In her article “Digging the Music: Proud Pariahs,” Weinstein discusses the subculture of metal, particularly its white, working class, male ethos. I challenge many of the assertions she makes in regards to gender disparity and identity within the scene, as I find her to reduce the gender dynamics to overly simplified binaries. On page 104, she says that males are, “at a minimum, ambivalent regarding women, seeking to escape from maternal and other forms of female authority and fearful of being viewed as ‘mama’s boys,’ and yet attracted to women sexually.” This description of male-female relationships essentializes them into two categories – mother and partner, a categorization that does not take into account the myriad of complexities that go into interactions between sexes. Though she later discusses some female metalheads who achieve some level of subcultural capital (by performing masculinity), there is a resounding binary in her argument about gendered relationships – men either hate women or want them. This binary takes credibility from her research, as it feels like it reduces metalheads into restricting archetypes of masculinity, which may often be true but nonetheless lack necessary nuance.
This lack of nuance is also evidenced by her general oversight of the inherent femininity in many of the cultural signifiers in the metal scene. Weinstein traces the genealogy of metal to hippie, punk, and biker culture. In her discussion of metal music itself, she highlights its expressivity, specifically referencing the wailing, crying qualities of many guitar solos, as well as the expected emotionality of lead vocalists. These vulnerable qualities of the music seem at odds with the identity of the scene, which Weinstein asserts is overwhelmingly masculine. Furthermore, her extensive discussion of the long hair as central to metal style never once calls into question long hair as a traditionally female aesthetic. Though their long hair is arguably descended from hippie culture, not from feminine style, long hair has implicit societal connotations, namely feminine ones. She says that metalheads take pride in the “stigma of long hair” (133), likely referring to its stigma of disheveled rebellion. Again, she forgets to discuss the role of long hair in establishing the feminine identity, one that metalheads would probably be less proud of.
Though I agree with many of Weinstein’s arguments and cannot deny the inherent masculinity in the metal scene, I think she overly simplifies its gender dynamics. Her reductions make her article feel very flat, and leave the reader with the sense that they haven’t actually learned about real, nuanced people.