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Sister, Daughter, Mother, Headbanger

April 26, 2012

This is an existential post. You have been warned.

But hey. We’re still here! And this is a new post! Where were we? Well, I procreated, which means I lost a year of my life. (Some might say 18-plus, but who’s counting?)

And this new portion of my identity, that of mother, has me yet again thinking about performance and prescription (social, I mean). Expectations on how to mother, and what motherhood means, permeate every culture. It’s deep-seated and complicated, and we mothers don’t always help our case — there’s infighting and sabotage. But this isn’t a mama blog.

Still, the expectations borne of this new hat I’m wearing has me thinking about how much differently I see identity as a whole — how intersectional all our experiences, as a result of choices (real or perceived) are. And how we all affect elements of ourselves for different contexts. I now know that when I was younger, I cared far more deeply about fitting a paradigm; about fitting in; about being who I thought others thought I should be. Today? Today I don’t give a shit. I like what I like. Someone else likes what they do. It’s not worth fighting over whose notion of good is the best. I’ll leave that for 17 year olds in their parents’ basements.

The thing is, if you’re talking about performance of a “metal” nature, I just really don’t do it anymore. And not just since I had the kid. It’s also since I got old. (Old-ish. Older. Old-esque.) I have many t-shirts from many shows, but I don’t wear them every moment of every day. I listen to many different bands, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. I haven’t been to a show since I had the kid, and I’m totally ok with that. I’ve also been playing catch-up with new music from the last year because instead of listening to screaming and blast beats I was listening to crying and hiccups. None of this means I can’t and don’t and won’t continue to love metal and identify with it. (And with all music that’s generally darker, sadder, bleaker than what’s on top-40 radio.)

But liking a particular genre of music doesn’t make me any different from anyone else, at my core. We all create means to access those darker, bleaker parts of ourselves. We’re humans. That’s what we do. Being a metal fan forms a part of my identity in the same way/s my other interests (running, writing, reading, gardening, feminist activism) join to make me who I am and allow others to categorize me and figure me out. I can see coworkers or new friends thinking, “That girl, that lady with that haircut and those jeans and that smile likes metal? But I thought all metalheads were angry dudes?”

And you know what? I like to render that stereotype moot. It’s a stupid one anyway. It ignores all the different types of people, all identities, who like metal for whatever reason. Because they like dark music. Because they like aggressive music. Because they like community. Because they hate humanity. Because their dad listened to it, and they love their dad. Because they want to piss off their parents. Because they’re rebelling. Because they’re joining in. Because they like fun. Everybody likes fun. Let’s not kid ourselves.

- Morla, the ancient one

Call Of the WinterChef

June 20, 2011

(Full disclosure: I’m not a “foodie”. I’ve grown up watching the women in my life seriously struggle with what and how much they ate. I resent the culture in which women are taught to police other womens’ eating, as well as their own. The only discussion I’ve allowed others to have with me concerning food lately is: “Does what I’m eating taste good?” Anything beyond that will be met with an eyeroll.)

I’ll never understand the obsession with food. You procure it, you consume it, you expel it as waste products. Repeat ad nauseum. Yet, everyone has an opinion about it. We all have to eat, the saying goes – and we all have complicated relationships with that which we need to nourish us.

Just as the United States has seen a huge increase in cooking and food themed shows in the past 5 years, so has the metal world. There are two metal themed recipe books published, various online metal cooking shows, and metal themed restaurants popping up in major cities. What the hell is going on here?

I had a laugh at the theatrics of the Black Metal Cookies troupe and Metal Chef with Kragoth the Barbarian. Their take on the subject was pretty transparent – a winking acknowledgement that cooking is made much more entertaining when you slap on some corpsepaint, exaggerate your movements, and crack some jokes that border between corny and clever. It’s also worth noting that the food is not the focus of these shows. It’s a vehicle for humorous parody – merely by virtue of juxtaposing metal’s brutality and theatrics with what can be considered inane domesticity.

