Otep plays through the misogyny

by Adrienne Urban

Heavy metal has never been known as a very female friendly genre, and this year’s Ozzfest was certainly no exception. Laden with groupie scouting rock stars, and men yelling for girls to take off their shirts, women were offered few escapes from the role of sexual object.

Here at Ozzfest, girls seemed willing to take that role with their bikini tops, Hooter’s shirts and clothing featuring promoter 93X’s mascot (a string bikini clad cartoon girl named Cherry Double D). Performers followed host Reverend B. Dangerous lead, found in statements like “How many guys are planning on getting some pussy tonight? Yeah there’s gonna be some girls busy in the audience tonight. Look at her, her ass is gonna be flailing.”

Linkin Park thanked the girls in the audience for being kind enough to pull their shirts off for them. Girls in the backstage area allowed security guards and performers to name and openly comment on their breasts. In the crowd I watched women pulling up their tops and allowing multiple men to grope them. The second I hit the crowd an onslaught of middle-aged men followed.

But, some performers, like Papa Roach, did manage to throw some sympathy out to the female audience members when lead singer Coby Dick stopped a song midway to tell male audience members to stop groping girls when they were crowd surfing. But, amidst the misogynist language and behavior, came Otep, a female performer who is as well versed in issues facing women in the rock world as she is in heavy metal.

In my interview with Otep, she proved her devotion to promoting a place for women in the music scene, more so than other women in metal bands have in the past.


The Lens: Traditionally there has not been a place for women in the metal genre. How has being a woman affected your reception, and have you been excluded or treated differently by other bands because of it?

Otep: I think there’s some natural selection regarding how they treat women physically. And in the way women have to wear certain clothes and have to be talked about in certain subjects. And it’s very difficult for women to be taken seriously. I think part of that is the music industry’s fault but I also think part of that is the artist’s fault for allowing that to happen. So few women come along so that when they do they think this is my success, and they sort of adapt and play into what they’re conditioned to be and they make allowances. I’m not really like that so it’s been difficult for me, but I do get respect.


TL: Other metal bands with female members, like Kittie, have tried to down play their gender, insisting that they are not feminists and that their gender is irrelevant. Do you have similar feelings? Do you feel that you are cementing a place for women in the metal genre, or do you not really see your gender as important?

O: Well, I think my gender has everything to do with what I do. I think that people get the wrong idea about what feminism is. To me feminism isn’t just trying to be what men are it’s trying to be everything that a women is, which isn’t weak, small, or thoughtless. It’s something strong and powerful. I think it’s important that people recognize, that I am a woman and that’s great and that doesn’t make me any less powerful than other bands like Slipknot and Mudvayne.


TL: I know that some of your songs address the issue of rape. How do you feel about the number of rapes that occur at so many rock concerts, like Woodstock ’99? Do you feel like this has kept females barred from being involved in a lot of concerts?

O: Well I think that women have to be stronger in this environment. Don’t be led into something that you don’t want to happen because we live in a take charge society. Women are going to be the minority wherever they go. I’m not happy obviously, when any woman is attacked. I think that it’s important that people of any gender take a stand against things like that. We need to stand up, don’t be afraid to stand up for something.


TL: Do you think that the attitude of women being seen as groupies and sexual objects rather than just fans or musicians is still as prevalent now as it has been in years past?

O: Being in these walls it’s very evident to me that many of these people wear their ego and their women like ornaments. And these are very eager ornaments. I think that if women want to be treated with respect that they have to first respect themselves. I wasn’t around in any other times so I don’t know what it was like for women to be groupies in years past. I think it’s still a very prevalent attitude for men to reduce women down to only groupies and sex objects, because I think it gives them status to be able to have a really attractive person with them.


TL: How do you feel about the kind of comments that some of the performers have made towards women at this festival, like Reverend B. Danger’s references to “getting pussy”. Do you think that this attitude is holding you back as a respected performer.

O: Well, I think it’s a little disappointing.