It’s 2021. Cut The Sexism Out Of Metal

Image: Download Festival

As a Heavy Metal fan (specifically Glam), it hasn’t gone unnoticed how the white-male dominated genre has continued its progression into the 2020’s. Many people view Metal as a whole; outdated, sexist and misogynistic, and as a woman myself, I’ve grown accustomed to this. Seeing a lack of female diversity in festivals, whether in the supporting or headlining acts, and hearing the stories of sexualising and the objectification from male peers, workers and musicians in Rock. These form in outdated views on rockers – who just happen to be women – and the way the music industry perpetuates the ideology that “women can’t rock as hard as men”. My question is: how and what is the Rock industry doing to ensure women feel safer and empowered working in this industry, and will the metal industry eradicate the harmful view that women can enjoy the music but can’t play it? 

According to Houston Press, women in Rock (especially female heavy metal bands) face ridicule and are often ignored or sexualised by the media to this day, concluding in them rarely being booked onto national tours. It is further proven in the lack of female headliners at Heavy Metal festivals such as Download, Wacken and Hellfest. Even though Heavy Metal is a male dominated genre specifically, people tend to have the view – or are surprised – that women can’t shred or sing like their male competitions. Misogyny is a big lyrical theme in male Heavy Metal bands since the emergence of the genre in the 70’s. Sex, drugs and Rock N’ Roll hedonism has played the role in men perceiving women as objects and nothing more, specifically in 80’s hair metal bands, and this continues into the 21st century. Women questioning the gender inequality in heavy metal are often scrutinised by men claiming women are ‘over-exaggerating’. 

Guitarists such as Nita Strauss, Orianthi, St Vincent, and bands such as Vixen, The Runaways, Girlschool, Evanescence, The Pretty Reckless and Paramore (to name a few) are very successful in the Rock and Metal scene, but have admitted it’s not easy being a woman playing Rock in a specifically male dominated field. As a metal fan I have been questioned about my liking for the genre because of my sex. People seem to be surprised, asking “you’re into metal? I would never have thought that!”, as it is associated with aggression and a fast playing man who must show his anger with the world. 

The artists agree. Hayley Williams from Paramore says- “It’s only in the last few years that people have stopped viewing the notion of a female onstage in a Rock band as some sort of novelty.” She discusses growing up in the 90’s and early 00’s seeing bands such as No Doubt and Garbage. When female singers and band members were still a relatively new thing for any genre. She discusses how there are more women represented in Rock these days, but admits there is still a lack of them in Metal. Meri Zanadgi, an Indian Heavy Metal all female band discuss gender inequality within their lyricism, and what it’s like being a woman in the industry in India, yet there is little coverage for them. There is currently a petition to get a female artist/band to headline DOWNLOAD festival, as to this date there has never been a woman headlining. As a female metal fan, I just think this is a topic and discussion that is not talked about enough. How there is little representation of women in Rock and Heavy Metal and the lack of diversity in general in this genre with regards to race, sex and gender. This is something in need of a quick fix.