The Darker Side of Metal: Part 2 – Sexism

We here at CJLO love heavy metal, despite its many flaws. It’s not just a few bad apples spoiling the genre. Some cases are evidence of cultural intolerance infiltrating the scene, getting worse as the music becomes more extreme. This two-part series will examine the problematic nature of metal. We’re only scratching the surface here, the subject matter can fill books and multiple documentaries. But only by acknowledging the problem, can we change it for the better.

Patriarchy and rape culture has infiltrated pretty much everything in society, and heavy metal is no exception. The scene is dominated by aggressive men who constantly challenge the presence of women. Part two will study how women are represented in song lyrics, and how many male musicians treat their female fans. But we will also talk about how some women are using metal as a source of power to destroy sexism.


Evolution of a problem:

The rock n’ roll lifestyle is described as doing as much drugs as possible and sleeping with as many groupies as possible. The glam metal era is notorious for how women were objectified in lyrics and in music videos. At the time, women couldn’t just be fans of the music, it was assumed their only interest was having sex with the band. Under the light of the #MeToo movement, a lot of rockstars have been revealed to have problematic legacies of sleeping with underage fans. Even some songs sexualized schoolgirls in the lyrics, such “Christine Sixteen” by KISS. Similarly, in the 2000s, many emo and metalcore musicians preyed on underage girls at all-ages festivals, like Warped Tour. The only difference is, their ex-girlfriends were the targets of their rage and hate in countless songs. Lyrics get really disturbing as we venture into death metal and grindcore, subgenres known for being overly violent and purposely offensive. Singers describe in graphic detail their sick fantasies of torturing women, oftentimes leading to necrophilia. The album artwork reflects these fantasies. It’s become such a common theme that it spawned its own subgenre: pornogrind. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, and is, in no way, supposed to be taken seriously. But, at its most innocent, it still borders on slut-shaming, and at its worst, it fuels an attitude of misogyny and male superiority.


The problem persists:

Despite some progress, it’s still difficult to be a woman metal fan. When they’re not being harassed by creepy men, they’re being quizzed on their metal knowledge by elitists to prove their place. Women in bands are still seen as a novelty and their music isn’t necessarily celebrated. Amalie Bruun of Myrkur reportedly had to go off social media after receiving too many death threats from angry metalheads. Kat Katz left Agoraphobic Nosebleed, claiming she was being bullied by her own male bandmates. In 2017, Polish death metal Decapitated were accused of gang-raping a fan on their tour bus. They were acquitted of all charges later on. Whether you believe they were innocent or not, the situation shone a light on how musicians interact with their female fans.


Who is fixing the problem?

In response to pornogrind, another subgenre was created: mincecore. Maintaining the grindcore sound, it embraces leftist politics, and is fiercely anti-sexist and anti-homophobic. During live performances, bands will take the opportunity between their short songs to condemn pornogrind and general sexism in the scene.

Women have turned the tables in death metal as well, writing songs about taking revenge on their aggressors. Some examples of this can be found in Castrator’s “No Victim” or “Perpetrator Emasculation” by Venom Prison.

If you want to do your part in fighting against sexism at concerts, it’s all a matter of keeping an eye open for creeps. If you see someone being harassed or groped, say something. Also, all you tall boys (myself included), look around you and make sure you’re not blocking the view of any short femmes behind you. You’ll still be able see the stage if you take a few steps back. Girls to the front!


Chris Aitkens, aka The Frog, is the host of SEWER SPEWER on CJLO every Wednesday at 1pm.