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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

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2011 10:21 pm

    What’s really interesting is, as you point out, there’s a stigma against women in metal who are attractive. As you can find on any metal Web site that posts about women musicians, there’s an almost-automatic assumption that a woman musician who is attractive: a) isn’t a good musician and b) is getting by solely on her looks or attire.

    Have you read “Heavy Metal, It’s Music and Culture” by Deena Weinstein? In a chapter on metal fans, she remarks on how female fans are treated by the male fans: Girls dressed in sexy attire are believed to be there only to fuck the band and are treated as trash by the crowd. But, Weinstein writes, women who dress in the tradition jeans-and-tshirt metal “uniform” are treated with respect by men in the audience. It’s a variation on the “Virgin/Whore” split. The “whore” in the audience is mocked, while the “virgin” is praised or at least accepted for covering up her sexuality in the “uniform.”

    It’s the same with female metal musicians. No one asks if the vocalist in Kylessa is a “serious” musician or not – not because she’s unattractive, but because she isn’t threatening the male audience by displaying her sexuality by wearing a corset.

    So, do you think that men look down on pretty female musicians (and sexily-dressed women at metal shows) out of discomfort over female sexuality?

    By the Way: I’m not familiar with any of the bands on the “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” tour, but I have seen a video of In This Moment doing a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” on YouTube. It was actually a good cover … even if it didn’t impress me enough to run out and buy and In This Moment albums.

    • Sharon M. permalink
      March 16, 2011 5:42 pm

      Girls dressed in sexy attire are believed to be there only to fuck the band and are treated as trash by the crowd. But, Weinstein writes, women who dress in the tradition jeans-and-tshirt metal “uniform” are treated with respect by men in the audience.It’s a variation on the “Virgin/Whore” split. The “whore” in the audience is mocked, while the “virgin” is praised or at least accepted for covering up her sexuality in the “uniform.”
      I haven’t read the book (yet), but I (strongly) disagree with this. The “virgin” is accepted because she really likes the music. Men into metal really appreciate women who truly love the same bands as they do, particulary heavy bands like Slayer (love) Venom, Megadeth et. al. Usually when a girl says she likes metal, it’s Metallica, (sorry I love the old stuff, but I loath them now) Motley Crue, hair metal type bands. The “whore” is seen as a poser, which is the biggest sin of all. YMMV.

    • March 21, 2011 3:29 am

      I would agree with Sharon’s reply – virgin is the wrong paradigm. I think it’s more that The Uniform is completely unfeminine – girls wearing the uniform can be thought of/treated as boys. There’s a danger this way in holding up Laura Pleasants as the ideal of “the woman who won’t sell herself” – while certainly no one should have to submit to “hottest chick in metal” crap, there needs to be room for brvtal/trve/kvlt femininity – not just brvtal agendered Uniform-wearing. There are many ideals of fierce women in metal – and there needs to be room for all of them.

      • Sharon M. permalink
        March 21, 2011 4:57 pm

        there needs to be room for all of them.
        Yes!

  2. March 13, 2011 7:08 pm

    Hiya Ms. Anthropia,

    Interesting how some of the commenters were were the SAME guys on both threads.

    That give you some validity of a double standard for sure.

    However, The Porn Starlette was talking about “gang bangs” whereas the guy was talking about “masturbation fantasies.”

    Hard to say if some of the guys were uncomfortable because the “gang bang” might include bisexuality and the “masturbation fantasies” were more “heteronormative.”

    Interestingly enough. I would say that the porn starlette has a better chance of living out her fantasies as when one of these bands come to town, she could probably get herself backstage and make an offer that at least some of the band members might accept.

    Rock On!

    Stoner B

    • March 14, 2011 1:19 am

      I was reacting to most of the comments saying that such a humor piece brought the site to “a new low”. The other post didn’t lower any standards apparently, even though it included a bunch of titty pictures.

      And yeah, there might be bisexuality anxieties if they conflated “gangbangs” with “group sex”.

      She COULD, in theory do something like that. However, I still think she was just playing up her “my job is to have sex on camera” angle for a joke that no one got because they’re not used to the female gaze. What she does on camera doesn’t really say much about her real desires, nor does the tongue-in-cheek post she made. A lot of dudes will conflate the fantasy she’s creating in her work with her actual sex life, sexual desires, and her own fantasies.

      Anyway, while it’s probably true there are more people out there who masturbate than participate in gang bangs, I have a feeling a lot of their discomfort was due to seeing a) a porn star having a personality and b) male musicians presented as sexual objects through the lens of the female gaze.

  3. Prettyinblack permalink
    March 16, 2011 1:32 am

    I can totally look at male musicans as sex objects through the female gaze.

    Interesting article again on Metal Sucks:

    http://www.metalsucks.net/2011/03/11/axl-is-of-two-minds-about-a-cute-jewish-chick-in-skimpy-clothing-playing-pantera-on-the-drums/

    I actually posted the link to this entry in the comments of that blog.

    • Sharon M. permalink
      March 17, 2011 4:56 pm

      I can totally look at male musicans as sex objects through the female gaze.
      IA, we women are visual too! I can look at someone like Cronos (***drool**) and a million “dirty” senarios run through my head. I think the whole men are visual/women are emotional trope is a big bunch of evo pysch.

  4. September 9, 2011 6:58 pm

    Just rereading the blogs here. One of the women Kirk Windstein wanted to jack off too was Nina Hartley. Granted it was her earlier work he was interested in, at least now she’s a sex educator and sex positive feminist.

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