For many women, metal is our home – so why don’t we feel safe at gigs?

During Deafheaven’s performance, I floated away. I experienced beauty and chaos in the same moment. I shouldn’t have to fight off sexual aggressors at the same time

George Clarke of Deafheaven performs at Bonnaroo in 2014. ‘Metal gigs offer us all the chance to release our aggression in a healthy way. But only with respect is this accomplished.’ Photograph: Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty Images

I consider metal my home in a way that no physical home can compete with. It soothes my pain, it elates me.

I once had an argument with my former partner, the kind that resulted in so much hollowness I could no longer feel or reason. I crawled under our bed and listened to Lamb of God’s Black Label. When performed live, crowds typically respond to this song by parting down the middle, then charging headlong into one another (it’s called a “wall of death”). It had the effect of calming me, as a cup of tea might; it reminded me that I was still myself and still alive.

So it’s curious, I suppose, that I have often felt uneasy at metal gigs, or mingling in the community to which I ostensibly belong. To understand why, one would only need to have attended the Deafheaven concert at the Corner Hotel inMelbourne last Friday night.

Supporting the US post-metal legends were the local band High Tension, fronted by Indonesian-born Karina Utomo. During the latter’s set, near the front of the stage where the crowd was fairly serene (that is, barely headbanging), a fight broke out between a man and a woman. For a moment one might have been forgiven for thinking that the two were just extremely keen to start a mosh. But the tension was palpably otherwise.

We, the crowd surrounding them, backed away as they tackled each other. She hit him in the head and yelled: “If you ever touch me!,” before dragging him from the venue. Yes, everyone cheered. But there was nothing to celebrate.

The woman told me after the set that he had, out of nowhere, caressed her hips and ribs and she had thought: “I’m not at a High Tension show and putting up with this.” I gathered that she meant that she would not be in the audience of a female metal artist, Utomo – who growls, spits and otherwise embodies our most unrestrained selves – and at the same time tolerate sexual harassment. Fair enough. But not all women would defend their bodies by taking violent action. None should have to.

You can read the rest of this article at the Guardian

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