The other shows don’t resonate with me. I spend all my time trying to avoid thinking about preparing food (there are very few dishes I actually enjoy making), and here they are, agonizing over whether the bacon is done, or whether a recipe is feasible. Why, oh why are you making this a serious attempt to teach me to create an entree? Fuck it, I’ll just make some Ramen and be done with it!

Food is inherently gendered and political. There’s no getting around the fact that women are encouraged by modern socialization to consume less food, or if you MUST consume food, to feel guilty for doing so. Women are held responsible for and judged on their ability to maintain a household – which involves a certain amount of food prep. In this context, food production is devalued work that women are just expected to perform. Men dominate the food-as-swanky-occupation realm. When they cook or serve food, the work takes on a new sophistication.

So, if women are unpaid drudge cooks and men get celebrity and status for food prep, would metal cooking culture look the same if it were female metalheads at work to create the most brutal dishes? Would it be seen as parody, or as too close to our own household arrangements? I still have yet to hear, “Get back in the kitchen, ya feminist metalhead!” but that could be because I’m a formidable force with weapons found outside the hearth-room.

I can say one good thing about food, though – it gives people a reason to stay in the same room. Food is very social, and can be the building block on which we create community. Is that why metalheads have a renewed passion for consumables? Our traditional place to hang out together is metal shows, and those can be loud chaotic affairs where we only get to know each other if we can shout loudly enough between sets.

I have hosted and attended a few parties where my friends and I listened to some good music and ate some edible food and had a good time. The good times might have been aided by the booze… I digress.

Why do people make these shows, books, and restaurants? Weigh in, because I’m kind of baffled here. And hungry. I think the Ramen is done.

\m/ – Ms. Anthropia

Feminist WTF Moments

May 7, 2011

Cosmo Lee said you need to know what a song is about to have a deeper understanding of the music. At first, my thoughts were just a Big Lebowski quote: “That’s just like, your opinion, man.” Lyrics? Pshaw! Johan Hegg said it himself during Amon Amarth’s set this week. “It’s death metal. If you don’t know the words, no one will know.”

So, I windmill and headbang to my heart’s content without looking up any lyrics. After all, I’m mostly disappointed by esoteric wankery or bad teen poems whenever I look up words to songs. Why would I go out of my way to find something that would detract from my enjoyment of the music? I don’t need to know the “deeper meaning” of a song when I’m rocking out in my room and my neighbors are doubled over in silent laughter.

Something always throws a wrench in that arrangement.

A while back, I had a Feminist WTF Moment when I was blasting the album “Burial Ground” by Grave.  The lyrics “DIE YOU FUCKING WHORE!!” interrupted my trance during the song “Sexual Mutilation”. I did a double take, stopped what I was doing, and backed up the song.

My thoughts were, “Damnit! Why were these lyrics the ones that I could understand out of the entire album?” I know, it seems kind of silly to be bothered by one that – after all, the band is called GRAVE, they’re a death metal band. It like, comes with the territory, ya know? It could be compared to Walmart selling CDs with the curses taken out. All the sex and violence is fine, just don’t curse!

My discomfort runs deeper than simple cherry picking. Prostitutes and sex workers live in state of uncertainty, not knowing if they’re going to survive this day, not knowing if this John is going to get his rocks off on spilling blood. Because such work is criminalized in the United States, prostitutes bear the brunt of others sadistic desires – both from pimps and Johns, and they can expect no justice for crimes committed against them. They exist perpetually between a rock and a hard place.

It’s this climate that allows us to scapegoat prostitutes: to laugh with glee at murdering them in Grand Theft Auto, to give oscars to songs called “Hard Out Here For a Pimp”, to call it “theft of services” when men rape them at gunpoint, to prosecute 15 year old prostitutes trafficked into the trade when they cannot legally consent to sex,  to blame them for their own murders

And yes, to scream “Die you fucking whore!” and not bat an eyelash at the implications.

