Metal health (2): Gender edition

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Following on from Metal Is Gay, another enlightening and welcome article from  Terrorizer staff addressing sexism within the metal community

On the one hand, I applaud Yardley for his, at least partial, honesty and willingness to confront – after a fashion – said sexism. I Blogged the article on homophobia he references (above) in a recent mbg post: as a longtime metal fan and occasional reader of Terrorizer it’s heartening to see exponents of that community addressing the bigotry – sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism etc – that are all too often glossed-over within a scene (extreme metal) that, musically at least, champions progressiveness and originality.
Aaaaand, yet, his article throws the elephant, the big contradiction into sharp relief: if Yardley is passingly familiar with the feminist position, enough to be gender-critical, just why does he still embrace the ‘Trans* identity? Stop short of owning up to being a fetishist, or at least jaded by the putative demands of masculinity. Or maybe he doesn’t see it that way? Maybe Trans* means something else to him? Which loo does he use, I wonder, in any case?
Still glad (GLAAD?) he wrote this piece, though. It’s noteworthy that whilst the definition of Trans* (Gender questioning/queer) grows ever broader to the point of near-meaninglessness; that the ideological criteria for inner-circle membership continue be confined by good ol’ boys club values of masculine entitlement and fear.

(This post is based on a comment I posted on GenderTrender; your one-stop-shop for gender-critical analysis and discussion in a hostile, narrow-minded media).

An extreme metal injection at this point seems apposite: Baying Of The Hounds fits the bill, I think….

Out of the box…

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A tenuous link to be sure – not so much comment or reflection on the recent Frank Maloney brouhaha: the song was inspired by Mikes Tyson and Jackson; with bonus OJ Simpson years back – as an ex use to throw up a good tune:

‘Is this what it means to be a man, boxing up all your emotions?’

‘Now the ring is just a band of gold.’ Indeed.

A lyrical dissection of masculinity worth revisiting for all that. As for our Frank‘….

Call me cynical if you will, but there’s a whiff of ‘career re-launch’ hanging about that ‘story’.

Yes. And no…

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Heaven and Earth, or Himmel und Erde is a traditional German dish of potatoes mashed with apple sauce, served with black pudding or fried sausages. What’s missing from Yes’s recently-released album of the same name is the meat (Linda McCartney onion and rosemary for me, thanks :) ): several listens in, I’m quite enjoying the flavours but I’m still hungry, the latter being more than one can say about the cast of players on the album.

It’s a fine line between joy and mere contentment that divides H&E from its predecessor, 2011’s Fly From Here. I listened to FFH just today, and its fresh, vibrant melodies resonate in my mind as strongly as they did on first listen. It would be a mistake to suggest that the latter was a spiritual successor to Drama but it was undeniably a product of the same chemistry. In particular, the fingerprints of Trevor Horn are all over it in terms of the smooth production and emphasis on memorable melody. H&E is altogether a more restrained, low-key affair in the main. On the one hand, I salute Yes for, as ever, refusing to repeat themselves; on the flipside, I have to say I miss the passion and commitment that they so rarely failed to muster. Even during the ‘pop years’ with Trevor Rabin, one never doubted that the band were unwavering in their dedication to a revitalized, AOR vision of Yes, even when the results were not always to my taste.

The ‘no Jon, no Yes’ brigade will probably be quick to pin the blame on latest recruit (singer), Jon Davison; but that would be unjust: he does his utmost to get his ‘Jon‘ on and carries it off well enough- more so than Benoit David, if anything. The problem here is an overpowering whiff of complacency in the musical department. The closest the band come to old-school Yes is on closer, Subway Walls, which is a Davison-Downes composition, ironically (they’re the group’s two newest recruits). Much of the rest veers uncomfortably close to Asia at their ponderous, soulless, prog-lite worst. What we miss is depth, detail and cadence that, even if not immediately memorable, resonates and draws us back to listen again and anew. This is something that Yes mastered early on and that more recent exponents of ‘Art Rock’ from Opeth, to Fair To Midland, to Sweet Billy Pilgrim, to Everything Everything have done much better since.

H&E isn’t as bad as some critics might have one believe: it’s a pleasant listen and many Yes fans will enjoy it. But if this turns out to be the band’s swansong, it can scarcely be said that they’ve left on a high.

Is a far cry from:

And it’s the difference between applying cleverness to bolster a weak idea and enhance a strong one; albeit both simple.

More meat; less potatoes thanks…

Phoney Maloney

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Sickened by years of orchestrating brutality for profit, boxing promoter takes the only way out his little mind can conceive…

Maloney, who believes ‘she’ has always been female, nonetheless feels a need, or perhaps an obligation to resort to invoking a raft of feminine stereotypes in order to satisfy society’s expectations of said female-ness: dressing appropriately ‘feminine’, high heels and coiffure; adopting a suitably ‘female’ name…

‘hormone therapy, hundreds of hours of hair removal electrolysis, voice coaching’

One can scarcely miss the irony that Maloney dedicated his former life to a profession that, the armed forces aside exemplifies more than most, pure, unreconstructed masculinity. If one accepts the broad feminist analysis of ‘femininity’ as ritualized submission; then boxing surely represents its counterpart as ritualized domination. The prostitution of the male gender rôle. In this context, Maloney, where once he pimped others; now pimps himself: and it’s telling that he felt it necessary to ‘take a step down’ to do it.

