Standing Up for Women is the Most Metal Sh*t You Can Do

  • Phil Boozeman

Nobody wants to be reminded of the political climate in the Unites States. Nobody. But it’s a fact of life that you can’t avoid politics because the laws of a country shape the everyday lives of its citizens.

This reality has been especially prevalent in Missouri the past month as the state legislature has seen fit to pass some of the most draconian abortion laws in the country. But this piece isn’t going to be some long-winded diatribe about me shitting on Donald Trump and the Republicans. That should be implied. I’m here to talk about how I’ve seen this shit trickling back into the metal scene, the kind of behavior it enables and emboldens, and to discuss what we can do about it.

Back in February, I got a killer job offer and relocated myself from Kansas City to St. Louis. Once I arrived in my new home city, my first step towards making friends was to start going to shows to get acquainted with the scene. Simple stuff, right? But early in May, there was a span of two shows in just as many weeks where I saw startling displays of violence towards women.

The first instance was at the Lorna Shore / Enterprise Earth show at The Firebird where a guy spent nearly the whole show crowd-killing. Although that’s not exactly anything new on its own, he crossed a line when he reached from the pit into the second row of people, grabbed a woman and punched her in the face so hard the she immediately went down holding her face. She wasn’t simply bumped into, and this wasn’t a casual “Don’t stand by the pit if you don’t want to get hit” body-check (which isn’t cool to begin with); she was targeted and then punched.

The second instance was barely over a week later at Pop’s for Architects and Thy Art Is Murder. While taking a breather from the madness, I saw a woman who couldn’t have been taller than 5’2″ throwing down in the pit. Although she certainly held her own, she was inevitably body-checked by someone much larger and was sent hurtling into our second perpetrator. He responded to this perceived infraction by shoving the woman full force across the pit, causing her to fall backwards and bounce her head on the concrete floor. She got up after a second, went to confront him over it and the same thing happened again: he shoved her, she went flying, and her head bounced off the concrete. I saw the entire sequence unfold and I snapped. Before I knew what I was even doing, I was charging him and swinging. I only managed to get a few good hits in before I was pulled off. Security didn’t seem particularly interested in doing anything about it even after the fact, and neither did anyone else at the show. The image of that woman’s head hitting the concrete is seared into my brain like a cattle brand and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget it.

But seeing as I can’t fight my way through every piece of shit in St. Louis forever, I’ve picked up the pen and put down the sword. I am calling out to all of my fellow metalheads to put a stop to this kind of behavior, because it isn’t just a few women at shows that this kind of thing happens to. Every single woman who has ever been important in my life has been either raped, sexually assaulted or beaten. Every. Single. One. Our personal connections shouldn’t be the only ones that matter when it comes to these issues, though, as it’s not just the women in my life: it’s the women in yours, too. If it hasn’t happened yet, then chances are it will at some point in their lives.

In the moment I charged the guy during Thy Art is Murder’s set, there was more going through my head than the woman he pushed. I thought of the time my step-dad pointed a gun at my mom and joked about killing her. And the time my sister was assaulted. And the time I watched a woman nearly get choked to death in a parking lot by her boyfriend. I thought about every single woman who has been abused and dehumanized.

And that’s where you all come in. We’re all a bunch of degenerate metalheads, so I’m not going to try and pander to you all under a sense of justice and righteousness. But I am going to tell you that shit like this is the reason that metal is such a God damn sausage fest. It’s the reason that women don’t come to your shows, and it’s the reason that they tend to take one look at most metalheads and think, “Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a piece of crap.” Of course we know that generally isn’t true, but it only takes a few shitty potatoes to ruin a bottle of vodka, and just a few bad bottles can ruin a brand. I need you to know that YOU can be the help. It only takes one person to make a difference, and nowadays complacency is just as bad as perpetration.

The solution to this problem is no doubt complex, but there’s a simple place to start. As I said, it isn’t practical to fight through every abuser in the scene. The first step is to identify these pieces of garbage and to ostracize them. Although a heavy beating might feel good in the moment, all it will do is perpetuate the cycle of violence and that cycle needs to be broken. That’s why I decided to speak out. Labeling someone as a deviant from our social circle has a lot more power than a trip to the hospital does. Bruises might heal, but once someone’s reputation is tarnished that can be impossible to repair. The most important thing we can do is speak out and create an environment to talk about abuse so we can stop it from happening. Because if we don’t talk about it, then IT. WILL. KEEP. HAPPENING.

I don’t know a single metalhead who responds well to authority or oppression, and women’s rights are being sidelined more and more every passing day. In Missouri, a woman doesn’t even have the right to control her own uterus anymore and we’re not the only state taking such a drastic leap backwards in time. We as a country have collectively let a bunch of dried up scrotums wearing suits and ties dictate what people can do with their bodies. If rebelling against the status quo in defense of those whose voice is regularly stomped and squashed out isn’t the most metal shit ever, then I don’t fucking know what is.

My blood has boiled at the thought of feeling helpless for the people I care about for a long, long time. If I can get over the primal urge to try and just pummel what hurts the things I care about into a pulp, then I know that the rest of you can do this too. Don’t be afraid to help and don’t be afraid to speak out. The more of these people that are identified, the more afraid abusers will become. One of the strongest weapons abusers have is being able to silence their victims in a society that is just too complacent to help, and we can take that away from them.

So don’t stand there and say nothing. If you see something, then do something: make damn sure that every single person who knows the abuser, be it family, friends, employer, or anyone else, knows their true character and that they are held accountable for their actions.

We don’t need to make more violence the punishment for abuse. Because as a whole, the metal community can make it something much, much worse.

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