When it comes out that dead bodies were people who once engaged in sex work, all bets are off. It’s no biggie, they’re JUST prostitutes, their lives are worth nothing. Someone else already sentenced them to death, and we approve of such judgements. They deserved to die for what they were doing, amirite?

As a culture we only acknowledge that some deaths are tragedies. Others are not even blips on the radar. The result is still the same. Someone died. Their voice will never be heard again, their families will be without a mother, daughter, sister… someone will miss them dearly.

So what’s on the other end of this story? We scapegoat prostitutes because we project everything we feel is wrong with ourselves onto them. It’s not a problem that some dude will seek sex and going as far as paying a stranger for it. His needs, motives, vulnerabilites… those are not what’s wrong with the picture! It’s some woman who “chose” to sell sex. (It’s not a free choice across the board.)

Thus, we call for their deaths. An outpouring of emotion as cleansing as a public stoning.

“Die you fucking whore!”

Yeah, this is all from one line of one song. I can’t find the lyrics to that song anywhere. I’d like to know the context. However, my view towards lyrics has changed considerably. Try as I might, I can’t completely erase the anti-feminist sentiments and “deeper meaning” from my consciousness on this one.

Touche, Cosmo. I’m not willing to bang my head to my heart’s content to something like this. Well played, sir.

\m/ Ms. Anthropia

//

Ov Gender and the Narrative

April 19, 2011

There’s quite a lot going on in Behemoth’s video for “Ov Fire and the Void“.

First, it’s quite the production. The band invested a lot of time, energy, and thought into this video. I’m still not clear on the funding source.

Second, it’s intended to be religiously charged and/or “offensive”. The presence of all these religious themes was not lost on me. We’ll get back to that. Religion is not my focus presently.

Before I describe the narrative, I’m going to point out a few easily recognizable tropes:
1. Women as sexually desirable
2. Women as reproductive vessels
3. Women as food

The “story” of the video goes like this:

There’s this lady in a white gown on some building. Yes, there’s the standard camera shot of her cleavage as the frame slowly pans her body. Woman as sexually desirable, check.

Ill spare you the boob close up.

Next, she jumps off her perch and has a comfy landing on the concrete. Alas, her eyes have gone all black! DEMON WOMAN! YARGH!

Then, Nergal lays out some tarot cards and our sexy demon lady staggers into a room. A ROOM WITH FREAKY DEEKY CAGED THINGS!! Notice how these beings that go against accepted beauty standards are in circus-cage like displays? Hmmmm. We have the fat woman and the emaciated dude. I have my theories about why they’re caged (not meant to be seen as fully human). These folks have bodies we don’t like.

This creature is not gender conforming! EWWW! Cage it!

So now Nergal appears with his band-mates, all decked out in paint and theatrical costumes ala The Matrix meets Gladiator. What’s he carrying? Is it… a nekkid angel? I think so!

Meanwhile, sexy demon lady is having some issues. She’s clutching at her stomach… was it something to do with those burritos she had off-set? Ahh, no. It’s another one of those quickly progressing immaculate demon conceptions! Woman as reproductive vessel, check!

"Next time I dine with the devil, Im packing some Pepto!"

She’s getting through it ok… I mean, she’s climbing over those catatonic dust-zombie-people. Who are they? Why are they there? Oy… so many questions!

Then, Nergal and Co start groping their nekkid angel woman for whatever reason. I mean, she is just kind of chilling out there on a table. Why else would she be there than to have a Polish metal dude put his hands on her naughty bits? Woman as sexy play thing? Double check.

I hope that paint is water based!

And then, THE NOMING!!

"Om nom nom nom! *cough* Maybe these wings are a bit raw... too many feathers?"

I honestly thing Behemoth are trying to sell me some sort sacrilegious fast food buffet. Maybe they should pursue a deal with KFC? (It has been done. Seriously.) Woman as food. Check.

