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.