I only ever seem to blog when something is annoying me of late, or there is some sort of issue that I feel needs some light shone on it. The one at the moment is women in the noise scene.
Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in heavy music, be it metal, rock, noise, electronic….basically anything weird that makes a racket. Now, these music scenes do tend to be somewhat male orientated, and that’s fair enough, and something I am happy with in general, but with male orientated music comes a lack of voice from the female side of the fence. When I was in my late teens, my role model was Tairrie B of Manhole/Tura Satana/My Ruin. She’s still amazing now but i admit to not having kept up with her more recent work. In the 90s there seemed to be lots of strong females in heavy music and for female fans, this was a very good thing. They didn’t need to get their tits out or do anything demeaning, and even if they did, there was some strong message behind it….well…except for Courtney Love, but hey!
Moving in to noise music for me was an eye opening experience as it had the dance music element that I enjoyed so much, but with the heavy sound I enjoyed in rock and metal, but again, another scene that was pretty much dominated by men. It was rare to meet other female fans who had gotten in to the music from listening to it and enjoying it, but met a lot of women who were band members girlfriends. With this in mind there were few, if any, female role models. At the time of my getting in to this music, the only role models that came to mind were Hanin Elias and Nic Endo, both of Atari Teenage Riot, but who both had strong solo albums behind them. Since then, there has been few that I could name check. Yes, there are women who perform noise music, but ask me to name them and I would genuinely struggle, and I think this is a problem.
The problem only gets greater with the rise of visual art and creating an onstage persona. A lot of noise music is a lot of men, with laptops, looking like they’re not doing much, so to give some added weight to their onstage presence, they tend to use back drops of video material, and yeah, more often than not (I’m not saying this happens all the time) there is some element of a woman being naked or degraded in some way. I’m sure the woman in the video was happy to perform in such a manner, but it really bothers me that this is the choice they’re given. I’ve been to power electronics performances where women are in a more powerful position on the video representation whilst some angry man is screaming and making noise about what abject cunts they are – power electronics is a strange place and one I am not nearly educated enough to go in to, but yeah, they’re pretty angry!
Recently there has been uproar online about the live set that Ad.Ver.Sary did at this years Kinetik. He responded to being seen as support to two bands who present a lot of wrong doing in the scene (racism, sexism, objectification etc etc), whether they mean to or not, by putting together a video that explained his thoughts.
Naturally there was a lot of retaliation on the matter, but I do agree with ad.ver.sary, although I do applaud Nachtmahr for bothering to discuss the matter and having the women who perform explain things from their experience. To me though, it still doesn’t make things better. Yes, the women may be more than willing to perform in this way, but it still strengthens the idea of women as objects, and whilst a lot of people that are in to heavy music are intelligent people on the whole, there’s always going to be some who aren’t and who will respond to what they hear and see without thinking. Look back at the 90s when Marilyn Manson’s music was blamed as a trigger for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold massacring their classmates. When you put out imagery that belittles another, or speak from a position of some violence or extremity, someone will use that as a scapegoat for terrible behaviour, and as such, responsibility must be taken, not just some excuse of ‘it’s a character I play on stage’.
This sort of thing has strong connections to noisier music and the role women can play in changing things. On Friday night I saw a noise band, can’t remember what they were called, but one of them was a woman. What did the visuals have? Naked women. Was that necessary to the point they were trying to make? I’m going for no. Most of the time the woman was crushing a heart, did she need to be naked whilst doing that? Probably not. It certainly adds a level of intimacy, whether it is required or not, but it disappoints me that a woman in a noise act further uses imagery that objectifies women. It isn’t necessary. There is so much more that can be done to discomfort the audience if that is your intention, or to create an image of power if that’s what you want without belittling some sort of minority. With a little thought and imagination a lot can be achieved. I saw Lustmord at last years Maschinenfest and the mixture of colours and movement in the imagery, and the dark ambient/drone music alongside it made me feel so uneasy, and no one was harmed in the process. When you have a captive audience, you have the opportunity to educate, to turn things around, to be more creative, and I really want to see this happening more, and particularly with female artists – don’t go for the tried and tested, don’t pander to a largely male crowd; get creative, and hopefully you too can inspire change.