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Metal and Chivalry, OR, On Being One of 20 Women at a Death Metal Show

December 2, 2009

Friends — feminist friends, even – who are not into metal sometimes wonder what there is to gain by attending shows filled with dudes thrashing around. They seem to think it’s dangerous or intimidating, or that li’l ol’ me might get injured (or worse) cavorting around all that testosterone. They wonder what I, a feminist, want with that environment – why I’d want to be somewhere where I’m supposedly not welcome. What they don’t understand, though, is that, a lot of the time, The Ladies are treated like delicate flowers at metal shows. And delicate flowers don’t really get stomped on if people stay on the path.

While I appreciate being able to stand with my old-ass friends in the back of a club without getting slammed into, sometimes this death-metal chivalry gets a little too presumptuous. “Dudes,” I want to say, “I used to mosh in the ‘90s; I can handle it!” Instead, I just laugh. Hey, at least there’s not a line for the bathroom….

But where does this chivalry, which I certainly don’t encounter on the bus or in public (nor expect or desire in those places), come from? I tend to think metal’s chivalry comes from two places: male metal fans’ pleasant surprise that women are at shows (and desire to behave “accordingly”), and metal’s own adherence to the traditional gender binary with its ideas about women’s fragility and second-sex status.

In that way, with all its reputation as a bastion of freaks and countercultural demigogues, the culture at metal shows really mirrors western culture at large. And, most of the time for me, that’s more disturbing than any content could be.

Morla, the ancient one

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One Comment leave one →
  1. poisonpath permalink
    September 10, 2011 2:53 pm

    I agree with this for 100%! I’ve had dudes drag me out of pits to “save” me way too many times, I’m not made of glass.

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