The 'What Are You Doing Here?' Book Should Be a Fascinating and Unique Take on Race and Gender in Metal

Let me ask you a question. How many women do you know who truly like metal music and be knowledgeable about it like men? I’m directing this question to the everyday people not involved in a band or anything. I’m willing to bet the number is pretty small. Now let’s take the question one step further. How many black women do you know that truly like metal and are passionate and knowledgeable about it? I bet the number is even smaller and may even be zero. I’m asking this because as an atypical white metalhead I sometimes get so immersed in the music that I don’t pay attention to the demographics around me. But occasionally something comes across as an eye-opener much like the upcoming book ‘What Are You Doing Here?’ by Laina Dawes. You see Laina is an avid metal fan of some 25 years and she is also black. As I’m reading the press release for this book I’m struck with the realization that I know of no black women in my personal life that enjoy the music or if they do won’t admit it.

I look back on the decades and remember Doro Pesch and Lita Ford being anomalies for being women in a predominately metal world. I remember Living Color being an anomaly for being an all black band playing heavier music. I also remember seeing the press releases for Straight Line Stitch and thinking, “Oh female fronted and she’s black. That’s cool.” But it never occurred to me how rare that is on the surface for it to have a woman and black. Race nor gender should ever matter when it comes to things like this but what is fascinating is why there is such a disproportionate ratio when it comes to music, not just in metal but other genres like country, or the reverse when it comes to rap. It’s gotten better obviously over time but the balance is still way off when it comes to gender and race. So when ‘What Are You Doing Here?’ hits bookshelves and amazon in the Fall of this year I just might have to pick it up. After the jump is the press quote from Laina herself.

Says Dawes:

“I’ll be the first to admit that, like any other book, What Are You Doing Here? is partly self-serving. I wanted to find other black women like me: metal, hardcore, and punk fans and musicians that were rabid about the music and culture and adamant about asserting their rightful place as black women within those scenes. I wanted to find other women who put aside the cultural baggage that dictates that we must listen to certain musical styles, and simply enjoy the music that influenced us, not just as black women, but as individuals who grew up in an era when, thanks to technology, a large variety of music is accessible and available to everyone. I found many black women and have shared their stories, but I also realize there is still a lot of work to be done.”

I really want to read these stories and some of these perspectives and hope you do to. Maybe this will be the spark that brings even more of a balance to genres of music that are already more then a bit more accepting then they used to be.

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One response to “The 'What Are You Doing Here?' Book Should Be a Fascinating and Unique Take on Race and Gender in Metal

  1. Sounds pretty interesting. I don’t think any true metalhead cares what the sex or ethnic background of the musician is as long as it is good the listener’s ear. We’re a Family–fucked up, dysfunctional, drunk, stoned, loud, obnoxious, too quite and everything else all rolled up into one bitchin’ package.

    Long live My Metal Family. m/

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