By Kristin Hay (@kristinwh0)
Another week, another Download 2017 announcement. The hallowed ground of Donnington will this year play host to the biggest names in rock and metal, with headliners System of a Down, Biffy Clyro and Aerosmith waving the flag for Britain’s most-loved metal festival. Another year, and not one woman will headline a single stage across the three days, and – from the most up-to-date line up – only one woman will play on the main stage in June – Hannah Greenwood, pianist for Creeper.
It’s nothing new to suggest that women are under-represented in the metal genre. For a community full of self-proclaimed outcasts and misfits, its proudly pushes the image of metal music as a largely male – and largely white – culture. When women try to make a name for themselves within the metal world, they’re judged on different terms for men. A woman can’t just make good music; she has to prove herself worthy of inclusion into the ‘Boy’s Club’. Metallica can survive an album like St Anger, but one wrong move and a female musician is pushed to one side with an air of “we told you so.”
When women talk about the difficulties they face at an industry-level, most metalheads are quick to go on the offence, shrugging women’s issues off as the complaints of some “tumblr feminazi”, and continue to ignore the blatant issue of inclusion. It has nothing to do with metal, oh no, it’s that “women just don’t write good enough music,” or – my personal favourite – that “it’s not about gender anyway…why isn’t it just about good music?”
To an extent, I can see why men get afraid of admitting it. Admitting they benefit from the P-Word.
To admit that women are at a disadvantage would be admitting that men are given greater opportunity and privilege. Admitting you’re better off purely because of the fact you have a dick is a big pill to swallow. But denying that it is a problem is an even bigger one. Obviously most men within the metal aren’t sexist or misogynist – but the industry does not support women in the way it does men, and that needs to change. Instead of feeling blamed or attacked, considering your own privilege in life gives you the opportunity to see the world from another’s perspective, and influence change.
Women are not looking for domination, they are looking for representation in a genre which is running low on arena-sized bands and is in desperate need of expansion. A genre that churns out the same headline acts stage bi-annually must diversify and support all musicians. If metal continues to bury its head in the sand and enshrine itself in testosterone, it will not only lose half of its demographic, but a plethora of headline worthy bands who are being side-lined by the industry itself. Listeners have a role to play in balancing the scales and pressuring the metal industry to diversify; if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.