I think they’re going for the offensive-as-possible-to-Christians route. Yeah, we get it, you are Behemoth, NOMer of Angels! Spookiness!

As if the angel consumption wasn’t enough for our tender eyes, sexy demon lady hands over a demon baby! She just walks up to Nergal and offers it up.

"I made this for you! You like?"

So, spontaneous demon pregnancy ends in a strangely sanitized, bloodless birth. You know who else got spontaneously pregnant and gave birth in a story that omitted all the gore? The Virgin Mary. I guess that’s their commentary on religion. However, women occupy the same space here as in the Bible: empty vessels for reproductive labor.These women are devoid of all meaning or agency.

This scene kept reminding me of another familiar one:

Its the Circle of Life! And it moves us all!

Ok, enough bad jokes.

Other bands have turned reproduction and birth into something disgusting, scary, and repulsive (Cannibal Corpse album cover, anyone?) It’s funny that Behemoth chose another interpretation. If you’re trying to offend, why not go all the way and appeal to peoples’ base aversion to blood and gore?

I have another reading of this video.

The Good Girl (Angel) is passive, not resisting Nergal’s advances. She appeals sexually but is not doing anything overtly sexual (besides appearing naked). Yet, she’s still literally consumed by forces more powerful than herself.

The Bad Girl (Demon Lady) does nothing overtly sexual, and certainly does not engage in sex that we can see. Yet, she becomes pregnant and does the labor of reproduction – apparently for someone else.

Strange. I’m pretty sure Behemoth were not attempting to make any statements on abortion rights or female sexuality, yet that’s what they’re channeling. You can’t watch this video without wondering: If you should become spontaneously pregnant with Demon-child, which clinic should you visit for that kind of thing? Would the 3 day waiting period in South Dakota apply if your pregnancy is over in under an hour and you’re already offering up your newborn to a hungry Polish death metal singer? That’s a raw deal. How would the anti-abortion picketers spin that one?

Bystander Racism

March 16, 2011

[This post is a clumsy reaction to another at Writing Is Fighting. While I try and stay informed and educated about race issues, I had rarely engaged issues of race in metal beyond representations of POC metal musicians.]

I’m white.

I bet you already assumed I was white. I didn’t even have to point it out, but I just figured I’d clarify.

Of course, as a white woman, I get all kinds of privileges I didn’t earn. People don’t harass me for no reason. They don’t assume I’m a criminal. They don’t clutch their bags closer when I walk by. People don’t regard me with a suspicion they reserve for People of Color (POCs). There are a whole myriad of privileges I’m not even mentioning here. They would take too long to list.

However, one of the most important bits of privilege whiteness has conferred is not having to think about race. I don’t have to think about it because, as a white person, I don’t have a race – at least not in terms of what US terms as race or anything racialized. Those non-white POCs? THEY have a race. Not me.

Except, I do. Some people crossed on a boat from Europe for whatever reason and plunked themselves down in the US.

At metal shows, rarely do we think about race. A lot of the time, we’re just a bunch of white people hanging out and listening to angry loud music without having to think about people who are different in some way. And then, we see some POCs in the crowd. Well, sometimes we’re stunned.

“Holy crap, black people listen to metal, too? I thought all of them liked rap!”

Yeah, we all harbor ignorant assumptions sometimes. Whenever there’s a discussion about race, it’s never about us. We don’t have a race! We’ll just stay quiet and hope above hope nobody calls us racist. Ugh, that would just be the WORST! (But I’m not racist! I have lots of black friends!) [epic eyeroll]

Anyway, I don’t think about race as much as some POCs because I’m considered the norm. They’re considered the other. When people talk about blacks, or hispanics, or asians, my senses don’t heighten because I don’t think, “Oh shit, they’re talking about me again. What are they saying this time?”

Race doesn’t concern us white metal fans. So we continue to support Varg and NSBM, along with other bands who spout hateful messages.

