This is Part II of our Heavy Editorial Is Heavy, Back the Fuck Up, discussing just some of the many issues women face in the metal community. Make sure you read Part I and then head on over the jump for two fresh perspectives; one from Kellan Katchum, blog contributor, and the other from Kaitlin Bernard, girlfriend of Protest the Hero vocalist Rody Walker.
YEAH, I CAN TUNE MY OWN GUITAR
Part I of this editorial aims to provide insight into issues in the metal scene from my perspective as a fan, based solely on my own personal experiences. While this is valuable in providing a glimpse into the metal scene from one female standpoint, I don’t for a second claim that it speaks for all women in the community. I feel there is a great deal of value, then, in also offering analyses of the same scene from differing vantage points. The obvious next step was to reach out to someone who has experienced the music scene from the other side of the stage. Lucky for me, our very own Kellan, former guitarist for Toronto-based band Rosewater was happy to provide insight into her experience as a female metal musician. And now, without further ado, I’ll hand the mic over to Kellan!
- Hey guys, Kellan here. Being a “girl” (I don’t identify as one, but of course, how I identify doesn’t matter to people who feel entitled to speak about you) and playing in a band has been a really eye-opening experience for me. I played in a post-hardcore band for about a year, and recently left to do my own thing. In that year, being exposed to the constant casual sexism has reaffirmed my belief that the metal and the hardcore scene isn’t female-friendly.
“Let me carry that for you!”
“Do you need help setting that up lady?”
“Do you even -know- what amp model that is?”
“Wow girl guitarists are ~sexy~”
“So uh I guess you’re new to playing, huh. I can teach you~”
Um back the fuck up (see what I did there?). Leave. Go home. Ask yourself why having boobs and a feminine face means that I’m incapable of loading in my own gear, incapable of setting up my own gear. And for fuck’s sake I think I would know what model it is, since, y’know, it’s mine. It’s not my partners’, it’s not borrowed from another band [unless I specifically say it is. Assuming makes you an asshole], and, oh yeah, it’s mine.
Girl guitarists are sexy? Can your fedora get any more prominent? Are you one of those dudes that look up any female musician on YouTube and comment about how much you wanna marry her because she likes a “man’s genre”? Stop fetishising female musicians. Oh, and for the record, I’ve been playing for 10 years. I don’t need a fucking lesson, but thanks.
Conversely, the over-complimenting I’ve received is just bizarre:
“Wow, you are -so- good! You make all these jumps with chords and you play surprisingly on point!”
Bruh drop it. I play some chords. Tremolo pick some notes. It’s easy, and this is especially condescending, when the compliments come from other musicians. Like, wow thanks! I can do exactly what you can so therefore I get worshipped for it? Do you get that kind of worship? It’s weird when dudebro’s come up to other dudebros and over compliment for simple things, right? Kinda creepy? Yeah. Stop that.
Stop. Fetishising. Female. Musicians.
Stop. Fetishising. Female. Musicians.
Stop. Fetishising. Female. Musicians.
I compare this to catcalling and street harassment a lot, because that’s essentially, in a show atmosphere, that’s exactly what it is. If you think I play well, cool. Thanks man. If you wanna tell me I played a good set, that’s sick. Glad you enjoyed it. But don’t try and tell me I’m the sickest thing since sliced bread because I have boobs and play in a band. Fuck you, man.
Well put, Kellan!
CAGE BERNARD, BADASS FEMINIST.
Kaitlin “Cage” Bernard is a badass feminist, and she’s not afraid to admit it. On top of being an incredible role model, she is also the girlfriend of Protest the Hero frontman Rody Walker. About a year ago, Cage started following my blog, and has therefore been subjected to the inner workings of my brain. Following a recent blog post (re: events discussed in Part I), Cage shot me a message offering her insight as to how she’s been perceived in the metal community, and how she feels about the treatment of women in the scene. Cage brings an interesting perspective in that she finds herself part of the community not by choice (metal is not her preference), but by association with Rody. This was an offer I could not pass up, and in fact was a key factor in setting the wheels of this entire editorial in motions. And so, ladies and gents, I give you Cage!
EW: You’ve mentioned that you’ve faced some backlash on social media. can you give us an example or two of such incidences?
