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Chickiepoos vs. Chicks With Balls

April 25, 2010

One dichotomy — which might run concurrently with the all-to-familiar (and culturally beloved) madonna/whore — that exists in metal is the simultaneous exhaultation and devaluing of  “chickiepoos” vs. “chicks with balls.” By chickiepoos I mean women who embrace traditional female gender performance, and by chicks with balls, I mean women who don’t. Chickiepoos might front a symphonic metal band (such as Tarja Turunen, formerly of Nightwish), while chicks with balls play with bands whose fanbase barely knows they’re ladies (like Jo Bench, bassist of Bolt Thrower). Chickiepoos make it on hottest women of metal lists. Chicks with balls don’t.

Chickiepoos begin to only be seen for their (hetero)sexuality — for their traditional trappings of femininity — and for their ability to turn the audience on. Chicks with balls, on the contrary, are seen as “just one of the guys,” and more tr00 or kvlt, or whatever-the-fuck than the talented women the heterosexual male gaze finds attractive. The “hot chix” are replaceable, and the tough women who play a mean guitar are neutered. Satan have mercy if you’re a tough woman who kills you with her vocals.

No matter where an individual musician falls on the spectrum of gender performance, this dichotomy serves to convince each to play the game. Be a hot chick. Be a serious musician. But you can’t be both. You also might want to act as tough and masculine and anti-feminine or -feminist as possible because otherwise, no one will take you seriously. Be one of the boys, because the only story that matters is theirs.

Morla, the ancient one

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2010 6:24 am

    There’s a good chunk of the metal populace that would aver that serious musicians are hot – regardless of gender. And there are a good number female metal musicians who happen to be good-looking in conventional terms, but are respected because of their skills. Due to the preponderance of male fans in metal, the male gaze will always be there. But metal is also a meritocracy. Just because you have pretty face doesn’t mean you can get away with being a bad musician.

    Incidentally, I saw Ludicra play two nights ago, and they leveled the place.

    • May 3, 2010 1:29 am

      Agreed. It’s certainly complex, and so dependent on particular scenes and the (gender, etc.) politics of the region, too.

  2. May 7, 2010 9:00 pm

    I agree that the male gaze will always be in metal – the fanbase has always been mostly male and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. As society goes with this sort of thing, so will metal – you mentioned that on another post.

    I think the chickiepoo vs. chicks with balls ratio depends a lot on what subgenre of metal we’re talking about. In power or symphonic metal, it seems like every woman in any band is just there to warble operatically and look pretty. In death metal, of course, you have to have balls to even walk into a show much less play in a band.

    What do you think about Christina Scabbia? She seems to be a little of both….

  3. Anonymous permalink
    May 12, 2010 4:49 pm

    That’s not Metal in that video, that’s some kind of hipster faggotry. Hipsters like using women to make themselves feel as though they’re letting women be something more than they’re allowed to be in the non-hipster world, when, really, as with music, clothing, favourite beer, and passion for noir films, women are an accessory to be used to boost one’s image.

    But, then, this brings about a big point, which is that most of these ultra-progressive types are simply displaying their ultra-progressiveness so as to be seen as being ultra-progressive. Which, I suppose, is what hipsterism is all about – it’s not about “being”, it’s about “seeming”.

    • May 14, 2010 3:06 am

      Ludicra has been around for something like 12 years and played with some very well-respected underground bands (as well as members playing in other bands – Agalloch, Impaled, etc.), so I don’t really know where you’re getting the hipster thing from. Plus, they don’t lean on the women-are-in-the-band thing; they are equal musicians and not some token showpiece. I’m not saying this tokenism doesn’t happen in metal, or in the more hipster factions of it, just that it truly isn’t happening here.

      I’m curious about this presumed “hipster agenda,” you seem to be alluding to, though. Last I checked, seeking a world of equality was kind of something most people wanted, not just dudes in trucker hats and ironic t-shirts.

