Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano or the Mets collapsing, it’s an annual tradition as old as time itself: The annual Revolver Magazine ‘Hottest Chicks in Metal’ issue and the ensuing shitstorm it causes. But since neither Zach nor Bram has the female perspective, we thought we’d invite two females in the metal community to discuss the issue this year. Since our friend Stabitha did such a bang-up job writing about the Golden Gods awards last year, we thought we’d invite her to participate. We also asked Zeena Koda, who wears many hats, among them the AM host on SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal channel and sex and relationship advice columnist, to weigh in. Since both play or have played in bands, they have a unique viewpoint of the issue.
Stabitha: It was, of course, curious to see that the next Hottest Chicks issue after the article I wrote became “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock.” I guess you can only put Maria Brink or Lizzy Hale on the cover so many times before you have to widen the pool, which is at once awesome and sad: there aren’t enough ladies in metal to perpetuate this worn out stereotype. Is it because toeing that stereotypical line is exhausting? (I mean, have you ever worn a corset onstage? That shit is unforgiving!)
I feel like the response to my article was pretty hope-inspiring, though the annual Hottest Chicks to-do continues. 95% of people totally got it. The message is ‘We will pay attention to your band, but only if you show us your tits,’ and that’s a standard that doesn’t even begin to apply to any other Y-chromosomed metal band. It’s also not something that Revolver is solely responsible for, though they’ve put a lot of time and effort into the branding we’re discussing. This isn’t about what’s tr00 or kvlt or even that women in metal/hard rock should be handed recognition they don’t deserve just because they’re women and they’re a minority. I don’t understand why it’s a controversial position to say that editorial coverage should be given to women in metal based on musical merit rather than god-given assets.
Zeena: I think many people will be surprised by my reaction to it mostly because I truly don’t see anything wrong with participants involving themselves in a press-driven feature that they knowingly understand the criteria for. This year, I actually even urged people to vote for me, not necessarily because I 100% believe in the premise of being objectified solely for my appearance, but flat out I believe that I can hold a candle to many of those women included. Not only because of the work I do on the media side, but through my actual vocal talent with my band and dedication to the progression of rock music. Did I win? Hell no, but then again I never thought I stood a chance. There is no moneybags pushing my image out, no label wheel cranking my musical career and although I too released new music this year lets be real here – this feature is one to garner attention, not to gauge your worth as a musician because frankly I’d take on half of them any day, I kill live and have no doubt in my heart that my passion is real. It’s much like the Grammy’s in my eyes, if you aren’t nominated or win does it degrade you? Not at all. Legends are not judged on “hotness” but by greatness and the ability to move a mass of listeners artistically. Consequently, that’s what makes some of artists attractive, not aesthetics and ornamentation, but their awesome ability to give two fucks and pour into their craft.
The biggest shame in this is mostly not in the content, but the fact that there are so many hot, amazingly talented woman that sacrifice so much to keep metal alive that aren’t ever given that recognition. Look at women like Anneke from The Gathering, who helped move the needle for half of these women featured – why is she not there? I wish women in heavy music got recognition on a more consistent basis and not solely for novelty purposes, but as a marketer, it is almost just the name of the game. It really is a tricky game on so many levels as a woman – INHERENTLY we are seen as sex symbols and if you have one ounce of attractiveness you can bet that in the game of building a career in music it will be exploited to the max you allow it. Notably though, not every woman highlighted chooses to go to scantily clad and I am sure that given the opportunity to do a full glamor shoot, most women would like to look sexy and well put together. Does that mean it’s their every day attire or even what they play a show in? I highly doubt that. In so many ways it is a double edged sword no matter what way you look at it.
Stabitha: I’m all for women (i.e., you yourself, Zeena) playing along to a level you choose and feel comfortable with to get your foot in the door with major press. I’ve done it myself. My old band landed features in local weeklies when we had out of town shows in a large part because we were a visual spectacle, and good looking. I don’t think it inherently degrades or denies sincere talent to be included in these lists, polls, covers, feature spreads, what have you. What gets me is when this becomes the rule for when and how a female-fronted band receives coverage. I’m trying to remember the last time someone started off an article about Maria Brink with how she has one of the most powerful voices in this crop of metal frontpersons, who doesn’t need vocal processors or even a mic to impress with the sheer power of her vocal chords, regardless of how you feel about her music. I can’t remember anyone leading with that.
Ms. Brink is a grown woman who no doubt knows exactly what she’s doing. If she wants to play into it, well, that’s her choice. But In This Moment, Lacuna Coil, Halestorm, and all the other bands who have the honor of appearing in Hottest Chicks are not at the beginnings of their careers. At this point, they should be able to land covers on their own merit without an additional brand tacked on to make it okay for a magazine to put a woman front and center. Sexuality is no longer the hook that garners earned coverage in metal. It IS the coverage.
Zeena: Exactly. When it becomes the vanity over talent that is what sets a precedence, but in any medium it would be there same. Sadly as women we will always need to fight for equality, but I believe that in the end real will recognize real and no one needs a magazine to tell us who is amazing and not.
Stabitha: I agree to some extent — going back to Anneke, I got into her and the Gathering on a recommendation from a friend, and then more into her when she started collaborating with Devin Townsend. Media is not our only means of finding awesome music. But today when any band can put their music in the marketplace, I rely on trusted brands to be a filter. So it’s extra disappointing when those filters only put women on the cover when there’s an extra spin put on it. What I’m wondering is why after so long this is still necessary. You don’t have to go to many shows to notice that women are a minority in metal, but will metalheads really only buy a magazine with a woman on the cover with a Hottest Chicks in Metal/Hard Rock label on it? Why does every other genre of music not have difficulty giving women their due for what they do rather than what they look like?