I don't know how I got the guts to imagine myself in positions that are mostly occupied by white men, but I'm glad I believed I had the right to express my teenage anger through music that felt compatible with it.
When I was a teenager, I spent hours fantasizing about ruining my vocal cords and screaming on stage with a metal band. I took electric guitar lessons in the afternoons and practiced my throaty vocals at night. I wanted to be the opposite of a good girl. I decided to cut my hair, wear way too much eyeliner, and fill my closet with black clothes. My family didn't mind, and I was happy to have the freedom to discover and experiment. I thought I was creating an identity for myself, but I was ignoring a pretty important detail: I desperately wanted to be part of a community that didn't have a lot of room for people who look like me, so I tried hard not to look like myself.
I don't know how I got the guts to imagine myself in positions that are mostly occupied by white men, but I'm glad I believed I had the right to express my teenage angst through music that felt compatible with it. Now that I know a little bit more about life and society, I think that women and POC have a lot of reasons to be angry and want to shout our lungs out. So, why is the metal scene so white and male?
Racism and sexism are everywhere and the metal community is no exception. In the 1970s, white supremacist skinheads appeared in the punk and metal scenes in the UK. From then on, many bands that proclaim "white power" get gigs along with other supposedly neutral bands: musicians that don't mind sharing the stage with other musicians that encourage violence against women and minorities. This exemplifies the fact that political neutrality doesn't exist. Staying silent about these issues only perpetuates them, and the fact that famous figures like Marilyn Manson call racism "a stupid, made-up word" isn't helpful at all.
One of the things I love about metal is the opportunity to be a little violent in a way that is socially acceptable. Not everyone respects it, but there's an implicit agreement to push and kick one another at metal concerts without really hurting the people around you. But now, imagine you're there, enjoying the energetic aggression and enthusiasm that goes with the music you love. Then, at some point, somebody starts getting violent with you in particular. The implicit agreement suddenly breaks, and you hear a man you thought you admired shouting the words "White power!" and throwing a Nazi salute, as Pantera's lead vocalist did last year in a concert in the US, causing controversy about racism in the community. Such an experience would take you from feeling part of the crowd to feeling like a target for having a different skin tone in matters of seconds.
This kind of discrimination happens not only to fans, but also to musicians who dedicate their lives to the genre. As in other professional fields, women are taken less seriously in the metal scene. The fact that there's a whole subgenre dedicated to bands that bellow about rape and murder fantasies (think about Cannibal Corpse's lyrics: Mother ripped apart / Smashing in her face / My knife cutting holes / Fucking her remains), and the humiliation and degradation of women, should be indicative of the status of women in the industry.
The irony is clear. Metal, a genre that is supposedly subversive, isn't free of the conservative tendencies that perpetuate injustice. Nonetheless, we shouldn't give up on the music. We should expand the genre a lot more: until it includes all of us or it breaks.