Stockholm-based Music journalist and editor Sofia Juvel runs the international feminist community, Dear Darkness, together with metal critic Frida Calderon and Klara Persson, member of the punk rock band Twin Pigs and former bass player in Besserbitch. Their goal is to empower and create a space for women in the hard rock and metal scenes.
Sergio Lopez: What is your mission as a community? What do you stand against/for?
Sofia Juvel: We strive to break outdated social norms and question the patriarchal structure that still characterises the heavy music industry.
SL: How would you describe the power dynamics that permeate the metal scene at the moment?
SJ: The whole scene struggles with the myth: “there are no women.” Labels, blogs, magazines, and promoters are using this as an excuse to exclude women from the stage, editorial space and the public conversation. The important roles in the rock and metal music business are dominated by men and the terms are also set by men. Women still need to explain more about being a woman than being a musician; online, there are unacceptable levels of sexism, hate, and harassment against female musicians that somehow pass the filters of editors.
SL: Is there any anxiety around feminism within the metal scene, of the kind we’ve seen recently in the larger society?
SJ: As we have experienced, there is a lot of anxiety from men in “important positions” in the metal scene: editors, journalists and many of the bands as well. There is not much outspoken resistance, and the issue is that they refuse to take responsibility for the sexist climate they are a part of. Even though some of them support an equal scene and want more women on stage, they seldom speak up, for fear of conflict with fans, followers, and so on.
SL: Yours is a kind of meta-movement, a community placed above, sort of looking in. Do you see feminist trends in the world of hard rock and heavy metal, at the level of creative output?
SJ: Even if it moves slowly, there is an increasing number of women willing to push through and share some different perspectives. I wouldn’t call it a trend, though. Compared to other genres, the culture around hard rock and heavy metal hasn’t been significantly affected by the “feminist waves” that hit our societies.
SL: Are there any differences between the European and (North) American metal scenes, when it comes to feminism?
SJ: There are more local differences between countries, rather than between Europe and the US. Sweden and Denmark are totally different, for example, and so are the South and East of Europe. I notice that it is common to refer to a band with women musicians as an “all-female band” in the US, and “female fronted” in some countries, but in Sweden we normally don’t say “tjejband” (girl band) we just say “band.”
On the other hand, the Swedish metal community evolved over time to become progressive in thought, but not in action. We have political movements and initiatives to encourage young women to play and make music, and a climate of public debate where promotors and festivals are questioned when having all-male line-ups, but we are still far from acknowledging the inequality problem in the scene. It’s a “I hear what you say, but I’m not listening” scenario. The anxiety and fear of losing power by speaking up for a feminist scene is also incredibly disturbing.
SL: What would you say are the main barriers for female performers in the metal world?
SJ: We have a huge problem with the way female musicians are treated by men at venues, by sound engineers, by promotors, and by editors and journalists that see gender and ignore the musician. Sexism is also a big issue online, especially on Facebook, where a lot of content is not properly filtered. And, incredibly, we still find material such as ” the hottest chicks in metal.”