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Liv Kristine: Doing Women in Metal a Disservice

January 16, 2010

Liv Kristine, lead singer of the gothic metal band Leaves Eyes, guest posted some content on the Deciblog that has attracted negative attention and raised some eyebrows, including mine.

Her topic of choice was “Top 5 Reasons Why Women in Metal Rule”. Let me go through point by point.

” 5. Women in metal don’t lose their jobs when they become mothers.”

Ok, it’s true that the life of a musician may allow for more flexibility than the 9-5 corporate world that assumes you’re lazy if you take time off to care for your children. However, she makes no mention of lesser known bands that may have to work twice as hard to make ends meet. What if they don’t have the financial stability to be as flexible? Class and parenthood are tightly intertwined. Class and parenthood are also feminist issues.

“3. Women in metal are always good looking.”

Liv, you completely miss the point again. In this world, there are plenty of good looking women, and women who are not so good looking. Considering that women in the music industry are valued for their eye candy appeal, it should be no surprise that the women who gain the most visibility in the metal genre are the ones who happen to fall in some arbitrary idea of “good looking”. Britney Spears made her career on looking pretty, dancing suggestively, and sex appeal. The fact that she cannot sing shouldn’t stop any record company from packaging her as a “singer”. If you’re a female metal musician, you have to be talented and pretty. It’s not fair, but it’s life. Your observation is uninspiring and lacks any real analysis.

2. Women in metal are taken well care of.”

You mean you’re well taken care of. A lot of your points are generalizations stemming from your personal anecdotes and experiences. If you had simply stated them as such and didn’t claim to speak for “women in metal”, it would be a lot easier to believe. I’ve spoken with plenty of female metal musicians who report being groped, followed, harassed, and treated as “less than” simply because they dared to be female onstage at a metal show.

“1. Women in metal are special. Women in metal are still heavily outnumbered by males.”

No, really? And, you don’t think this has anything to do with gender binaries, industry sexism, or the male gaze? There are few women out there who can deliver within the confines of the stifling talented-musician-who-is-still-conventionally-pretty-and-displays-the-right-amount-of-femininity straight jacket. Oh, and just like all the men out there, they have to be in the right place at the right time, and have the sound that the industry thinks they can make a buck out of at that exact moment. Men just have to work on their craft, women have to navigate a whole other minefield of meanings while working on their craft even harder (to combat that pesky “you have a vagina, you don’t rock” sentiment that’s all too pervasive).

The only gem in this otherwise vapid piece is this:

“The only thing is: doing interviews is a never-ending story about being frontwoman, something we definitely all have in common, but never would complain about.”

It must get boring doing those types of interviews, where the media outlets in question seem much more fascinated by your gender than your music. Since Liv argues that women in metal are so rare and therefore remarkable, she should expect that people would want to recognize her for something so irrelevant to her career as her chromosomes.

In response, here are my reasons that women in metal rule:

1. Women in metal are just people who like some of the most kickass music out there and want to contribute to the creative process. They’re musicians and writers. They’re expressive in a really neat way. Just like the men.

2. Women who get recognized by the metal scene beat the odds. They’re recognized for their music and talent, despite being held to some ridiculous standards of talent, beauty, gender performance, and sexuality. And the women in metal bands who have not been recognized? They’re up against the odds, against a world that is not stacked in their favor. That takes courage. That’s what metal is all about.

3. Some women in metal may have the chance to change the conversation. Some women may have life experiences that are different from those of men, due to different expectations, standards, norms, and risks associated with growing up female. Or they may not. Some of this stems from a litany of factors outside of the artists control.

I feel for Liv, though. She wrote a very thoughtless, badly researched piece and was lambasted for being a nincompoop. A lot of folks used this piece as “proof” that Liv Kristine is a bimbo. (Women in metal are usually dismissed as stupid, “slutty”, or just crazy.) I have never spoken with her personally and know nothing about her, but I just wish she had taken some more time to think through what she wrote.

-Ms. Anthropia

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