‘What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life And Liberation In Heavy Metal’

By on 19 March 2013

WAYDH-front-jacket1-e1363057047296‘What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life And Liberation In Heavy Metal’



With the aptly-titled ‘What Are You Doing Here?’, Laina Dawes, a Canadian music journalist and broadcaster, explores race and gender issues in the metal, hardcore and punk scenes; scenes that have always traditionally been meant to engender equality and tolerance but are undeniably dominated by white males and sometimes end up as little microcosms of society, complete with all its many unfortunate ‘isms’.

As such, the book may make uncomfortable reading for some of us, but Laina doesn’t spew forth a diatribe of reactionary propaganda; rather she carefully illustrates her case with personal examples, many of them subtle tales of alienation and paranoia, memories of finding herself confused and alone at a show, ostracised by suspicion and elitism, instead of accepted and having fun. And it’s a wake-up call to consider such a fundamental undermining of your musical callings when you’ve never had to experience anything like it yourself.

Laina grew up in Ontario, and was adopted at the age of six months by a white family, and she relates how much of the persecution towards her for loving metal music came from the black community, who felt she was betraying her racial roots by not favouring reggae and blues. She also reveals how on the rare occasion when there was another black female in the audience at a show, instead of becoming instant allies in the face of adversity as one might expect would happen, with them having more in common than not, any chances of making a new friend were ruined by mistrust of motives and misguided snobbery over dress and behaviour. So, not only racism and sexism, but rejection and competition too.

It’s not a long book, and it’s not lavishly illustrated, but it is well-presented, and Laina illustrates her points convincingly, calling upon the likes of Skin from Skunk Anansie, who wrote the foreword, and Alexis Brown of Straight Line Stitch, Yvonne Ducksworth of Jingo De Lunch, Ashley Greenwood of Rise From Ashes, Diamond Rowe from Tetrarch, and Militia Vox of Swear On Your Life and Judas Priestess, who all candidly contribute their thoughts and recount their experiences. The result is an intriguing reminder of how much we all want, need and deserve to belong to something that stimulates and validates us.



About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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