'I Wanna Rock:' A Critique of Gender Essentialism in Metal Music Scholarship
As Metal Music Studies (MMS) emerges as a field it is important that members of the field who research gender remain critical of the ways in which we do so. Protecting the autonomy of women participants in both MMS studies and in overall metal culture should be of utmost importance. This research aims to show that both general sexism within metal culture and the use of kind essentialist language serve to damage the autonomy of the women involved. As a result, unification essentialism (uniessentialism) should be the working assumption of MMS in order to avoid damaging the autonomy of women. Protecting autonomy requires more than just acknowledging any problems that exist, but rather I argue, through the use of Carol Hay’s work, that there is in fact a moral obligation to confront such harms. This obligation rests on all members of the metal community, of all genders, because it is the only way to move forward and dismantle the systems of patriarchal oppression which exist. MMS research itself is not exempt from these criticisms, as the use of kind essentialist language “others” women fans and does not properly capture their experience, making their experiences less valid. By using the works of Charlotte Witt and Rosemary Lucy Hill, I show that uniessentialism is a more productive form of gender essentialism, because it acknowledges the gendered listening experiences of metal fans and values those experiences as equal; all gendered experiences matter and no one gendered experience should be considered the norm. Uniessentialism protects the autonomy of women fans and participants in studies, and therefore should be the working assumption of MMS.
gender essentialism, heavy metal, metal music studies
Master of Arts (M.A.)