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wshaffer
Heavy metal, gender, and proving authenticity 
21st-Feb-2013 11:52 am
ace
I found this blog post on gender and heavy metal culture very interesting, although I think it is a shame that this researcher apparently wasn't able to interview any women on the subject.

The first thing that struck me was something that a couple of the commenters brought up, which is that this male notion of women at metal shows being "fake", particularly when said women are perceived as physically attractive, is exactly the same thing as the "fake geek girl" phenomenon that we've been seeing in gaming/comics/cosplay circles. Is this a phenomenon in every male-dominated past-time? Or does the fact that geeks/heavy metal fans see themselves as social outcasts or underdogs play a role? (I don't think, for example, that I've ever heard a male football fan complain about "fake" female football fans. But maybe they do this, and I just haven't encountered it.)

The second thing is that this article explained to me a quirk of mine that has always amused me, which is that I spend far more time figuring out what to wear to metal shows than the occasion really warrants. And usually end up rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror and saying, "Seriously, who are you trying to impress?" The answer is that I'm not trying to impress anyone - what I'm doing is trying to ensure that I project enough "authenticity" that I don't get hassled for any of the ways in which I might be different from the rest of the audience - whether it be by being female, fat, younger or older, or just a bit shy and reserved. (The funny thing is, I've never gotten any crap from metalheads for not looking the part. I've caught my share of wardrobe critiques from goths, but that's another matter.)

I have not personally experienced much of the "fake metal girl" attitude in my own attendance at metal shows. When I first started going to metal shows, I was 14 and accompanied by my 12-year-old sister. If we were noticed at all by older male fans, it was as *kids*, to be encouraged and/or protected. All the shows I've been to more recently have had plenty of women in the audience (and probably not coincidentally, at least one woman amongst the performers). The only odd thing I've noticed is that young men sometimes seem a bit baffled when I speak to them - I think this has less to do with my being female as it has to do with their not having a mental frame for a social interaction with someone twice their age who isn't a relative or an authority figure.
Comments 
21st-Feb-2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
I don't know about football fans, but there's definitely been a "pink hat" backlash among Red Sox fans claiming that women aren't really interested in baseball.
21st-Feb-2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
Wow, I just googled "Red Sox pink hat" and yup, it's the same set of tropes. Weird.
21st-Feb-2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
ARgh!

I recently decided that since I am The Only Girl in most meetings I attend, I am going to wear the things I like to wear (sorta conservative but with some sparkle and bling) and be the femme person I am, and I'm just as real as they are.

I mean, I'm gonna get some stares just for existing, so I might as well have fun. OMG, yes, I am a Girl who does... blah.

I loathe the "fake" trope. If you invert it, you get the "real" trope, which is a pestilence upon the trans communities - a "real" man does x,y, and z.

As one of my favorite movies, the Trannymals, said, "I'm as real as the stars. I'm as real as the rain. I'm as real as any of you... baking dudes!"

NSFW, but the context is amazing! We are all really real.
21st-Feb-2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
Yes. I've worked very hard in the past couple of years to expunge phrases of the form, "Real X's have/do Y," from my vocabulary. Because we are all real.

I'll have to hunt down that movie!
21st-Feb-2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
I can send it to you - we showed it at the Trans Day of Visibility a few years ago. It's silly, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

And omg, it has Body Parts with Boogly Eyes in it. That makes it!
21st-Feb-2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
This is interesting. I've never gotten the "fake!" attitude from metalheads, but haven't really been in that scene socially since I moved to Seattle. When I go to shows it's usually with my writing partner and priest, who people just assume is my partner because our spouses have no interest in these shows, and we're generally 15-20 years older than most of the other people there so we don't talk with people much. I think we remind them of their parents. ;)

But speaking of the geek cred thing, one observation my writing partner made was that when he was first in the con scene in the 80s, he saw about as many women around as there are now, but a lot fewer of them were conventionally physically attractive, dressed up in ways that might be construed as sexy, etc. In other words his interpretation is that the guys (it's mostly the guys) advancing the "fake geek girl" argument are really just once again manifesting their deep discomfort around attractive women by belittling them. (He has no such discomfort; it's probably one reason we're such good friends. Over the years I've become all too aware of the effect my appearance can have on people.) If this happens in the metal scene too, and I'm sure it does, I suspect a similar dynamic is at play.
21st-Feb-2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
Ahahahaha yes. Female sports fans get that. Thank God hockey is better than many sports because women play hockey; if you're in Eagan, where I live, and you sneer at a woman hockey fan, it may well be Natalie Darwitz, and she can totally check your sorry ass into the boards. But even in hockey, there's a certain assumption that you don't like the game, you like the dreamy broad-shouldered boys in their suits. (Hockey players wear suits for press conferences. If you grew up with baseball it's...a thing.)

And I have quite often smacked a male fan down hard at a convention, because they often start out patronizing me and explaining to me about things I know better than they do. I will be interested to see how long this sticks around--whether "middle aged ladies" are presumed to be as fake and ignorant as "young girls"--but it's been pretty similar from science to SF to sports fandom so far.
21st-Feb-2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
Amanda Marcotte had a piece over on Pandagon recently in which she basically argued that as a culture we haven't really accepted the idea that women have things they get passionate about other than pleasing men and/or raising families. I'm starting to think she's more right than I initially realized. (I just keep thinking that if people stopped to think this through, they'd realize how silly this is - I mean, there's a lot of effort involved in being a fan of something. Surely if a girl just wants to look at dreamy boys, there are easier ways?)

As far as I can tell, "middle aged ladies" get more benefit of the doubt about the genuineness of their enthusiasm. Unless said enthusiasm is for something that only "young people" are supposed to like (like Twilight or boy bands), in which case they're presumed to be in denial about their age. However that benefit of the doubt doesn't necessarily extend to a presumption of knowledge or competence.
21st-Feb-2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
Hell, even if you want to look at dreamy hockey players. There are pictures. You don't have to hang around and watch the game and talk about the game. You can just Google Zach Parise or the late Derek Boogaard and Bob's your uncle.
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