When you think of the genre metal as an adjective, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
For most people it might be: Solos, breakdowns, long hair, knowledge of progressive/dark/djenty/death bands, black tees and jeans and…wait for it…dudes.
But what about the chicks?
Yes, many women in metal bands such as: Girlschool, Coven, The Plasmatics, Nightwish, Kittie, Arch Enemy, Walls of Jericho, Crisis, I wrested a bear once, Circle takes the Square, Lacuna Coil, Awaiting the Autopsy, Conquer Divide, Light this City, Butcher Babies, and so many more! But how many chicks at shows get to head bang or mosh with all the rest of the dudes in the circle pit?
How many times has a large metal concert been stopped (or not) because someone passed out from dehydration, someone was crushed up front at the barrier, or someone was getting beat down? Probably half of the time the people being hurt are guys, but the other half of the time women in metal pits are the victims of moshing just because they want to be up front or mosh along. Circle pits and mosh pits cause the outer rim of the crowd around them to push outwards in order to avoid said circle, so if you want to be up front, you have to deal with the most pit. Unfortunately there isn’t much equality when it comes to the physicality that encompasses moshing or throwing down. As the saying goes, “If you get in the pit, expect to get hit.”
But think about it in a another way: yes, women want equality, and yes we want to be recognized as metal fans, and not groupies, but women in metal also don’t want to be standing behind the biggest dude that’s closest to the stage in order to have protection from windmill kicks and flailing fists. Is that fair?
Paying the same amount of money for an awesome band, only to get pushed back because someone decides it’s time to punch everyone around them, doesn’t make it fun for anyone, including dudes. Some fans may disagree, and say that this is the entire point of metal. It is always a controversial issue, especially for girls who want to participate or at least wish that they could.
From my experience as a petite woman at metal shows I’ve been: elbowed in the eye socket; punched in the hand/head/back/ass/stomach; kicked; had my feet stepped on; jabbed in the rib cage; pushed to the ground; pushed to the back because of a pit or a wall of death, and even unwillingly lifted into crowd surfing, just to name what I can remember!
This makes the enjoyment of the music less about physically being there, and more about being physically conscious of what’s going on around me. This takes me out of the moment and distracts me from the music to focusing my attention on the crowd. Being petite and short, I’m always making sure my head and feet are out of the way from larger people in front of me. I’m usually standing with my arms crossed, ready to defend myself from closed fists flying about.
Granted, everyone who participates already has the expectation that brutality will ensue, and most know when to back down, or have the peripheral vision to avoid the people around them. However, when women in metal step up and show for one minute that they physically appreciate the sick-ass solo the guitarist is putting on by head banging, there’s always potential for someone to ram into them from the back or front or side. That minute your head is down and hair is whipping, it’s a huge downer to get hurt and have that moment ruin your night.
So basically all women in metal pits need is a little support. Too many times I’ve been to big concerts and girls are in the back, on their tip toes trying to see, or on their boyfriend’s shoulders to get a good look just to avoid being closer up front, avoiding the mosh pits. Then there are local shows in smaller venues, where girls show up and step up to mosh, only to be immediately pushed back, down, or sideways so that guys can do their thing.
That begs the question, do they even want us there?
Well, sorry, we’re gonna be. And I know most musicians appreciate fans of all sexes who enjoy their music and show up to their shows! Let’s face it, when there’s a girl at a metal show, it eliminates the sausage fest factor. Girls don’t always come to metal shows because they enjoy the music, just like guys don’t always go to pop icon concerts because they enjoy mainstream women’s vocals. Either way, whether girls are there to see the bands or not, we shouldn’t have to be intimidated by the ferocity of muscle and testosterone to force us to take cover.
So how can we correct this?
Firstly, it’s the venue management’s responsibility to preform crowd control. Many venues remove violent behavior when someone gets out of control and is knocking other people out cold. Bouncers are a huge deal, especially when a friendly push turns into a full-on brawl. Just mentioning to keep the pit together, or watch for women in metal pits, is a huge respect.
And of course we need the bands’ support, too! Personally, I yell and cheer when a band has noticed me and the other chicks are jamming the fuck out in the back/side/front, and they give us a shout out like, “I want to thank all the ladies for being here tonight! This next song is for you!”
This kind of acknowledgement puts a spotlight on women in metal, so that guys see they aren’t just dealing with muscle trying to fight them all night. Bands can help out by saying things like, “If there are any ladies in the house tonight let me hear you!” or “Everybody move up!” Yes please! I would love some credibility for coming up front to actually see what the fuck chords you’re playing, with that solo in my face and your lyrics deafening me, because I’m a die-hard like that for the scene! \m/\m/
Let’s just all try to scope out our surroundings next time we’re in the pit, and if you see anyone smaller than you (not just girls, yo), give ‘em a little space to whip their hair or not get trampled. Because being a fan shouldn’t mean getting broken bones and bruises to have a good time.
Photo by Ralph Arvesen