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Heavy Metal’s Gender Trends Research Paper


Heavy metal is a type of rock music, which emerged in the UK and the USA in the mid 20th century (Marino, 2013). From then on, the genre’s songwriters, singers, and scholars have been looking for new ways to popularize and add value to folk music to attract a wide range of audience. An augmented distortion, extended guitar solos, vigorous beats, and loudness categorize heavy metal.

The genre’s lyrics, artwork, verbal communication, physical actions, and dress code promote masculinity and degrade women (West & Lay, 2000). Music experts assert that heavy metal is one of the most masculine genres of music that has ever been made (Marino, 2013). As such, hegemonic masculinity is very widespread in the genre’s culture.

Several studies have indicated that many heavy metal concerts are composed of male performers and audiences (West & Lay, 2000). Females comprise a small minority. Female performers and audience have to conform to masculine scripts and performances. Heavy metal’s female audiences are usually dressed in masculine attire. Researchers have noted that the genre has become very popular around the world despite its negative attributes.

Among the youths, the genre is attractive owing to its unique and violent culture (Marino, 2013). Several studies suggest that heavy metal culture promotes masculine identities and disregards feminine identities (West & Lay, 2000). In this research paper, an analysis of the relation of heavy metal and masculinity, power relations, misogyny within the culture, and the degradation of feminine attitudes in the genre is provided.


Heavy metal music can be traced back to the UK and the US (Marino, 2013). The growth and popularity of heavy metal music songs during the mid 20th century is attributed to the ambitions of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Judaist Priest, and the Black Sabbath. The bands helped to popularize and break new grounds to intimate acoustic performance associated with Blues music in contemporary society.

Influenced by blues-rock and psychedelic rock, the singers and songwriters that initiated this type of music came up with massive sound music depicted by augmented distortion, extended guitar solos, vigorous beats, and intensity (West & Lay, 2000). Ever since its development, heavy metal lyrics have been linked to masculinity and violence. Heavy metal’s unique sound is represented in the genre’s name.

It is depicted by the use of simple and elementary harmonies and melodies, reiteration of simple chords, and short progressions. Loudness is a mark of proficiency, while the roaring sounds of concerts offer the audience the power to respond with physical and emotional vitality.

Heavy metal’s performers are mostly youthful white males (West & Lay, 2000). Their unique performances represent it as a violent heterosexist’s formation. The genre’s lyrics, artwork, verbal communication, physical actions, and dress code enhance hegemonic masculinity and degrade women.

Several imageries used in heavy metal resonate with male’s power (West & Lay, 2000). Women artists who have ventured into this genre are often marginalized. Because of this, very few of them manage to penetrate the scene. Even so, women artists who are successful in heavy metal have to conform to masculine scripts.

Literature review

Several literature reviews have been documented on gender trends in heavy metal music. Ten literature reviews were utilized in the research. Their reliability had to be checked to ensure that they were scholarly. Evaluating the reliability of these sources involved several processes, and one of them was to look at whether the article or source is peer reviewed or not.

In Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, the author illustrates an extensive analysis of heavy metal music (Wong, 1998). Through this, he portrays how gender has been perceived in the genre.

He points out that heavy metal has received heavy criticism from parents, academicians, and politicians for being a male-gendered genre. Despite the criticisms, the author notes that the genre has attracted millions of audience around the world. In his studies, Wong investigates how the genre has been successful both musically and socially.

Sexing the Groove focuses on heavy metal masculinity (Whiteley, 1997). In the literature, the author notes that no other genre of music has received strong reactions as the heavy metal does. The author asserts that the genre is celebrated by millions of fans around the world because of its masculinity. Sheila Whiteley notes that heavy metal has been accused of its gender prejudice, hostility, and corrupting the youths.

As such, Whiteley points out that heavy metal’s criticisms are founded on the misunderstanding of its culture. Throughout her investigations, Whiteley analyses explain and defend the genre. By doing so, she sheds more light into the genre’s masculinity, myths, dress codes, and its lyrics.

In Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music, Andrew Cope investigates the contagious issues such as gender associated with the heavy metal (Cope, 2010).