      • Metal Fan permalink
        May 21, 2010 2:38 pm

        What does metal have to do with equality and justice? The subject matter of the music is usually about warfare, occultism, morbidity, destruction and creation in nature. The very essence of the music is amoral. It celebrates the fact that life is unfair, because what makes life unfair causes conflict. To deal with conflict power and cunning are needed, not justice and equality.

      • May 22, 2010 1:51 am

        Sure, a lot of metal is about those things, but what about metal that isn’t? Metal is a (overarching) genre and style of music — its content can cover any topic, including politics, issues of inequality and justice, etc. Are you arguing that performers can’t be treated equitably because that would ruin the basis for the music? That’s a specious argument.

      • July 13, 2010 11:18 pm

        I imagine “Anonymous” is one of the adolescent male black metal fans who occasionally troll about Ludicra being “hipster metal” on their page, and “Metal Fan” is someone who thinks the writing on is really deep and inspiring.

        Either way, we’re dealing with people who both take the concept of heavy metal a bit too seriously and are sufficiently ignorant (willfully or not) of its history to understand that, first of all, heavy metal is about playing and listening to loud, crazy, thrashing music, not trading in bastardized Nietzsche quotes and feeling superior to other people. And, second of all, the use of morbid and martial imagery and subject matter in metal has just as often (in fact probably more often, especially in the ’80s, and especially in grindcore) been part of an explicit protest against militarism, totalitarianism, and oppression.

        (just to be fair, Ludicra’s lyrics and artwork don’t fall into either category and are more subtle and interesting than most)

        Anyway, this has almost nothing to do with the subject of the post so I’ll shut up now 🙂 I second the notion that there are a lot of us out there who think that musical talent is hot.

  4. Madonna permalink
    May 21, 2010 5:51 pm

    Some women like pink, dresses and baking cookies. What is wrong with that? I personally like my denim and leather, my extreme metal and beer, but some DON’T. Are they wrong for being themselves? Should they be forced to be butch when they’re obviously more comfortable with being feminine and “chickiepoo”? I don’t think being a hot woman with great vocals means that you’re less of a serious musician (Doro from Warlock, hottest woman in metal ever), and it’s probably either your own jealousy or prejudices that make you believe so.

    And for your information, a lot of women in extreme metal have been featured as “the hottest in metal”. (see Alissa White-Gluz from The Agonist for example)

    • May 22, 2010 1:47 am

      I think you missed the point. We’re not making a judgment call on performance of gender. We’re critiquing how metal supports / recognizes different performances of gender. Big difference. Women should be free to be whomever they are and still be considered great musicians if they deserve that accolade. It shouldn’t be tied to how “hot” they do or don’t look.

  5. Beerlord permalink
    June 13, 2010 12:45 am

    So a few years ago I I went to a show from a Calgary band called ‘HoneyRocket’. I walked in saw the lead singer (who is exterely good looking) and thought “Oh god another crappy Girl band”, but I stayed.

    Midway through the second song I was hooked. Yes they were girls. Yes they were quite fit. But they could Rock.

    I have followed them though thier next band ‘Kilbourne’ and am awaiting thier tour this summer as “Mares of Thrace” (The one from Calgary).

    The problem you are talking about is that women have to adjust who they are to fit in anwhere in the modern world.
    Women still feel compeled to hide thier inteligence, and skills behind a me pritty facade or become more boy then the boys.

    this is not unique to metal, or even the 21st century.

    I have seen a lot of crappy Bands (some populated by Guys, some populated by Girls) that pack rooms.

    It is always nice to see a band that can Play be they girls or guys.
    They don’t always pack rooms.

  6. Aesop Dekker permalink
    September 21, 2010 5:24 pm

    I find the hipster witch hunt is usually perpetrated by dilettantes who don’t wish to be exposed as such. I’m sure anonymous had no idea of Ludicra’s 12 year history because in 1998 he was into Weezer.

  7. Anti Emo Death Squad permalink
    September 23, 2010 10:17 am

    So how would you classify Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy? Chickiepoo or Chick with Balls?

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