Interview with Rita van Poorten (chief-editor Metal Maidens 'zine) for exam in Music Culture Studies: Women in Rock and Authenticity - Women in Heavy Metal [June 2008]

by: Peter Ellermann (musicology student at Aarhus University in Denmark)

About the start of Metal Maidens:

1a)You’ve said in a previous interview, that you started Metal Maidens because you were sick and tired of seeing women ignored in other heavy metal sources. Could you tell me some more of your thoughts about the relationship between the traditional world of heavy metal, and the women performers, as it was BEFORE you created Metal Maidens?
**There were not so many female musicians, who played in heavy metal bands, before we started Metal Maidens. And those, who were already around, didn’t really get the attention that they needed. They were simply ignored and could only exist in the underground scene. In the past few years, a lot more female (fronted) bands appeared and they are almost as successful as their male competitors.

1b)Is there a particular incident, which made you decide that you wanted to create Metal Maidens?
**As we mentioned already, female musicians and female fronted bands were simply ignored by all the magazines, radio or television. Mind you, there was no internet and people couldn’t find out about all these great rock and metal bands any other way. So we decided that this had to change. We wanted to give these bands an opportunity to profile themselves to a bigger audience. And so we started a magazine called Metal Maidens, back in 1995.

Audience, readers, and attitudes toward MM:

2)Who would typically read Metal Maidens?
**Any hard rock or heavy metal fan. You don’t really have to be a fan of female musicians as a matter of fact, but it helps if you are one. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or a female, young or old. As long as you are interested in reading about female musicians, Metal Maidens is a good source to know what’s going on in the scene.

3)Have you experienced people who are more willing to buy or read your magazine, because it’s solely about women? What sex? Please describe.
**No, not really. Our magazine is all about the music and I think, it will appeal to those, who are looking for more information about female musicians in rock and (heavy) metal.

4)Would you consider MM a Feminist magazine?
**No, definitely not. 5)Please comment on the following quotes:
a)“Women don’t belong in Heavy Metal!”
**Bullshit! Heavy metal is for everybody. Otherwise we couldn’t have printed forty issues of fifty pages with female metal, could we? And we’re still publishing all the news of the lady rockers as a webzine.

b)“Women are outsiders in Heavy Metal!”
**Not true! There are a lot of women out there with a metal heart. There are people, who try to make you believe that heavy metal is strickly a male thing, but over the years we found out that this is definitely NOT the case.

c)“The fact that there is, or needs to be, a magazine dedicated to female performers, prove that they’re not good enough to be featured in normal Heavy Metal magazines!”
**Not true. It is more a fact, that the average magazine simply avoid all these lady rockers/metallers in the scene. And there are so many cool bands out there. We fill the gap that other magazines leave behind.

d)“The fact that there needs to be a magazine solely about women in Heavy Metal, proves that women don’t belong in the “regular” scene!”
**Not true. It would be discriminating to divide the metal scene into female (or female-fronted) bands and male bands. We also like to listen to Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. What we do want to accomplish is that our readers get informed about all these great female musicians, that no one else writes about.

e)Have you heard such statements, or received comments sent to your magazine? Please describe.
**You hear and read about these statements on a daily base. However, these comments only come from people, who are very short-sighted. These comments were never send to our magazine, because people who out these statements will never be interested in an underground magazine like Metal Maidens. We can live without the discussion, too.

Interviewing styles:

6)Do you think that there is a different attitude towards you from the (female) artists you interview, since they know you’re a magazine dedicated to women? Please describe.
**I don’t think so. Actually, I haven’t really thought about that before.

7)Would you interview a male performer differently than a female?
**Not really. I see a female performer equal to a male performer.

8a)In your interviews, generally you ask a question about “do you feel women performers need special attention from a magazine like Metal Maiden that focus only on women, or do you think you/they get the credit you deserve.” Why do you feel it is necessary to include such a question?
**This question is usually asked in our interviews because of curiousity. To know if there have been any changes in acceptation throughout the years...

8b)What are the most common answers you receive?
**Yes, there is more acceptation, but there’s still a long way to go.

8c)Are there any reasons for why you chose this particular wording, and not for example “how does it feel to be in a genre dominated by men?”
**Simply because we know, that the metal scene is not dominated by men only anymore. Women have fought hard for a place in the metal scene and quite successfull indeed. Just think what this scene would be without women in 2008?

Pictures and symbolism:

9)Throughout the homepage, for example on the first screens picture, and on the “home” screen, you use pictures or drawings of women in aggressive poses, or holding weapons, like swords f.ex. Please tell me about your reasons for doing so.
**The pictures, that I used on the Metal Maidens website, are chosen to present the kind of music we relate to (rock and heavy metal). Some of these pictures are the ‘warrior women’: women that struggle their way to the top and fought for a place in the metal scene.

10)Another type of picture on your webpage is the red rose that you use as background for some of your review sections. The red rose is traditionally seen as a romantic symbol. Please tell me something about why you chose this drawing.
**The red rose, that we used as a background picture for our review section, represents our ‘love’ for music (love=a red rose).

11) What type of setting, or mood, (aggressive, romantic, both or other) would you generally like to present to your readers through your choice of pictures on the webpage, maybe also commenting on f.ex the spiderweb drawing and the full moon?
**See questions 9 and 12.

12)In a lot of Heavy Metal songs by male artists, the female character is shown as a seducer, a temptress, or as someone dominating the male character. In what way, if any, has that influenced your choice of design on the homepage?
**I really didn’t think of it that way. I simply choose these pictures because I like them and I already explained the ‘warrior concept’ in relation to Metal Maidens. Furthermore, I’m heavily fascinated by horror and fantasy movies and ‘the unknown’ in general. Pictures of women doing the dishes wouldn’t be very appropiate, don’t you think so? There is no deeper meaning behind the choice of the pics used.

Heavy Metal and Metal Maidens:

13)Your magazine has been running for a long time. Has there, in your opinion, been any change in the perception of women in heavy metal, from magazines as well as audiences, since you started in 1995? Could you perhaps give an example of such a change?
**We see that there are a lot more women dominating the scene nowadays. Just think about all the gothic metal bands for example. It’s not strange anymore to have a women in your line up. All our hard working has finally been rewarded and the level of acceptance is so much higher right now. But there is still a lot more to be done.

14) Are problems relating to gender different in any of the sub-genres of heavy metal (gothic, death etc.) in your opinion?
**Maybe the level of acceptance is a lot lower in the death metal scene, and you don’t see too many women fronting a hardcore band. When you look very carefully to what’s happening in the underground scene, a change is coming up in these sub genres as well.

15) Finally, let me then ask you, do YOU feel that ladies still need the kind of special attention that your kind of magazine gives them, or do they earn their recognition out of their own merits?
**Maybe they don’t really need our attention anymore, but we’re still glad we can give them some kind of support. Therefor we started Metal Maidens in the first place!