Ladies to the fucking front!
KING WOMAN’s Kristina Esfandiari Stands up for Women in Metal

I just read SF Weekly’s interview with Kristina Esfandiari, singer for King Woman, a band I was immediately in love with after hearing their Flenser Records debut EP Doubt. Even the name “King Woman” spoke to me as a statement of power and equality for women in metal, and in general. And the band’s name is not just a misnomer; its members are making a point of crowning women as kings, and not as the king’s consort or lesser half. This is clear from Esfandiari’s recent tweets and her awesome and uplifting interview with SF Weekly.

 

 

Before I get into what she said, I want to talk a bit about my own experience. As a woman who is a part of the metal community – as a woman with a voice in the metal community – I can tell you first hand that despite my love and support for this community and musical expression, it’s by no means a place of equality for me. There is a pervasive atmosphere of maleness in the music, the social media sphere and at shows, which I can enjoy on some levels, but I also feel its suppression on others. I can’t tell you how many times I have met a guy whose music we’ve covered on the site who’s given me no more than a polite hi and handshake, before turning to my husband and CVLT Nation co-founder Sean to thank him for the coverage and talk to him about music. As if Sean is the only one who works on this site, the one guy who pulls the strings, and who in general is the CEO and master of all things CVLT Nation – whereas I’m his wife, just tagging along to see a band he’s into. It’s pretty ridiculous when you consider that I read and edit every post on this sight, I listen to every stream, and I even built the fucking thing. I usually brush it off and move on, because you know what? I’ve been a woman in a male dominated industry/society/world for so long that I hardly bother to take offence when it happens. I try to focus on the positive interactions I have, the women and men who look me in the eye, are interested in me and who acknowledge what I do. Sean is equally annoyed when he feels like I’m not getting the same level of respect he is, and he goes out of his way to tell people how much I do, sometimes in vain. It’s a sad reality that I can spend hundreds of hours working on something I’m so passionate about and invested in, and have that work go completely unnoticed by so many people who feel its impact. And there are so many other publications, labels, PR companies, promoters and bands out there that are run by women, or where women make a significant contribution to their running, and yet these women are often unacknowledged or ignored in public.

 

Photo @nickdinatale
Photo: Nick Di Natale

 

While I am more of a behind the scenes contributor, Esfandiari is on the front lines of metal, up on stage or in the pit. She wants to encourage women to feel that at one of her shows, they are her target audience. “Ladies to the fucking front PLEASE” was one of her most recent tweets, and by saying this she’s telling us female metal fans that our expression is wanted and needed at a show. The pit is mainly the domain of men; go to any show and you’ll see mostly guys with the occasional woman or two, whom I always watch with admiration and respect for braving the testosterone cyclone they’re in. Esfandiari acknowledges that while there are guys who will welcome a woman in the pit, there are also many who make it clear that she shouldn’t be there: “I remember guys making fun of girls for moshing/dancing [and] intentionally hitting them to “teach them a lesson.”” I had a couple of nasty  experiences as a teenager that made me shy away from the pit at shows. At one larger show I went to, a guy behind me took advantage of the crush of people to fondle my ass and stick his hand between my legs. When I tried to turn around to knock his fucking lights out, he pushed away through the crowd and disappeared, and I’m willing to bet went on to do that to more girls that night. At another show, I crowd surfed for my first time. It was exhilarating; until my vagina was purposely groped. Saw the hand, didn’t see the guy’s face, and I never crowd surfed again. It’s sad looking back on young me being so shocked that my fun time was ruined in such a derogatory way.

