How many female metal fans do you know with whom you can get into ultra-animated, impassioned discussions the way you do with other menfolk? No doubt there is a sizeable presence of women within metal circles, and a few have even gone on to become integral parts of bands, publications, and record labels but these are an obvious minority; most don’t care for the kind of obsessive-compulsive, personal investment that men regularly develop with this music, coming across as little more than hangers on and outcasts attracted to a “dangerous” music for some time before they “grow up” and latch on to the next trend that would have them. Lack of definitive role models doesn’t help either; mainstream media tends to favour objectification of centrefold models like Angela Gossow and Cristina Scabbia over women of substance like Corinne van den Brand (Achrosticon) and Jill Mcentee (Funerus), regularly posing insipid “Who’s the hottest female metal singer?” questionnaires to appeal to both sexes’ vanity and retarded intellectual development.
While it is true that traditionally patriarchal models of development have relegated women to a subservient, nurturing role within society (for better or the worse is a debate for another time), the more pertinent question here is whether there is something innate within heavy metal that prevents women from fostering a meaningful, one-to-one relationship with it. Heavy metal fans are usually desperate to establish a working kinship with classical music but a casual Google search indicates that even in that most austere and regimented of musical forms, there has been no shortage of woman practitioners through history, if not out and out brilliant composers, working as they did in a far more draconian social framework than they are subjected to today. Jazz, country, blues, and punk have all had their share of respected divas, so why is the heavy metal canon so devoid of outstanding female talents in spite of having come to real fruition post gender equality battles?
Women, by nature, are more emotional but also more practical than men, both in the short and long terms, trading abstract idealism for an earthier, far more grounded sense of identity and reality. While this setup apparently doesn’t discourage them from pursuing classical music, centred around an ideal of perfection though it may be, metal’s blatant fascination with the outre and the politically incorrect, and the dissonant textures it is wont to embrace doesn’t seem to sit too well with them. This doesn’t preclude groove-ridden misfits like Pantera and their ilk, or pseudo-Gothic ensembles like Cradle Of Filth; the former appeals to their inherent sense of rhythm, the latter their sense of fashion and the melodramatic, but give them something like Prosanctus Inferi and Ares Kingdom, admixtures of sacrilegious outrage, civilizational decay, lost grandeur, and instrumental excellence, all presented in an eminently confrontational manner, and the significance is more likely than not to be lost along the way.
While the last statement is liable to be applied to an equally large number of male metal fans, it seems to me that women for the most part either refuse to take serious metal seriously, treating it as yet another male affectation to be tolerated with a knowing smirk, or are, somewhat more pointedly, simply incapable of relating to its overarching message.