so genuinely passionate about, I am undermined. “I’m sure Protest doesn’t have a problem with their number one fan being a pretty girl with a big butt.” “It’d probably be weird if you were a guy, I doubt they’d even acknowledge you.” “Lol omg I bet you just want to fuck Rody Walker.” Actual things that I have heard from actual people. Please listen to Kezia, make an effort to understand the lyrics, and tell me again how my status as “official online ambassador” is based on my gender.
While we’re on the topic, the term “fan girl” is in itself problematic. Around the internet, fan girl is used to describe those who are unable to think critically about music. When a boy is told he is fan girling, he is being told that he is allowing his own emotions and personal preferences to impede objective analysis. Implying girls are incapable of objective analysis. Implying we’re incapable of thinking about music critically. While I don’t necessarily take personal offence to the term, and am even guilty of having incorporated it into my own vocabulary at times, it just goes to show the stigmas we as girls are fighting to overcome. Girls can think critically about music, and we do.
Returning to the “token metal chick” argument, the flip side is that oftentimes people are quick to discredit my opinions on the premise that I’m a girl, assuming that I am in it solely to appeal to men. This irks me to no end. I am extremely serious about the music I am into, even if my scope is still fairly limited. The reason I listen to Sunbather repeatedly has nothing to do with gender, or that the damn album art is pink, or the fact that it’s entry-level and easily accessible to me “as a girl”. It’s a fucking great album that instills a lot of feelings and I will spin that shit until the day I die. Unapologetically. The way I process music may not be conventional, but I’m fairly certain it has nothing to do with what is or isn’t between my legs.
The above may be getting a bit nit-picky, but a little validation goes a long way. Do give credit where credit is due. If I know my shit, don’t undermine my knowledge by boiling me down to a “fan girl”. Feel free to criticize, when you see fit, but leave the gender biases out. Take the same approach in delivering criticism to me that you would other males in the scene. There are many girls in the scene that know exactly what they’re talking about, and it’s time for us to be taken seriously.
Stay tuned for Part II, coming very soon, wherein we explore a different perspective, that of the female musician and an interview with Kaitlin Bernard, six-year girlfriend of Protest the Hero vocalist Rody Walker. See you soon!