In the former Maloney‘s world, you can beat the shit out of a guy and still adopt a position of ‘respect’. It’ll be interesting to see how he will fare in the face of the inevitable brickbats; whether from sexist reactionaries or feminists.

Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? Can I (as a man) imagine Maggie Thatcher’s parliamentary career; or Rosa Parks taking her place on that bus? Well, no: but they did it, as women; unlike this chap; who clearly fell headlong into Orwell‘s memory hole.

What he has done in effect is to substitute one gender stereotype for another; a move which certain pundits describe as brave. Whether one accepts that or not, there’s surely an imperative to interrogate the nature and substance of said bravery?

The feeling of wanting to be like and dress like a woman has always been there,” she says. “I consciously made the decision that I wouldn’t dress like a woman but it was a constant urge.

Popular liberal doublethink rejects the notion of gender dichotomy in favour of a ‘spectrum’, fluid and various. What this spectral model fails to adequately address is why men – or former men, if you wish – are praised for said bravery upon coming out (i.e. rejecting their masculine rôle and affectations) whilst so many women are harshly-criticized, threatened and abused for rejecting the trappings of femininity.  Second-wave feminism has largely lost what political currency it once had precisely because it demands what so few politicians – and pundits – nowadays live in fear of doing: taking sides. Intellectual debate and heartfelt emotional commitment are subsumed in the mud of the political mainstream; the desperate grab for the vote; the popularity contest. A Bush-esque ‘with us or against us’ mentality, facilitated by social media has filtered down to the hoi polloi. ‘If you disagree with me, you must be a hater – and it’s never been easier to shoot that load of egotistical bile into the electronic ether, uninhibited by social conscience.

He certainly demonstrated little conscience with regard to his wife of 15 years, which in itself is unremarkable: unfaithful men rarely do.

We’re all sexist to some degree, because the socio-political environment in which we’re raised is. We start soaking it up long before we’re even aware of the fact. The ‘hardest’ of men, imprisoned for their criminal violence recreate gender – both deliberately and at least in part, subconsciously – within captivity, complete with female slurs and pronouns. The softest still rail – or not – against an internalized sense of entitlement and inadequacy, even as we try to do good.

In this context, it’s hard to entirely blame ex-boxers and ex-servicemen who abruptly announce to the world that they’ve really been female all along. They’ve been raised in a toxic environment where taking blame or otherwise exhibiting weakness is ‘other’. Feminine. Female. But the truth is out there, to quote X Files; and the reality is that ‘Frank Maloney‘ did make a handsome living from training young men to beat the shit out of each other: he’s exploited his position of ritual dominatrix in a way that makes his latterday ritualized submission a decidedly comfortable prospect compared to many less-privileged folk; and if we let him identify out of that responsibility we’ll be letting ourselves down.

Here’s another one that got away…

 

What Does Being “Cis” Mean For A Woman?

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What Does Being “Cis” Mean For A Woman?

Guls:

You’re gonna see more writing like this in the blogosphere as time goes on. Commentators who don’t necessarily present themselves as ‘radical’ yet who nonetheless find themselves kicking back against mainstream political morés in the face of undeserved, unasked-for hostility.
There are – admittedly imperfect, if not entirely unrelated – parallels here with Western political reactions to ‘Radical’ Islam: criticizing – or living outside the rules of – either religion in particular or patriarchy in general can be fraught with danger: the consequences or exercising freedom of speech and action literally life-threatening for gay men, lesbians, atheists, women in general.
But there’s a distinction to be made between Islam – or indeed Christianity, Judaism – as a monolithic political force and the actions of individuals within the doctrine. Recognizing that the proliferation of Tesco within ‘the market’ is not a healthy thing is not equal to a blanket condemnation of all its employees.

There are two strands to Islamophobia: common-or-garden racism – a mechanism of patriarchy in any case, albeit unacknowleged as such – and the conscious recognition of the (religious) monolith’s power.
Driving a wedge between women, and other potential dissenters has always been foremost amongst the ways that our military-industrial-consumerist-patriarchal rulers have maintained order.
On the basis that ‘the friend of my enemy is my enemy’, the liberal mainstream is very much the enemy of women; hence the enemy of social justice: a fact that might surprise many committed to the movement – or maybe not…
The Guardianistas will move on; memories of Moore, Burchill and Jeffries will fade from the public consciousness but the war against women, against social justice will continue.
Caroline Criado-Perez has put herself in the media firing line over and over. She has earned the right to be listened to. She is emphatically not a ‘hater’ in this overly-polarized, post-Bush ‘with us or against us’ media culture.
Read. You may even weep.

