Society doesn’t encourage women to listen to heavy metal. What patriarchal structures are at work, and how can this inequality be remedied?
The typical audience at a heavy metal concert is at least 90 percent male. This may come as no surprise to anyone who has frequented such events, but the truth is more sinister than mere statistics will tell you: the underlying exclusiveness of this subculture wittingly ostracizes half of the population – and does so in a primitive, belligerent and even derisive manner: it perpetuates the stereotype that men are better at appreciating heavy metal, and, implicitly, that women do not – nay, cannot – reach this level of appreciation.
Case in point: I went to see the band Killswitch Engage in concert, an event where approximately 95 percent of the audience were male – and I carefully studied the interplay between the constituent elements of this homogenous group. These male concert goers – straitjacketed into their gender role since adolescence – could deceptively appear to be victims themselves, if it weren’t for the scientifically validated fact that they, by virtue of being male, are not. Everything at such a concert is meticulously planned to deliberately exclude women, from the band’s lyrics to the audience’s ritualistic dance moves. The following line from one of Killswitch Engage’s songs can serve as an enlightening example:
“Gather all your pain and suffering, turn them into strength and weaponry”
The use of the words “strength” and “weaponry”, although not masculine in nature (since the masculine-feminine dichotomy is an invalid construct) is clearly martial – and is to be interpreted as a reference to a practice from which women traditionally have been excluded (war). The audience, consisting of predominantly angry white men, move their heads up and down as if to assert male superiority, clearly a symbolic representation of auto-fellatio and consequently a display of the superfluity of a female counterpart. It’s not homoerotic – it’s autoerotic and homosocial, an “incelification” of the self-inflicted disillusionment of invented “masculinity”.
Some have suggested that in order to remedy the situation, one could consider forcibly replacing male band members with females. That may or may not be a fruitful option, but it is clear that metal equality ought to be enforced somehow. I am not suggesting there must be an equal number of men and women at any given concert – but it has to be ensured that the total number of metal concert visitors across a year is evenly distributed between the genders. One way of solving this could entail making every other concert female/male only, which would at least give men and women an equal number of concerts. However, in order for the total number of concert goers to be 50 percent female, this model presupposes that an equal number of tickets are sold at each event, which seems unlikely given that women for such a long time have been excluded from the realm of metal. In other words, the male-only concerts would likely have a higher attendance than female-only concerts.
It seems, then, that the only fair way to address the problem will be to have the organizers pay a fine regulated by the male/female ratio. The penalty per male exceeding the number or females should equal the ticket price. That way, it becomes clear to the organizer that every extra male constitutes a zero-sum game, thus losing the incentive to attract redundant (and often angry) men.
There are objections to this line of reasoning: defenders of the rock n’ roll industry frequently point out rare examples of female fans and try to use them as alibi. This cunning method is nothing new in the phallocentric camp – most subcultures are inherently discriminatory, be it within music or sports, one of the most obvious examples being the blatant discrimination against short people by the NBA. This is something vehemently denied by some (often tall) basketball fans, pointing out sporadic examples of players of below-average height to prove that basketball is not giant-normative. However, no measures (such as lowering the basket) have been taken to alleviate the inequality. It’s the same argument, the same stubborn refusal to counter discrimination over and over again, and heavy metal is no exception.
As Derrida writes: “Every sign, linguistic or nonlinguistic, spoken or written, as a small or large unity, can be cited, put between quotation marks; thereby it can break with every given context, and engender infinitely new contexts without any center of absolute anchoring” – in other words, heavy metal is inherently misogynist.
In closing, I should say something about my own participation in this phallocentric rite. Being a white male myself, I must confess I have failed miserably. Not only did I go to that concert – thus reinforcing the stereotype and claiming a ticket at the expense of a hypothetical female concert goer – I also brought a male, white friend. In retrospect, I should have sold the tickets to two women, or even better, given them away. My own lapse of judgement should serve as a warning example that even an enlightened, gender-aware, astute intellectual such as myself is subject to the pernicious workings of the patriarchy. No one – no one – is safe.
We’ll Call You
A regional office supplies magnate who yearns to be a poet.
A purchasing manager who sees big city life as the route to avoiding school reunion shame.
An interior design fanatic who needs to make up her mind about a contentious mug.
We’ll Call You is a book by Swedish author Jacob Sundberg. In nine short tales of job interviews, We’ll Call You recounts a range of facets of modern society. Often with pitiless humour and each story with an eye for the absurd in human relations.