• Nessie Spencer

The Importance of Inclusivity in the Metal Community

Mis à jour : 26 mai 2018

Metal music has the priviledge of being multi-faceted and even changing and so are their fans worldwide. Unfortunately, it does not exclude sexual, racial and gender discrimination. Here's how this can be tackled... somehow.

1993, somewhere in DC, Riot Grrrl godmother, Kathleen Hanna, said this sentence that shaped many non-male gig-goers around the world and possibly beyond: “All girls to the front! I'm not kidding. All girls to the front. All the boys be cool, for once in your lives. Go back! Back! Back!”.


I was nowhere near a feminist then because, well, from my very poor suburban council estate in the outskirts of Paris and my Cape Verdean family, this is not what you can expect from a chubby and very loud four-year-old. I didn’t know what was feminism and to be fair, it took me a good decade and a half to realise that feminism is not a stupid concept for shallow white chicks from posh neighbourhoods who are too much into cupcakes. But then, it didn’t matter. I probably didn’t have a clue of who the fudge that Kathleen Hanna woman was. But thankfully, I grew up and Internet came to my life and I got to know the riot grrrl scene and yeah, girls need to be to the front.

No, I’m serious, girls, go to the front row, make this space yours. INVADE! YOUR! SPACE!

There is no shame being in the front row and it doesn’t have to make you a groupie or whatnot. Let me break it down to you, real quick.

Way too often, at metal gigs, women, queer folks and people of colour have to make their way IN the front now, knowing that there will always be a white man trying to kick you OUT of this space you earned in the first place. Why? Because girls who are into metal are fake bitches. Because metal is not for gays. Because this is not a Kanye West gig, go back to your country! You think that I am exaggerating? HAHAHAHAHA think again!

I’ve been doing metal gigs since age 14, I’m turning 29 soon, and not much has changed. I’m still being challenged at gigs because I am a quite short black woman with an expensive DSLR and to the eyes of some Neanderthal twats, that makes me not legit to be at a sludge or funeral doom gig. And I am clearly not the only one. I see this happening more often that it should.

Women being uncomfortable at gigs because some blokes think it’s okay to grope a music fan who is no different from him except that she has tits and arse. Black people at gigs literally sticking together like the tokens we refuse to be just because we don’t want to be mugged by yet another arsehole who would justify his non-racism by saying that he has a insert-your-ethnic-minority friend. Queers who have to hide themselves on the side of the venue because, well at least, no one will question their “life choices”, and the list goes on and on and on and on. Never ending bullshit.

You have no idea of how WE owe to this scene and what we still have to endure. I know so many people of colour who feel they would never fit in this scene because of the actions of a few arseholes having disgusting point of views. I mean, you have every right to think what you want but don’t take your beliefs for a reality and do NOT make it a reality if it means that one of my sisters might be hurt one way or another or that my friends from all walks of life would be hurt one way or another. It shouldn’t happen and yet, I see a resurgence of vile behaviour towards women, queers and PoCs that I hoped would be a thing of the past. At least from 1993.

Metal music is something that represents empowerment, questioning life, death, sorrow, dragons and sometimes, it’s just about re-enacting your gore movies fantasies into silly lyrics. Metal makes me feel badass at least 23 hours of the day, which is fine by me. Metal makes me feel like you can’t bring me down, you can’t mess with me. Re! Spect! Walk! Whaddayousay? You know the drill…

Metal makes me happy when I’m sad. Metal gives me the strength and energy I need to cope with an environment that is fucking hostile to people of my kind. Yet, there will always be arseholes that would give our music a bad name at best – like dressing up like Pikachus at Hellfest or patronising under 30s for not seeing the world the way they see it – or a bad rep at worst – like calling #metoo activists “you cunts” or half-arsing apologies for not being a Nazi when you literally made your career with being barely ambiguous about your Neo-Nazi sympathies. Every time you want to show that metal is a genre that gives people a meaning to their lives, it is overshadowed by a wanker who would beat up his mum, molest fans in a tour van or make a questionable salute about “wine”. The thing is, those guys are not even representative of what metal or extreme music in general is all about.

So why talking about them?

Why giving them a platform?

Why make it all about them?

Well… because we let them do it. It is our collective fault. Because the artist did significant things for a specific scene, we should give them a free pass on their abysmal arseholery? Let’s been honest, we all know who they are. Giving those arseholes an excuse for treating women, queers and PoCs like garbage is reinforcing the belief that they might be right after all, that it’s because PC police force those poor little fragile things to act like we don’t deserve to be here. But the truth is WE DO!!!!

Bear in mind that the history of rock’n’roll has been whitewashed for so long that they forgot that it was invented by black folks. No Elvis without Robert Johnson and no Black Sabbath without bluesmen. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a genderqueer black woman, DID guitar shreds way before the Bay Area thrashers and the Rolling Stones stole everything from Little Richard and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. As far as female performers are concerned, Betty Davis inspired a hefty lot of women to express their rock side throughout the years. If Betty or Tina Turner weren't there, there wouldn't be Beyoncé. We already live in a world without Lemmy and without Dio, you leave me Beyoncé!

My point being, blacks and queers were heavy metal before heavy metal, so we are LEGIT! Just like women, I mean, back in the 70’s, the Runaways created a wave for other women to do rock, punk or metal stuff. Lita Ford is a goddess amongst other metal goddesses such as Doro Pesch, Angela Gossow, Militia Vox, Dorthia Cottrell and the way too often forgotten Anneke Van Giersbergen. Even though Skin stands as an outsider here, she is a true goddess and no one sings rock as she does and I doubt someone ever will.

And yes, even though Riot Grrrls were not as inclusive as they pretended to be, they made our way easier to get. I suggest you two very interesting books on this topic, "Girls to the Front" by Sara Marcus and "What The Hell Are You Doing Here?" by Laina Dawes. It might seem weird to employ the word “true goddess” because it would imply there are false goddesses, rest assured, I don’t think there are any, it’s just some have a natural halo above their heads and it’s fine.

It is a shame that 25 years after Kathleen Hanna’s infamous speech, women don’t go much to the front. It really is a shame, I feel a bit defeated to see only one or two other adventurers ready to headbang at the front and another one stuck in the middle of a moshpit. Hats off to those ladies! You are doing the right thing but you shouldn’t be alone on that one. More women should join you on the pit, more queer folks should join us to the front and more people of colour should… simply GO TO THOSE GIGS! I mean, it is ridiculous that I have to honk “Black people” in front of another black person who likes the same music as I do. Like, I have to feel swell because now, we are two black people in a metal gig. Yay, progress.

As much as I don’t want to school anyone or tell people what to do, I am urging the metal community in my adoptive United Kingdom, in my native France, in the rest of Europe, in every corner of North and South America and in those growing scene in Asia and Africa to LET WOMEN GO TO THE FRONT and leave them there.

Don’t grope us!

Don’t hit us!

Don’t dry-hump us!

Don’t spit on us!

Just leave us there.

Let us enjoy our gig the way we would let you enjoy those gigs.

If you are still not happy about giving inclusivity a chance in metal, well, I’m sure that there will be plenty of Kanye West fans happy to welcome you to Douchebrolandia, and you can just fuck off right there and never leave this place while WE will make the metal community a place where music and only music really matters.

And beers, because d’uh, it’s beer.

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