KB: Once a couple of years ago, after a show some guy @replied Rody on Twitter saying something to the effect of “I saw you getting on the bus with some sluts. Hope you don’t catch anything.” It was in reference to myself and another girlfriend of a bandmember. I remember being outraged at first, but then I remember doing something that a lot of girls can probably relate to and should not do; I tried to figure out what I did wrong and how to fix it. I was like what was I wearing that would give someone this impression? How do I tell this person that this is my long term boyfriend and it’s not like that? Then I finally realized there was nothing I could do to fix that one guy’s opinion of me because the issue is much larger than that. It’s about stereotypes and ignorance and a culture that normalizes sexual double standards. I wasn’t the one who did anything wrong and I couldn’t fix the situation by trying to rationalize with one guy over his snap judgment.
There was also an instance on an anonymous question-asking website where Rody was talking about how he doesn’t enjoy Steel Panther because sexism isn’t funny. Someone replied “Your feminist girlfriend made you a pussy then, I see.” I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m a feminist. Neither is Rody. This person must have no idea what the goal of feminism is (hint: equality between the sexes). Because if he did, he’d know that in our egalitarian relationship, we encourage independent thought and would never force our opinions on each other. The thought that being a feminist makes a man weaker is outrageous. It takes strength to acknowledge there’s a problem and it takes even more to try and fix it.
Shortly before Rody and I started dating, there was this blog that was dedicated to “Protest gossip” (I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried). As far as I know, it was run by a few girls. It was mostly pretty harmless, but there were some posts about girlfriends and ex-girlfriends that weren’t that nice. I only made it on there once and it was a favourable post about me, but it’s never a good idea for girls to tear down other girls. We get enough flack as it is, we should be building each other up at every opportunity instead of throwing petty insults. The blog’s been defunct for a long time now, but the lesson remains the same. Allow me to be the first to admit I need to recondition myself on this front as well.
EW: How do you deal with these situations?
KB: I’d love to say that I have a thick skin, but I don’t. I want people to judge me fairly but that’s not always possible. I think people make assumptions about me based on what my boyfriend does, just like they make assumptions about him. Not every musician is a sexist womanizer and not every band girlfriend is a “groupie.” I try to remember that these are gender-based stereotypes entrenched in a broken system. That system needs to be fixed with education and rational discussion. Some people aren’t even willing to admit that there is a problem, and that is a huge problem.
EW: Why do you think this is still happening in metal?
KB: It’s happening in metal because it’s happening everywhere. It’s happening in awful, overt ways like sexual assault, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and honour killings. But it’s also happening in dangerous, more difficult to spot ways like rape culture, slut shaming, the wage gap, cat calling, and objectification of women in the media. There’s a trickledown effect, and it leads to things like guys thinking it’s okay to grab your ass in the crowd at a show (which is something that actually happened to me when I was younger and I’m sure I’m not the only one). It’s not okay and it has to change.
EW: Any advice for girls in the scene?
KB: You’ve probably figured this out already, but you’re probably a little different. This is a good thing. Protect and stoke that little flame of weirdness until it’s a full-fledged fire. This will fend off the fakes, while keeping the people that matter close to you. Don’t ever change yourself for anyone (most especially guys).
I’m sure you’re in the scene because of the music, but do not go after a guy simply because he is in a band. It is much more of detriment than it is a positive, trust me. Validation comes from the inside and you will never be happy trying to seek it with someone simply because they have a sliver of the spotlight.
Be good to each other. Bond over the bullshit you all have to put up with and strategize ways to make it better. You’re allies, not enemies.
EW: Any additional commentary?
KB: I go to a lot of shows. I end up seeing a lot of things and meeting a lot of people. Most people are fantastic and kind, but one thing that’s always struck me as odd is no one seems to want to know about you as a person. In the real world, when you meet someone, they usually ask where you’re from, what you do, what you went to school for, etc. In band world, these questions do not exist. At least, in my experience, they do not exist for band girlfriends. It’s like your individuality atrophies when you walk through the doors of a venue. It happens too when people find out what my boyfriend does for a living. The first question most people ask is “Oh, so do you follow them around on the road all the time?” No, of course not. I have a life, and a job, and a dog. I don’t have the time or the desire to drop everything and follow someone around the world. This line of questioning implies that my boyfriend’s career should cannibalize my own and we should be way past that type of thinking in this day and age.
Sometimes I can’t help but feel like a little bit of an accessory in these situations in a way that doesn’t occur in any other area of my life.
