Even the most sheltered women among us are intimately familiar with objectification. From the second a girl reaches puberty, she’s subject to catcalls, whistles and stares. A lot of us, including myself, believe we have “safe spaces,” spaces in which we can simply exist as yourselves, without risk of being attacked, ridiculed, or leered at.
For me, believe it or not, the metal scene was my safe space. I could go to any show wearing my combat boots and Kill ‘Em All t-shirt and just rock the fuck out. This past summer, I attended the Queens Metal Meltdown at D’Antigua and had a blast. The bands were excellent, a bunch of my good friends were there, and I had a great time. Then came the real “entertainment.” Halfway through the show, a troupe of scantily-clad women decked out like Hot Topic hookers stormed the stage. They swayed their hips and writhed against each other while the entire crowd (male and female spectators alike) whooped. As an adult, I never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I turned to a (female) friend of mine and we quietly commiserated while waiting for it all to end. I couldn’t quite shake the violated feeling for a long while — I mean, here I was, watching an awesome metal show, and it was interrupted by this unwelcome and unexpected circle-jerk session.
It got me thinking: I know that objectification permeates every level of Western society, but how deep does it run within metal? I got the idea in my head to compile a top ten list of metal songs that are about women, but not about fucking them or hating them because they’re no longer down to fuck. After going through the discographies of some of my favorite bands, I came up with only five songs. Now I’m sure that if I relaxed my standards a little (as in, included songs that I didn’t actually like), it would be a little easier to make the list, but that would defeat the purpose of the list. I wanted to make a TOP ten list, and including songs I didn’t care for would just make it, well, a ten list. Could it be that, save for five songs, my entire list of favorite songs either ignored or objectified women? Let’s see…
This story of an aging Hollywood starlet is as depressing as it is catchy. I thought about omitting “The Memory Remains” from my list because in a way, the protagonist (so to speak) is somewhat objectified. She’s all washed up, living out her last days pining for her former glory. Her humanity barely even shines through, as she’s described in disembodied terms (“heavy rings hold cigarettes, up to lips that time forgets” and so on). I love the song myself, as pathetic as the main character is.
While I have to say that I enjoy this song, it troubles me that Ormhäxan (the Serpent Witch, translated from Swedish) is just a violent, ugly, soul-sucking stereotype. Sure, Finntroll’s songs tend toward outdated folksiness, but every mention of a woman on the entirety of Ur Jordens Djup (2007) involved poison, blood-sucking, or both. Still, it’s definitely pit-worthy, and even though the woman in the song is gruesome, it doesn’t make the song any less fun.
Does this count? Nature isn’t really a woman, but Within Temptation personify her in “Mother Earth.” The titular character is a force to be reckoned with without being a ball of rage, she’s unpredictable without being irrational, and she is ultimately entirely independent. It’s impossible not to love the song’s depiction of her.
Cheese-tastic, I know, but I can’t help but love it! Even though it’s definitely the least edgy song on the list, I catch myself singing it in the shower every once in a while. The woman in the lyrics is barely even gendered, in that you could replace all the “shes” with “hes” and the song’s meaning and tone wouldn’t change at all. I find it somewhat refreshing to hear a song about a woman that doesn’t directly address her femininity in any way.
This song is #1 on the list not only because it owns bones, but also because the titular specter is actually pretty nice. Nothing about Lucretia is malevolent or fearsome — she’s just a kindly old lady ghost chilling out in an attic, waiting for Dave Mustaine to visit her. I can think of worse ways to spend an afterlife.
What do you think? Am I missing any goodies? Do you think I’m making too big a deal about the objectification of women in the metal scene? Go ahead and enlighten me, commenters — I dare you.