A Love Letter to a Genre That Didn’t Always Love Me Back

As live music makes a jubilant return, The Mic’s Editor-in-Chief, Olivia Stock, reflects on her experiences growing up in the heavy music scene.

Growing up, heavy music always felt like a male domain. All my mates who enjoyed the same music as me were blokes, and all my favourite bands were the same. I wrote about music on a coy Tumblr blog and attended gigs alone, drenched in eyeliner, desperately trying to stay afloat in a sea of wandering hands and skeptic looks. I accepted that a tiny brunette was not the typical metal audience. Whatever that meant.

But while battling an eating disorder in my teens, I would crawl into bed and listen to Deafheaven’s Sunbather. When my first boyfriend left me, I wrote four furious pages on Bring Me The Horizon’s departure from metalcore on 2015’s That’s The Spirit. So it’s curious, I suppose, that I have often felt uneasy at metal gigs, or mingling in the community to which I ostensibly belong.

‘Metal gigs offer us all the chance to release our aggression in a healthy way. But only with respect is this accomplished.’

When I had the opportunity at university to help run The Mic, the UK’s biggest student music publication, I was forced to confront a lot of the misogyny in music that I’d suppressed growing up. I was in a position where people cared about what I had to say about music for the first time, and had the startling privilege of meeting a group of girls who, just like me, had felt like the heavy music scene didn’t belong to them.

Inclusivity for me means acceptance, but it also means safety. It means not having to watch gigs squinting and petrified from the back, politely asking older men to pry their hands from my hips, and watching my favourite bands make excuses for their sexually abusive members. That people like me, my friends or anyone else should have to avoid concerts for fear of sexual attack perpetuates the worst metal stereotypes, shuts out the genre’s diverse community and is contrary to the freedom that the music represents. Metal gigs offer us all the chance to release our aggression in a healthy way. But only with respect is this accomplished.

In 2019, I remember sobbing under the beating lights as Frank Carter announced to a Reading crowd that “this song is for the ladies. We love you, and we respect you.” In seven years of bruised ribs, late nights, and self-questioning, I’d never heard a band address my struggles, women’s struggles, so vehemently. “You are going to treat these girls with the respect they fucking deserve because they could be your mother, your sister, your wife or your daughter—but, most importantly, they are your fucking equal.”

We cannot ignore the distance travelled in the past five years, with help from initiatives like Girls Against, For Women Who Rock, and Safe Gigs For Women, but we must refuse to stop making noise. My taste for metal’s chaotic splendour may have lulled somewhat, perhaps because it makes an awful companion to Literature revision, but my appetite for change remains undiluted.

‘We must do anything we can to help dismantle the culture that women need to soften their palate.’

I urge you to research and support these projects, and for anyone reading this to reach inside themselves to confront their own prejudices engrained within. As live music returns this summer, offer a hand rather than a smirk to the tattooed girl who loses her footing in the pit, call out that mate with the persistent wandering hands, and remove that questionable band from your playlist once and for all. They might make bangers, but a history of exploiting women and minors doesn’t sound all that great. Anything you can to help dismantle the culture that makes women feel although they need to soften their palate.

And to all of my wonderful female friends who have helped me reclaim my place in guitar music. Keep shouting, grab me a red stripe, and I’ll meet you in the pit.

Written by: Olivia Stock

Edited by: Louise Dugan

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Featured image courtesy of iam_os via Unsplash. In-article image courtesy of Vilstrup LiveArt via Facebook.