Tuesday, 24 January 2012

contesting easy assumptions (about metalheads)

Highly recommended reading (if you haven't gotten there already): Natalie Zed's new feature for Canada Arts Connect Magazine.

Titled "Girls Don't Like" metal, the column sets out to demonstrate how wrong that assumption is by profiling some of the diverse and fascinating women actively involved in the metal scene (including, indirectly, the talented and stereotype-defying author herself). Here's the opening blurb:
Girls Don’t Like Metal is a new column by Natalie Zed (aka Natalie Zina Walschots), developed exclusively for Canada Arts Connect Magazine. This biweekly column examines gender issues, feminism and sexuality within heavy metal music. Each post will come in the form of an interview with a member of the heavy metal community, including artists, writers, magazine and website editors, road crew members, merch folks, sound techs and fans. Interview subjects may identify as female/femme/trans/genderqueer or be allies, and share a deep love of, and commitment to, heavy metal.
There's a need for this kind of writing, as Natalie's first column makes clear (describing her ire-raising inspiration via recent demonstrations of explicit sexism in metal journalism, promotion and fandom).

In that vein, her kick-off interview with "Grim" Kim Kelly doesn't gloss over the difficulties of being a woman in a stereotypically male-dominated scene. At the same time, the emphasis here is on empowerment (not marginalization or barriers). In Kim Kelly's words:
The whole “women in metal thing” has become less of a novelty and is edging closer and closer to becoming a true “of course there are chicks here, why wouldn’t there be?” situation.
Check it out!


Natalie's column applies a critical (feminist) framework to the metal scene and assumptions about it (including who belongs and who doesn't) within an arts context. This critical approach brings her work, in some ways, into conversation with the emerging field of heavy metal studies in academia, where assumptions about the world of metal are also being tested.

So, on a somewhat related side note then, an example... Emma Baulch's 2007 book, Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali, barely touches on gender issues but it does look at how metal gets taken up outside of its traditional locales in ways that defy the globalization = homogenization theory.

Baulch investigates how male youths in Bali adopted a kind of metal (or punk or reggae) fandom and performance that made sense for them in terms of the political, social and cultural tensions and struggles that shaped Balinese live at the end of the twentieth century. I belatedly reviewed the book for Popular Music History (now published), going into more detail about Baulch's argument and approach.

(For a series of case studies on metal in a global context, check out the newly published Metal Rules the Globe.)

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