As an ally, I don’t think I can really support those kinds of bands.

“It’s not about their politics, it’s about their music! Metal is not supposed to be political!”

Well, here’s the thing: Metal should be for anybody who wants to listen. If they like the music, why should anybody be hostile towards them?

“Yeah, but metal is made primarily by white people! If they want to listen to it, they’re going to have to deal!”

No. While it’s true that everyone is allowed to have their thoughts on the subject, and yes, white people have a lot of different views on race, it shouldn’t be ok for people to be hateful and racist. And it’s not ok for me to stand by and say nothing while others are making life uncomfortable for POCs who are just minding their own business at shows (and everywhere else).

Yeah, you can be fascinated by Varg and his ilk. You can like his music. But can we really stand around and not call people out on their shit? Can we feature him in magazines without denouncing his views? Should white metalheads just pass the buck on this one? Should we just hope someone else will say it?

For a group of people that sometimes delights in making those who don’t like metal squirm, we’re being really quiet about race (because, you know, it’s so touchy! And, like, SO not OUR problem!)

At shows, we get white-people-diversity: less than 20% POCs. The majority of white metal fans can just ignore the stuff that doesn’t affect them and move on.

Metal shows are some of the places I’ve felt most safe. There have been a few incidents where I’ve felt seriously threatened, but those are the exception. Imagine if that were the rule? Metalheads can be a community of tightly knit friends. When one undergoes hardship, I’ve seen metalheads rally support and organize all kinds of cool stuff that might not be possible in other groups. My motto has become “Metalheads look after our own”.

This might not be true for everyone, but I feel a heightened connection to a lot of people who like metal. The rest of the world tolerates this racist crap. We need to talk about it if we want metal shows to be welcoming places for folks who like metal, and not just the white ones.

\m/

Ms. Anthropia

Gazing Fans

March 9, 2011

The following is going to have a somewhat shocking premise: fans of pop and fans of metal might have more in common than we think. Yeah, I know. Just bear with me for a moment.

When the “stereotypical” pop music fan is conjured in our collective imagination, it’s usually a young teen girl with poster of boy bands gracing her bedroom walls. Imagine a “typical” metal fan from an outsider’s perspective. These outsiders might have picked up on nu-metal somewhere, or heard about the “Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest”. They might have passed a Hot Topic once at the mall and associated that loud, unappealing music with angry teenage rebel wear.

Many people who don’t identify as either pop or metal fans will laugh at both groups’ choices in music and reasons for liking such music. Popular culture has cast both stereotypes as people you cannot take seriously, mostly due to their fanaticism for such “low” forms of entertainment.

Here’s where it gets funny.

Female “teenyboppers” are derided for liking music for suspect reasons. It simply cannot be possible that teenage girls have tried out different types of music only to decide they find pop music the most aesthetically pleasing. No, it must be because they like the way those crooners look! All taste be damned, it’s merely a male beauty contest with these sheep!

Kristen Kidder, author of the 2006 article “She-Bop: Passing Out and Acting Up With Young Female Music Fans, sums up the disdain for the teenybopper:

More than one [definition of teenybopper] attacks the quality of the music these girls purportedly favor: “someone who likes a band purely for their looks as opposed to the music” is followed by “idiots who don’t know what music is.”

The teenybopper is sometimes confused with another unsavory stereotype in the music scene: the groupie. Many folks accept as fact that some women go to concerts and shows for the sole purpose of sleeping with musicians. I wouldn’t venture to guess how many women actually do engage in such behavior – thus, I cannot come up with a percentage of groupies among female concert attendees. (Anyone want to conduct a survey?) The female gaze is largely viewed as a precursor to culturally stigmatized sexual behaviors among women.

The male gaze does not invoke such collective anxiety. As a matter of fact, it’s more or less encouraged. Female musicians are often accused of being “less serious musicians” than their male counterparts. They also face pressures to sex up their image, because sex sells (to male fans)!

