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You put a greased, naked woman on all fours, with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man’s arm extended out up to here holding on to the leash and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive? You don’t find that sexist?
No I don’t. This is 1982, Bobbi, come on.
That’s right. It’s 1982. Get out of the ’60s. We don’t have this mentality anymore.
Well, you should have seen the cover they wanted to do. It wasn’t a glove, believe me.
– This is Spinal Tap
3 Inches of Blood made their name with classic, NWOBHM-inspired metal. Between the galloping guitars, Valkyrie wails, and studded gauntlets, these guys would be right at home on a festival stage between Iron Maiden and Accept. If you remember the 1980s, you probably remember something else metal bands of that era had in spades: video babes.
Metal has moved on, and the use of women as video décor is one thing I was glad we’d left behind. At least, I thought we’d left it behind – until I saw the video for 3IoB’s new single, “Metal Woman”. This being 2012, there was every chance the song would be a celebration of women in the metal world – the tireless, brave fans, the musicians kicking ass on stage, the managers and record-company workers and writers who make it all happen.
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3 Inches of Blood – “Metal Woman”
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Those hopes were dashed the minute 3IoB’S new video revealed what they meant by “metal woman”: a mohawked and tattooed model in leather hot pants and a cropped vest, girding her loins with a bullet belt. Loins embellished with a ram-horned skull peeking out of her waistband, leaving the rest to the imagination.
So what does this “metal woman” do, exactly? She poses in a studded bondage bikini, thigh-high boots and – of course – a dog collar and a leash. She drives around in her skull-bedecked black van, luring young female delinquents with a crook of her finger. She cues up 3 Inches of Blood on her iPod. That’s it. No narrative. Just eye candy.
The lyrics describe her in fearsomely sexual terms: “The way she moves to metal gives us all a thrill … Metal Woman / Demon in the sack / Metal Woman / Ready to attack!” She’s the classic femme fatale, a siren luring helpless men to crash upon her rocky shores.
The femme fatale is a tricky archetype: On the one hand, she seems to represent female independence, power, and agency. On the other, those traits lead to terror and danger for the man, who simultaneously fears and wants her in uncontrollable ways. This isn’t even a shadow of modern, post-feminist womanhood: She’s as wild and deadly as Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819.
At first, it seemed possible that 3 Inches of Blood were having a laugh about metal’s “dream woman”. But let’s face it: Metal does not, as a rule, do irony, and 3IoB are nothing if not sincere in their headlong journey through metal’s classic tropes: myth, fantasy, conquest. With this song, they’re celebrating a very specific fantasy, and that’s fine – we should all know what we like – but to title her “metal woman” implies that all women in the scene are either like this, or ought to be.
Most women in metal aren’t like this. Sure, there are some, and there are others who like to adopt elements of this archetype now and then. But to say only the leather-clad, menacingly sexual ladies qualify as “metal woman” is exclusionary to all the women who don’t meet those criteria. And metal is already exclusionary enough.
So far, the metal press isn’t calling 3 Inches of Blood on it, either. Metalsucks called the video “babe-tastic”, and WNCT entertainment writer Philip Sayblack said, “the song is essentially a tribute to all the women who prove metal’s not just for men.” Meanwhile, at Loudwire: “3 Inches of Blood connect with metalheads in a universal way with ‘Metal Woman’, because we all desire that hot, tattooed girl clad in black at a metal show!”
All of these statements confirm that metal is, largely, “just for men”. “When someone [in metal] suggests that anything other than a male-dominant view of sexuality is exciting, many listeners become uncomfortable. This is not absolute, of course, but it is prevalent,” Natalie Zina Walschots wrote in “Vanilla Violence: Metal’s struggle with BDSM” for the Toronto Standard. Despite the fact that metal is “driven by a determination to subvert cultural norms and celebrate the outsider perspective,” it’s still exceedingly heteronormative, she adds.
It’s long past time for metal’s plebeians to step outside their comfort zone. It’s time to embrace the enormous diversity in the scene, reflected in the mind-blowing breadth of microgenres. It’s time, at least, to stop talking about women in metal as though they’re imaginary, as though they’re not right here, at the edge of the stage, listening to every word.
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