Cope traces the origin of heavy metal in Birmingham during the late 1960s. He notes how heavy metal and hard rock were integrated during their inception. Similarly, the author offers several case studies on some bands such as the Black Sabbath that have perpetuated a male-dominated culture in heavy metal.

Subverting Masculinity: Hegemonic and Alternative Versions of Masculinity in Contemporary Culture focuses on the connection between heavy metal and gender (West & Lay, 2000). In the literature, Russell West and Frank Lay illustrate the masculine features of science fiction within how heavy metal.

The authors assert that the genre celebrates the worship of the heroes, technology, power, and destructions. The authors link these features to masculinity. Like other researchers, West and Lay affirm that female performers in the genre are forced to conform to the existing masculine scripts and performances.

Gender, Place & Culture focuses on gender and power in a heavy metal music subculture (McKay, 2010). In the literature, the author investigates the romantic conviction associated with the genre’s support of conservative gender relations and identities.

Similarly, the authors focus on women who have found reprieve through the genre of music. The author notes that the genre has enabled several women to evade the cruel and shallow description of the female identity.

The Passion and Politics of a Subculture note that death metal is one of the most masculine of all the subgenres of heavy metal (Purcell, 2003). The author links depictions of power and violence to masculinity and asserts that they are very vital in representing the heavy metal’s image. In the article, the author highlights all the gender stereotypes associated with the subgenre.

They are running with the Devil highlights on the misogynistic thoughts of individuals linked to heavy metal music (Walser, 1993). The author utilizes interviews of fans that had assembled in a heavy metal concert. In his findings, the author acknowledges that males dominate heavy metal music.

He asserts that femininity is looked down upon on the genre’s concerts. Similarly, the author notes that in some newer heavy metal genres, male performers have embraced feminists’ thoughts to attract attention. The author notes that despite the challenges experienced by the female performers in the genre, more females are now breaking into the scene, unlike in the past.

Metal Rules the Globe notes that to institute feminist poststructuralist concepts in heavy metal, researchers should carry out investigations on the nature of the genre to identify its shifting positions (Marino, 2013). In his investigations, the author adopts the hypothetical perspective and integrates it with Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity. Through this, he manages to investigate the practices, perceptions, and values of heavy metal male performers.

Hard and Heavy: Gender and Power in a Heavy Metal focus on the relationship between gender and power in heavy metal music (Krenske & McKay, 2000).

Krenske studies the allegations associated with the genre’s support of masculinity. Similarly, Krenske focuses on case studies on women who have been successful in the genre. Krenske notes that by engaging themselves in heavy metal music, some women have found a way of breaking away from the feminine stereotypes associated with the genre.

In other literature, the author notes that heavy metal has attracted heated debates around the world (Hjelm & Kahn-Harris, 2012). Kahn-Harris notes that heavy metal has become very popular among the youths owing to its culture. Like other scholars, Kahn-Harris suggests that heavy metal culture promotes masculine identities and disregards feminine identities.


Cope, A. L. (2010). Black Sabbath and the rise of heavy metal music. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Hjelm, T. & Kahn-Harris, K. (2012). Heavy metal as controversy and counterculture. Popular Music History, 6(1), 56-65.

Krenske, L. & McKay, J. (2000). Hard And Heavy: Gender And Power In A Heavy Metal Music Subculture. Gender, Place & Culture, 7(3), 287-304.

Marino, M. P. (2013). Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music around the World. Popular Music and Society, 37(1), 106-108.

McKay, J. (2010). Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 7(3), 287-304.

Purcell, N. (2003). The Passion and Politics of a Subculture: Death Metal. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 17(1), 175-189.

Walser, R. (1993). Running with the Devil power, gender, and madness in heavy metal music.. Journal of the American Musicological Society, 51(1), 148-158.

West, R. & Lay, F. (2000). Subverting masculinity: hegemonic and alternative versions of masculinity in contemporary culture. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Whiteley, S. (1997). Sexing the groove: popular music and gender. London: Routledge.

Wong, D. (1998). Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

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