Good day all,
I had some time over the weekend to scour my favorite metal internet sites and I found an excellent interview on MSN’s Headbang by Adrien Begrand of Laina Dawes the author of “What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal“As a metal fan and writer for several heavy metal magazines Ms. Dawes brings a fascinating resume to her writing and oh yea, she is a black woman in the heavy metal world. Now some of you are saying “so what? As long as she is a fan who cares?” And for some that is true and that is where it ends, but lets face it , the male misogynistic world of heavy metal is hard enough for women to break through but I can’t imagine what it would be like for a black women.
Some of us are old enough that we remember the “novelty” of King’s X and Living Color when they first broke the scene. And for as bad as it sounds yes we the white, male fans of metal were surprised that a group of black guys could be this heavy. I use the word “novelty” because to a middle-class white kid in the Pittsburgh suburbs that’s what they were to me, I liked the music and looked forward to seeing them live but they were different and at the time I noticed that. Part of that was the way some were raised and part was the image portrayed by the media and MTV at the time. MTV had a knack for telling us what and who we should listen to without actually saying it out loud. Just look at the different sets and locations for the different programs they had back in the day like Headbanger’s Ball and Yo! MTV Raps: A white long-haired host behind a desk as opposed to the black on the streets host. MTV was assisting in showing us who should be interested in what and who should be where!
But to get back to the subject, imagine how hard it is for a black female to make it in metal even today, it has to be a scary proposition for them. And if you ask “why would they go through all of this trouble?” Just ask yourself how passionate you are for this music, could you deny yourself metal? I didn’t think so and the same goes for Ms. Dawes and other young women like her who have a passion for metal. I will say this though, Lita Ford, and other female artists who received some high acclaim on the 80’s metal scene did not make it easier for women in heavy metal today. They did use sexuality to bring attention to themselves and to a point made those of us who paid attention to them in the first place pay attention because they were acting like the big boys of the scene. Talking about the things that teenage metalheads loved like sex, drugs and who or what they were sleeping with on tour. Ms.Ford and those like her may have been making great music but it was hard to look past the sex that was being sold by them or the record company…fair or not, and today some of us still can’t look past that at times. But as long as Revolver magazine and other metal mags continue to put out cover stories titled “Hottest Women in Metal” I am not sure how soon the attitude will change.
Metalheads talk all of the time about how special our community is and that we accept all of the misfits and outcasts who just don’t understand us but it seems (in the immortal words of Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday) ” Our hypocrisy only goes so far”. I have not read all of Ms. Dawes book but the excerpts I have been able to find, create a telling view of the metal world from the eyes of an insider who is treated as an outsider and frankly it is pretty sad. The fact that Ms. Dawes has to suggest that young black women, or any women for that matter, hashould find a group to go to a show with to feel safe and “who they trust to have their backs” is just sad. I thought we were a fan base of inclusionist, how is it that we as the heavy metal community would allow anyone to act like this to a member of our community? Don’t we have enough problems dealing with the mainstream?
I have always felt and written about the fact that one of the reasons I love metal is because of its inclusiveness but after reading the interview mentioned above and a little bit of the book I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think there was a time not so long ago that metal was becoming more and more inclusive but it seems like we have lost our way on that path and are heading toward a community of separation: sad but true. I am pretty sure that ALL metalheads should take some time out and read Ms. Dawes book and understand the feelings of people outside of your comfortable norm. It may be that you/we just didn’t know this was happening and reading this book will open up our eyes. Lets hope because at this point the heavy metal community is as far away from all-inclusive as it has ever been.
Don’t be mistaken, I am not sitting up here on my high horse talking down to all of you, I am to blame as well. All you have to do is look at my post She Ain’t Heavy She’s My Singer: I discuss my personal feelings toward female heavy metal singers and I help perpetuate the stereotype that Ms. Dawes and plenty of other female heavy metal singers are tying to overcome. I have some learning to do as well, I am not perfect but hopefully I can take some of what Ms. Dawes and her interviewees have to say to heart and open my own eyes to the struggles that women have in heavy metal. I hope so anyway…
Until later, Peace!