Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation

By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett | Go to book overview

8
The Girls of Metal

The "absence" of girls from masculinist subcultures is not very surprising. These subcultures in some form or other explore and celebrate masculinity, and as such eventually relegate girls to a subordinate place within them. They reflect the sexism of the outside world.

-- Michael Brake, Comparative Youth Culture

Heavy metal is largely a male domain. The performers as well as the fans are predominantly male, and, as described in Chapter 1, there are elements of the subculture that are distinctively related to maleness and manhood. In particular, the concert scene exalts traditionally male virtues of toughness and aggressiveness (through the music as well as through slamdancing). More generally, the high-sensation intensity of the music appeals more to males, with their generally higher appetites for sensation.

However, there are also adolescent girls whose sensation-seeking tendencies are high enough for heavy metal music to appeal to them. Furthermore, the alienation that draws so many of the boys to heavy metal also exists among some girls, and they, too, find an ideological home in the subculture of heavy metal. In this chapter on the girls of heavy metal,1 we shall see that in many respects they share similarities with the male metalheads. Like the boys, the allure of heavy metal for girls includes not only the high-sensation qualities of the music, but also their admiration for the prowess of heavy metal musicians and the dream of involving themselves in the world of heavy metal performance in one way or another. Also, the alienation from family, school, and religion that is common among the boys is also common among girls who like heavy metal, and they are drawn to heavy metal because it both expresses and alleviates their alienation.

However, they differ from the boys in some important ways. Sexual issues are involved in the appeal of heavy metal for girls, as they often become involved in it through a boyfriend or because of the sexual attraction they feel for the performers or fans. Also, as girls they have an additional source of alienation in the exploitation and denigration of women that sometimes takes place in American society -- and in some

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