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On Halloween

October 27, 2010

Ah yes, Halloween. The one time of the year you can be something you’re not. Or, in this day and age, if you’re a woman, you can unleash the inner sluttiness. That is, of course, as long as you conform to mainstream beauty standards and buy your unoriginal, premade costume.

4 years ago, the Greek chorus started to bemoan the “skanky” costumes with their platitudes. It was fodder for a new moral panic, and cash in the pockets of all those pop-up Halloween shops that appear mid-September. There’s so much sturm und drang about showing some skin. Seriously, people claim those female mountains of flesh move mountains! (The boobquake, anyone?)

“BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH METAL!?!” I bet you’re asking. Well, here’s a start: Take a page from this girl’s book!

You can be a Hawt Metal Chick for Halloween! I mean, c’mon! This girl shows you how to make a very convincing costume. When you strip a few things out about the band shirt, all she’s really teaching is “How To Look Hot”. (For a more general take-down, check here and here.)

As most women know, Looking Hot takes a lot of time, effort, and money. You have to buy the right clothes (and diet/exercise/surgery to fit into those clothes) and buy the right makeup (and get schooled on how to apply it). You also have to buy those accessories (leather cuff) and the hair extensions for that teen rebellion look. This is how you can tell it’s a costume. Hair extensions at a metal show? Do those negate the ability to headbang without sending the colorful adornments flying? (I don’t know, I’ve never worn them. Maybe Willow Smith would know. She WHIPS HER HAIR BACK AND FORTH and colors appear places!)

Mind you, Looking Hot also involves painful eyebrow treatments, use of tweezers, hot wax, razors… maybe some self tanner (if you’re into that). And all this work must be absolutely invisible. (Check out BeautySchooled for more discussion on this.)

In all seriousness, Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity is useful to understanding this phenomenon.

Quoth the wikipedia:

Gender Performativity is a term created by post-structuralist feminist philosopher Judith Butler in her 1990 book Gender Trouble. In it, Butler characterizes gender as the effect of reiterated acting, one that produces the effect of a static or normal gender while obscuring the contradiction and instability of any single person’s gender act. This effect produces what we can consider to be ‘true gender’, a narrative that is sustained by “the tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of those productions – and the punishments that attend not agreeing to believe in them.”

Confusing? I don’t blame you. In layman’s terms, the theory is critiquing social constructions in which the views of the dominant class are cast as “common sense”. Women are just naturally drawn to makeup, ya know? (If that were true, the cosmetics industry wouldn’t spend those millions on advertising.)

Just know that if a guy took this video’s advice, he’d be placed in the category of “Pathetic Tranny”, and would most likely be the victim of a hate crime.

When women are attacked for daring to walk down the streets minding their own business, one of the first questions the media mob asks is: “Well, what was she wearing?!”  (Though they only care if she’s young, white, pretty, and thin.) Donning certain feminine forms of identity expression is a call to war. It’s an incitement to violence, to inhuman practices (according to those who would aid and abet the criminals). Bring on the boobquakes, because dressing a certain way also “causes” rape (remember, men can’t control their peepees! It’s not their fault.)

It’s like my favorite professor once said after his father objected to him visiting his aunt while wearing his usual drag: “You have no idea what it takes to walk out the door wearing this.” (Similar to the “guts to be Glam” quote from Headbanger’s Journey.)

Many cis-gendered, heterosexual men can only see it one way, and only in terms that cater to their life experiences, wants, and desires. However, people wear the costume for all kinds of reasons. Either way, it takes some serious chutzpah.

Courage. Strength. All that jazz. It’s all pretty fucking metal.


Ms. Anthropia

5 Comments leave one →
  1. AngeliKlaw permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:34 pm

    While watching the video I found myself scrutinizing her costume: She’s too femme; heels and metal gigs don’t mix EVAR; good choice in band t-shirt and I do like how she modified it; and who holds up the horns like that?!

    And once I started scrutinizing her metal costume, I saw myself judging things like her size, the way she spoke, and if I did actually find her attractive.

    I found power in my gaze. And when I realized that I was scrutinizing this woman, I found that I was thinking the very things I didn’t want to think. Laura Mulvey would argue that women have been so indoctrinated with patriarchy and the male gaze we cannot judge each other on our own terms. Maybe she’s right. I was looking at this woman in the video with a male, heteronormative gaze. Not my own.

    But then I ask myself, how else do I look at her when she’s inviting me to see her as a “hot metal chick”?? Would I have seen this whole situation differently had she been giving a tutorial on proper distorted vocal technique? I want to say yes, that I don’t always scrutinize women so heavily when I have the gaze. But I’m not sure I’m as aware of my voyeuristic power when whatever it is I’m watching doesn’t explicitly invite me to think about how people look and act.

    When I watch this woman’s video all I think is, she’s not metal at all. She’s doing it all wrong. If I saw her at a Suffocation gig, I probably would not try to be her friend. But then I find myself going on a discussion about Pierre Bourdieau’s work on class distinctions and how people perpetuate difference and oppression by making their groups exclusive. Metalheads like to be exclusive. And we’re constantly checking our boundaries. Who’s metal and who’s not. What bands are “true” – and more importantly, under which subgenre do we classify it? Things like this are discussed on every metal forum!

    This comment is longer and more introspective than I initially anticipated. So, I’ll conclude with a few questions that have kept nagging me for a long time now on this very subject:

    Other than the proper band shirt (and maybe that leather cuff), what else does it take to be accepted in the metal community? Is it different for men and women? Is there a space for women to be femme in the metal community? What does it mean to us to keep our borders heavily secured?

    • Silvvy permalink
      November 2, 2010 9:32 pm

      Wow. I have nothing productive to add except I REALLY liked your post and how you began analyzing why and how you were looking and critiquing the woman in the video.

  2. November 2, 2010 11:21 pm

    interesting post, though i feel like the last few paragraphs diverged from the original point somewhat. perhaps i am missing something?

    • November 10, 2010 3:42 am

      My point was that: While some might disparage dressing in a “feminine” manner, it takes a lot of guts, whether you’re a woman, a cross-dresser, transsexual…

      Feminine dress and expression are used to explain away all kinds of atrocities and indignities women (and men) face daily. Women are told, “Be hot, it’s the most important thing you can be!” yet when they conform, they’re dismissed as frivolous, or worse, blamed for whatever horrible things others do (rape, assault, harassment). Men who cross dress and transsexuals also take risks when they present themselves in a “feminine” way. It’s viewed as an invitation to abuse them.

      The performance takes practice, time, and effort, yet the courage it takes is rarely acknowledged. Many men would never have the courage to cross dress, yet metal is considered a “ballsy” genre. It’s something to think about before dismissing bands for their femme exterior.

      -Ms. Anthropia

  3. Sharon permalink
    November 6, 2010 4:04 pm

    So bloody annoying. May I just say how tired of women being judged by how hawt they are?
    Has anyone seen a female metal singer who is not sexed up? Gack: she is a complete poser btw.

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