 

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Esfandiari talks about their recent Oakland show on January 22nd, 2016, where she was hit in the face by a guy in the audience as she was performing on the floor in front of the stage. “Someone almost knocked my front teeth out,” she said. “I started to feel like people were intentionally trying to hit me. My friend Kyle was trying to block people from hitting me while I was singing.” Now, I’ve been to a lot of shows where there’s been a violent pit, and I’ve seen some altercations between the audience and a front man. But to be honest, I haven’t been at one, no mater how heated it got, where it looked like the audience was trying to hit him. But I’m not surprised that there are guys out there (and maybe in the comments section below) who feel like women should be intimidated out of that space. I’ve met them, and I’ve read their cowardly words. The fact that those guys are at a King Woman show and can’t even show a modicum of respect for the people sharing their music with them may not be shocking, but it is fucking despicable. We do need more women up front to calm them the fuck down, to show them that this space is for women as well. Esfandiari reacts with the following statement:

“I do want to encourage women to come to the front. I don’t want women to feel self-conscious. Essentially what I’m saying is: I see an imbalance at shows between comfort levels as far as expression goes. I don’t want that facilitated at King Woman shows. I am not saying that men can’t express themselves at King Woman shows. I am saying have respect. Don’t try to dominate a space where male domination is absolutely not what’s up. That’s idiotic. I want King Woman shows to be a place where women know they can be completely safe and free, where they can have room to let out their anger, pain, frustrations, whatever it may be.”

Luckily, the number of women in metal is growing, and women’s presence at shows in the audience and on the stage is much more normal and accepted than it used to be. When I’ve heard the scornful refrain about “back in the day when there were no girls at shows,” it just makes me laugh at the guy who says it, because personally I’m happy that women are a more prominent part of the community today, even if some guys feel uncomfortable with it. Esfandiari addresses the potential backlash against her encouraging women to express themselves at her shows, and at shows in general: “Insecure men will be scared, as they should be. They will see it as a threat. Everyone else will be respectful towards what I do because they understand that it is positive and powerful.” In my experience, there are many men in this community who do see women as a positive and powerful force in underground heavy music. You all just need to help us deal with the ones who don’t.

 

king woman
Photo: Mary Manning

 

Women often keep quiet in the public realm about their political beliefs, especially if they are feminist ones. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I hung out with some of the women I’ve met and befriended at shows and we had some really awesome discussions about issues that affect us as women. When we’re all out with our boyfriends, husbands or the dudes, there’s an unspoken sense that these topics aren’t welcome. It was nice to know that while we maybe didn’t feel comfortable bringing them up at a show, we share the same view that women need to be empowered and claim our space in the world. At shows, we quietly give each other props for being there in the audience or on the stage. Maybe we need to be louder about it.

I have two young daughters who were at metal and punk shows while they were still in the womb. This music is their birthright, should they accept it (and I really, really hope they do). The idea that women who have literally been raised with heavy music would be made to feel intimidated, ignored or unappreciated in the community they’ve felt at home in from birth seems ludicrous. And hopefully, by the time they’re old enough to go to shows on their own, it will be a phenomenon of the past. With women like Esfandiari to look up to, among the many other women whose music my girls love, and parents who encourage them to claim their public space, there’s a good chance it will be.

Read the full interview with Kristina Esfandiari HERE.

See King Woman w/ CHRCH on a west coast tour in March 2016:

 

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Banner photo: @nickdinatale

 

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The Author

Meghan

Meghan

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing alongside her husband Sean.

10 Comments

  1. Malene
    February 26, 2016 at 8:11 am — Reply

    Check out my band Lewd flesh.. I think you would like it..

  2. daisuke
    February 26, 2016 at 2:14 am — Reply

    so no fun at King Woman shows. gottit.

  3. February 25, 2016 at 6:17 pm — Reply

    Men should be happy, not scared. Women in bands attracts more women to shows. That is a fact. Women tend to be more loyal and supportive fans as well.

    • February 26, 2016 at 10:38 pm — Reply

      “Women tend to be more loyal and supportive fans as well”? How do you mean?

    • February 26, 2016 at 11:17 pm — Reply

      They come to all the shows and buy merch.

  4. February 25, 2016 at 6:14 pm — Reply

    Why do we have to characterize women by their sex appeal?

  5. February 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm — Reply

    Personally, I must say, women screaming on stage are the most sexiest thing I have ever seen.

  6. February 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm — Reply

    Katy Racines

    • February 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm — Reply

      Awesome article. Thanks for tagging me bubby

  7. February 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm — Reply

    Misty Lea Crowe

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