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Does metal have a sexism problem?

We speak to some of the most prominent industry figures and musicians in heavy music to find out whether it’s difficult for women to break through

Gloria Cavalera is one of the most high-profile women in metal’s history. As manager of Sepultura in the early 90s, she oversaw their transition from a little-known Brazilian band to charting-beating global successes. Yet her achievements have been diminished in the eyes of men who blame her for Max leaving in 1996, fracturing their favourite band, and she has faced a torrent of misogyny and hatemail.

“I’ve had my fair share of death threats over something that I never even did. I learnt to take that and become stronger,” she says. Just six months ago, a guy sent me a message saying he’s gonna shit on my grave because so-and-so told him what I did in Sepultura. It’s like, what did I do? Sharon Osbourne told me, ‘You are guilty.’ I was like, ‘What for?’ And she goes: ‘Their success.’”

Rock and metal have long been male-dominated. On Hammer’s own Facebook page, 25% of Likes are from women and 75% are from men. Of the 17 bands announced for Bloodstock’s Main Stage, Nightwish is the only one with a female member. In the music industry in general, a survey published by the UK Music Diversity Taskforce last January showed that, between the ages of 25-34, women account for 54% of the workforce – but only 33% between ages 45-64. Since the Weinstein scandal broke in October, exposing a gender power imbalance in Hollywood, the entertainment industry as a whole has come under increased pressure to put its house in order. So does heavy music have a problem with sexism, and is it affecting women’s careers?

“Women take a lot of crap,” says Gloria. “This whole #metoo thing, do they think it just started? That has gone on since the pictures of the cavemen pulling girls by their hair. Women have always been pushed to the back. I personally think it’s still difficult for women in the industry today, because there’s not a lot of them, even in bands.”

Like Gloria, Wendy Dio is a veteran of the music industry, and started out as a manager 35 years ago. She had been working at Decca Records, for booking agencies, and for attorneys in the music business before she got into management and looked after the career of her husband, Ronnie James Dio. “I came from a music background before I met Ronnie – in fact, that’s why I met Ronnie,” she explains. “But you know, people don’t think about that. They go, ‘Oh, it’s just his wife, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.’”


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