Apparently, the rock magazines and tour promoters have caught on to this really cynical worldview. Men won’t go to see a bunch of chicks performing unless they’re billed as sexy! They imply the male gaze by commenting on the musicians desirability RIGHT IN THE TOUR NAME!

Thus, I give you: The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock Tour

So, WHY are these bands on tour together? Because they have hot chicks, uh, I mean… female singers! Female singers who are HOT!

I don’t know anyone who has been to any iteration of this particular tour. I don’t like any of those bands, so I don’t think I’d go. Cynical metal fans have mocked In This Moment for having mediocre music and a singer who is there purely for eye candy appeal. They claim they will not be roped in by such a transparent marketing scheme. However, this tour has been around since 2007, if not earlier. If the tour proved to be a financial bust, the marketers wouldn’t try it again. I don’t know the gender breakdown on attendees of this tour as compared to other metal tours (again, survey?), but I’m sure there were dudes in attendance. So, either a) some dudes like the music, b) some dudes wanted to pay to look at hot chicks, or perhaps a little of a and b.

Clearly, enough of you dudes can be duped and bought to fill concert ticket sale quotas!

In Feminism and Pop Culture, Andi Zeisler discusses the commodification of female desire, and the disdain it inspires:

The hysteria of Beatlemania was perhaps the first instance of a mass female gaze — women looking for their own pleasure, men only too conscious of being looked at. [...]

Music such as the Beatles’ — and later, that of equally squeal inducing outfits such as the Bay City Rollers, Menudo, and *N’SYNC — was marketed almost exclusively to teen girls, and though those teen girls went reliably crazy for it, they were still derided for doing so by bands and critics and promoters. The subtext– filled in by music critics through the years– was that making music for girls was a profitable, but not artistic, pursuit.

I still wonder, will the male attendees of the “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock Tour” be mocked for their desires? Will people clutch their pearls over whether or not these lust-driven men will go back stage, starry eyed, hoping the object of their affections will give them an autograph, or even invite them onto a tour bus? No. We don’t question their motives because we already know these men are there (at least partially) to ogle ladies on stage (that’s what the marquee says, after all). Nobody bats an eyelash at this, even though they could just as easily see women as sexually desirable entertainment in any strip club. Why the pretense of going to a concert?

If you want to see a breakdown of this dynamic at play, look no further than two similar MetalSucks posts, both detailing who the narrator finds sexually desirable or fuckable.

Porn star Bobbi Starr talks about which musicians she’d like to gangbang. The reaction in the comments? “Ewwww! Female gazing groupie! We do not approve!”

Musician Kirk Windstein talks about which porn stars he beats off to. The reaction? “Oh, these be some hot babes!”

As long as it’s not a woman doing the lusting, we can all all rest assured that the status quo is maintained and the dichotomy restored. Men = the watchers, women = the watched.

-Ms. Anthropia

Quick Update: Dreaming Dead

February 9, 2011

What makes metal feminist? What makes anything feminist? This question will continue to challenge me. There are many feminisms, as many as there are metal sub-sub-sub genres,  and no definitive ways to answer such queries. Does the presence of women in a predominantly male field make something feminist? Not necessarily.

For my purposes I’d argue that it’s a nod to feminism when nuance is added to any picture. We’ve all heard of Tarja and Madame Gossow. Awesome. However, they’re just the tip of the iceberg and hardly all that exists.

A friend randomly recommended Dreaming Dead (which I promptly forgot about along with 90% of music recommendations I receive). I just checked them out and really enjoyed what I heard. I can’t tell you whether you’ll like it or not, so I’ll spare you a (badly written) review. I can tell you that they know how to bring it!

“But what about their gender performances? What about the vocalist’s choice of clothing?! SURELY you’re going to comment on that!”

I don’t have anything to say about them appearance-wise, except they make some REALLY doofy faces during promo shoots! Consider yourself appeased!

\m/

-Ms. Anthropia

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