The significance of this current head-to-head, liberal versus radical ‘gender war’ is perhaps lost on many – even many in the thick of it – but make no mistake, it is the debate of our time.

Originally posted on Week Woman:

Today I got a bit cross. I do that occasionally. I have been watching the non-binary versus feminism wars getting increasingly heated and thinking, one day, I’ll write a considered post on this. It is an important issue that deserves my time and effort – but it is such an important issue that it deserves time and effort that I simply don’t have today. So days go by and I say nothing. I tweet out articles by women far more cogent and intelligent than I am. I endorse them in the strongest possible terms. But it doesn’t feel enough. I feel like I’m ducking my feminist duty: the duty for women to SPEAK. To not feel scared and cowed. To not suffocate under the weight of not saying anything until that mythical perfect moment when all her ducks are in a row, when the sun is at the right point…

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What is a woman?

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What indeed?

Adult human female? Unattainable, fantastic social construct mined for centuries for the profit of  patriarchy? And worth saying, perhaps; that if the archetype remains unattainable (desirable or not) for womyn-born-womyn; then how much more so for Burchill’s ‘bedwetters in bad wigs’?

I chanced upon this article via the ever-reliable GenderTrender – always worth a visit if one is of a gender sceptical bent. As GT readers have noted, said article is slyly weighted in favour of contemporary liberal morés. But I trust those in full possession of their critical faculties will make mincier meat of it.

From the X(X) Files: the truth is out there, cutting edge or as dully-predictable as the NY‘s closing quote from aging geek and trans*celebrity Sandy Stone:

‘I am going to have to say (to women), It’s your place to stay out of spaces where transgender male-to-female people go. It’s not our job to avoid you.’

 

 

Heavy metal is gay…

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…is a statement guaranteed to trigger apoplexy in not a few rockers of the old school, not to say bafflement amongst some only passingly familiar with the genre. But bear with Tom Dare, writing over at Terrorizer.com about homophobia in the rock and metal world:

‘…metal is totally gay. It’s a predominantly male audience watching predominantly male bands act as butch and masculine as possible. It’s leather, denim, tight trousers … and a bunch of other shit that has more to do with 1970s San Francisco gay clubs than anything vaguely hetero. It’s all phallic metaphors, homoerotic imagery and sweaty (frequently topless) men grappling each other in a dark room.’

He’s got a point: consider the ‘classic metal’ look, as exemplified by Rob Halford of Black Country metal stalwarts, Judas Priest, amongst others from that New Wave Of British Heavy Metal era. That leather and stud look is still popular within certain of gay clubbing circles: and whilst Halford IS gay – now openly so – he’s very much the exception. German industrial metallers, Rammstein, took that camp/macho, homoerotic look to its natural conclusion more so than many latterday exponents of the genre, as seen here on Bück Dich (Bend Down):

Clearly a band comfortable enough with their sexuality to play around with it as camp, vulgar exhibitionism (mind you, this was their first album cover ;) )

As Dare writes, though; such is not the norm. Homophobia in metal circles, as elsewhere, is undoubtedly an issue. Back in 1984, Queen lost a lot of fans Statesside with their cross-dressing video clip for I Want To Break Free. (OK, Queen aren’t a metal band per se, but they’ve flirted with the genre on many occasions and count not a few metal aficionados amongst their fan base). It would be heartening to think we’d moved on from there.

Homophobia, at its root isn’t a fear of male-on-male sex as such; so much as a fear of men not being seen to perform their proper gender rôle (i.e. fucking – and putatively impregnating – a bunch of women). As such, it’s rooted in misogyny – a fact that can be inferred in the colloquial use of gay to mean worthless or inferior. The best critical analysis of homophobia I’ve read is by American feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin in the ‘Law’ chapter of her classic Intercourse text.

What homophobia within subcultures such as metal tells us is that men still yearn for ‘safe spaces’ to indulge their homophobic – and thus, misogynistic – feelings without admitting it to themselves.

So I beg to differ with Dare when he writes

‘(When) Oli Sykes …screams about the girls he’s read about on the back of toilet doors (which paints a rather grim view of Sheffield, if that kind of misogyny is commonplace …) that’s a separate issue…’

But agree wholeheartedly with the following

 ‘…it brings love and shagging into metal. And that makes some people – particularly young people less likely to realise that phrases like “fuck this gay shit” or “faggot metal queers” cause real harm to real people – uncomfortable, and lash out.’

Metallers often adopt a posture of aloofness and superiority with regard to the ‘mainstream’ pop industry: I know I sure did back in the day – and that’s bullshit for any number of reasons, not least because much metal, as much punk, is really cranked-up, distorted pop – most often in the claim that for them it’s ‘all about the music; divorced from popular, consumerist trends; glossy, sexually-explicit marketing. It should be all about the music; and would be in a world less prejudiced.

Dare‘s call for metal fans to confront homophobia is, at heart, a call for them to know themselves better.