In closing, it’s not all bad. I love seeing girls at Protest shows, in the pit and in the front row. They’re way more badass than I could ever dream to be. I literally get chills when I see them singing along to ‘Plato’s Tripartite’ and ‘Turn Soonest,’ songs with very strong feminist messages. I don’t really know what it’s like out there for you because I’m coming from a different viewpoint, but I truly hope that you don’t put up with shit from anyone. You’re unique and powerful, and kudos to you for carving out a place for yourself in a male-dominated genre.
Additional fun fact: Rody and I got to know each other a lot better in the last year of high school when we worked on The White Ribbon Campaign together, a series of events at our school aimed at educating and ending violence against women. We had an assembly for a guest speaker who lost her daughter to domestic violence. I was one of the emcees and Rody played an acoustic version of the song that would ultimately become ‘Turn Soonest to the Sea.’
Inspirational words from an inspirational gal, to say the least!
While this article aims to expose some of the ways in which the metal community is still falling short in terms of equality for women, the good news is the future looks bright, and the largely positive reception to Part I of this editorial is testimony to that. Leaps and bounds have been made in recent decades, and I feel confident that things will continue to move in the right direction for equality, not only on the feminist front, but on all fronts. In speaking out on these issues, I am often asked what can be done at the individual level to create positive change. In closing, then, I leave you with a list of guidelines I feel to be key in moving things forward. Feel free to regard or disregard them as you see fit.
IN A BAND? WE ASK A COUPLE OF THINGS
- Sexual harassment is not cool, on either side. This should go without saying, but don’t sexually harass. On the flip side, don’t validate anyone for sexually harassing you by passing it off as “something that happens sometimes” when you’re in a band. If you don’t like being touched while on stage, it is absolutely okay to make it known that it’s not acceptable. To this day, I cite an honest post by a respected musician dismissing this type of behaviour as the reason I sat down and thought, “yeah, okay, maybe it’s not cool to have a grab at that guy’s leg,” and for that I am appreciative.
- Respect us. Showing respect towards your female fans not only makes us proud to say we listen to your music, but sends a positive message to your entire audience, leading to improved treatment towards women. Oftentimes, this sense of respect, or lack-there-of, becomes make-or-break in the finer nuances. You don’t have to write an entire album dedicated to speaking out against the oppression of women (though we would love it if you did!), but please carefully consider your actions and words. I’ve found myself disenchanted with bands I was previously stoked on after hearing them use degrading words such as “bitch” and “slut”.
- Don’t abuse your position. You’re human. You have every right to make advances on people you’re interested in, but please do so respectfully. Know when a person is capable of making a sound decision. Take no for an answer without question. Please don’t abuse your influence by outing anyone via social media, making them out to be a villain for not being interested in you, etc. People look up to you and, unfortunately, some will validate your actions without question. Set a good example.
FAN? PLEASE REGARD THE FOLLOWING
- Do not squeeze my ass in the pit
- Do not squeeze my ass in the pit
- Do not squeeze my ass in the pit
- Basically anything else in the pit is fair game, I’m not gonna whine that you pushed me because that’s a part of being in the pit. Duh.
- Don’t boil me down to a “fan girl.” In fact, eliminate that term from your vocabulary all together
- Seriously, we just want to be treated equally. Show us respect. Interact with me as you would any other fan.
SOME WORDS FOR FELLOW FEMALE FANS
- Be respectful. Basically, just don’t touch anyone without consent, that’s not cool and it goes both ways. In fact, it goes all ways. Don’t touch without permission. Anything. Anyone. End of story.
- Be assertive. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you’re not comfy with. Don’t hesitate for calling someone out if they are making you uncomfortable.
- You do you. At the end of the day, you know what you’re cool with, and so long as it’s not having a negative impact on anyone else, you should go right ahead and do whatever the hell you want to do.
- Be good to your fellow female fans. We are working towards a common goal. Though we may have differing opinions in terms of what equality in the metal community means, it is counterproductive for us to put each other down. It is crucial that we are supportive of one another, and treat each other with respect.
- Keep your head held high. This editorial is for you. It’s not always easy being a girl in the metal scene, but don’t forget that you’re worthy of respect and equality. Never settle for anything less.
This is Elizabeth Wood signing off, reminding you to be excellent to one another.
-EW & KK