Author(s): Laina Dawes, with a forward by Skin of Skunk Anansie

Laina Dawes was born black and adopted into a white family at the age of six months, so she has some sense of dislocation going back very nearly to her beginning. As a black woman who digs metal and isn’t afraid to say so, though, she’s devoted her adult life to examining gaps, incongruities, and disconnects in fandom culture. Her book’s title derives from a stock phrase she gets at metal shows. Some of the black women she’s found, in America, Canada, and elsewhere, hear much the same thing. If they’re not hearing much uglier things.

Dawes divides her book between her personal experiences and her scholarly wisdom. The former unsurprisingly pack a cruching punch; it’s tough not to wince at some idiot throwing the n-word around at a show. But she wants to talk about the ignorance of, and disrespect to, black females in metal, whether fans or musicians (and if you think metal doesn’t have (m)any of the latter, you’re in for an ear-opener). She wants to talk about the sexism encoded inside metal fandom, not to mention the racism.

She wants to talk about the reduction of women, black or not-black, into sex objects. She wants to talk about how certain performers (Betty Davis, for example—no relation to Bette Davis) had the power to transcend sex-object status. And she wants to talk about how Obama’s election may be, ironically, pushing blacks and whites further apart. The great music critic and social commentator Greil Marcus remarked to a Seattle audience that “America did not become any less racist when
Obama was elected.” And he’s right, although raise your hand if you held out some hope that America would. (Raising hand.)

And if that weren’t enough, as a Canadian, she’s well-situated to examine underlying racial attitudes between her country and the US of A. Her book’s important, but don’t worry, it’s also fairly easy to read, entertaining, even humorous in spots. She wants people to start talking, so she talks in a language most people can understand. Actually, people are already talking, online and elsewhere. But I exhort you to pick up the book and walk into the exchange.