I have to wonder where we are in metal today when vanity award categories such as "Hottest Chick" and "Tattooed Goddess" make their way into the culture.
Musically-speaking, metal has evolved triplet beyond anyone's expectations. As one of the most fundamentally-sound and expressive forms of music out there today, metal still finds itself struggling for overt acceptance from mainstream audiences and contemporary music journalists.
Perhaps one of the reasons has to do with jughead popularity votes in crowning the most beautiful women in this scene. One of the key criticisms of metal back in the eighties had to do with misogyny (and androgyny if you're to bring up the glamour boys of the day).
In the eighties, very few women were involved in the scene, much less performing in it. For those ladies who were legitimate metalheads (and I'm not talking about the backstage party girls who kept the upper tier bands happy from night-to-night), they were dismissed by bullheaded cock rockers as "skanks." Looking back upon it, that was grossly unfair, since no idiot in his right mind would ever declare Doro Pesch to be a skank, albeit Wendy O. Williams suffered such a tag in her day. Of course, Williams paraded her sexuality with fearsome bravado while Lita Ford and Vixen gradually did the same, albeit with the benefit of glossy good-time rock at their dolled-up backs. Williams often had a brutal sound (except for the Kiss-ified pop makeover of her W.O.W. album) and only after her death did Williams receive her due as an artist.
Today, it's hardly a shocker that the ladies make up a generous portion of the acts and audience in metal today. They are as literate as their male counterparts, many are prolific artists and women have brought an entirely new dimension to the genre, whether you're talking about a classically trained mezzo-soprano like Epica's Simone Simon or a hellagood six-string crusher like Laura Pleasants of Kylesa. Let's not discount the sexy-tough shredder of Warface, Laura Christine. Seldom few raise eyebrows and hormones like guitar expert Ruys Suyter of Nashville Pussy, a woman as downhome and down-to-earth as they come.
Doro Pesch remains the female figurehead of metal and yes, she's still gorgeous. Simone Simon is breathtakingly beautiful. Tattooed devotchka Maria Brink of In This Moment could be considered metal's answer to Gwen Stefani. Liv Kristine Espaenes Krull of Leaves' Eyes carries an angelic demeanor and backs her appealing facade with a mixture of soothing and powerful operatics. In her own way, Karyn Crisis radiates a sizzling ideal of metal hotness, particularly with those floor-dragging dreads. Then you have the chic choices amongst young male headbangers, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow.
In the end, though, so what?
Are we to judge these ladies for their physical contributions to metal that have nothing to do with musical craft? When we have "Hottest Chicks" awards in this scene, does it not speak of misogyny in itself? At the end of the day, if we're to hold a beauty pageant for metal, then something's gone back to the primitive and not in the way Max Cavalera intended it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a man, I'm hetero and I certainly make no qualms in stating I find Doro Pesch and Simone Simons to be two of the most alluring human beings on the planet. I'm also high on Wata of Boris and Doris Yeh of Chthonic. There's something about Holy Moses' Sabina Classen that rocks on the front as much as her ralphing thrash vocals. Mary Zimmer of Luna Mortis is an attractive young lady from a Goth standpoint, but I got more out of my actual conversation with her.
As a teenager, I held a wild crush on Doro Pesch and admitted it to her the first time I interviewed her. Thankfully, Doro was such a sweetheart about it and granted me even more interviews afterwards. The reason being, I treated her like a musician, not a sex object. I still think Doro's the most heavenly woman in metal, but it also has to do with her professional candor, her powerful vocal aesthetics and her genuine love for her fans. Back to Karyn Crisis, there are seldom few outside of Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke who has challenged me so intellectually in my numerous chats with her--ditto for her ex-bandmates in Crisis.
Okay, so I've picked Jane Seymour two years running as my "Hottest Celeb in Hollywood" recipient in my annual Up to the Minute Awards. You know why? Because she is a lovely, graceful woman who doesn't get caught up by all the flamboyant fashionista wars that frankly turns my stomach. My choice of Seymour is snarky commentary as much as an acknowledgement of generally-unheralded beauty.
So let's hear your take on this, readers. Do "Hottest Chicks" awards have a place in metal?