When thinking of the most popular names in metal from the 80’s, few women come to mind. When metal and glam took off in the music industry, names such as Joan Jett, Lita Ford and the all-female glam band, Vixen, were the handful of women spoken about in the male dominated genre. Could the same be said about today’s metal culture?
Anastacia Rich, Dirty Little Secret’s bassist and vocalist, has been a metal fan since middle school, when she fell in love with some of the best in the genre. She became a dedicated fan after listening to the legendary music of Alice Cooper, Anthrax, and Megadeth, which continue to be some of her favorite bands.
All of those bands have one thing in common: the lack of women in their music. However in recent years, famous guitar player Nita Strauss, an inspiration for women and men alike, has taken the stage with acts such as Iron Maidens, As Blood Runs Black, and others. Strauss, who currently tours with Alice Cooper, is making humongous strides as a woman figure in the metal world.
Rich believes women aren’t taken seriously in the scene. Their male counterparts do not want a female vocalist or musician in their band’s lineup.
“I think it’s harder [for women in metal]. Not a lot of people want a female musician in an original band,” she said. “That’s why we don’t get many auditions.”
Jordan Hupp, guitar player of seven years and active member in the local metal scene, gave his opinion about the lack of women in the heavier genres of music.
“Misogyny exists in almost every facet of society. Its up to us to not tolerate it,” he said. “I believe that since there are a majority of men in the metal scene, women in it tend to work as hard as they can because they feel like they've got to work harder to prove themselves.”
While there are more women becoming popular than there were ten years ago, there still aren’t as many as there could be. According to Rich, there are a lot of amazing and talented ladies in the metal scene. They’re just not in big name bands.
“I definitely have had my eyes opened up to more of the realness. Women are always sexualized, no matter what,” Rich said. “I think sometimes if they are in a mixed male and female group, the guys look at it more as a marketing strategy. That is just my opinion through experience.”
Mainstream pop artists aren't the only ones who strategize the power of sex appeal in the music industry. It is also prevalent in the few women musicians, found in the metal scene as well.
“If women in the metal scene are taking advantage of the fact that the audience has a large number of men, I don't think there is anything wrong with that as long as their skill and sex appeal equal out,” Hupp said. “If they only think their good looks alone will get them by in the metal scene, they will fade out into obscurity as time goes on.”
Babymetal, an up-and-coming band found on the covers of numerous metal magazines are becoming a big hit in the male dominated genre.
The band features three young female Japanese singers, each between 16 and 17 years old, who dance and sing along with metal instrumentals. Although the young women in the band are popular, the musicians behind the band are virtually unknown. There is no word about their guitarist, bassist, or drummer, and when the musicians do share the stage with the girls, they are covered from head to toe in morph suits.
Common sentiment is that unless the metal industry gives female musicians the same chance as they would their male counterparts, then this conversation will continue to persist. Management appears to worry about putting money into newer ideas within the scene and fear that the culture may not embrace more female bands in its music.
“Being in an all girl band, I absolutely love it. We get to dress up and be girls and we’re not thinking, ‘oh this is going to get us to the top,’ we want to be good,” Rich said. “We’re women so of course we focus on our looks but our main goal is to be good and just have fun. We want to be on stage and people come from the back to see who is up. Not, ‘oh it’s just another girl band.’”
The road to female musicians becoming a normal part of metal culture is closer than ever, but the genre still has work to do. Thankfully, the scene can see the steps gradually being taken as time goes on. Metal Hammer’s December 2015 magazine featured the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, with female vocalist Floor Jansen and synth player Tuomas Holopainen. Hopefully, it sets a good precedent for what is to come in 2016.
Make sure to check out Dirty Little Secret and support local female bands.