Megan Targett: “What I can do with my voice and band is just as good as what men can do – so why separate us?”

In an essay for International Women’s Day, Vexed vocalist Megan Targett rages against the separation of genders in music and why the term “female-fronted” has to stop.

Megan Targett: “What I can do with my voice and band is just as good as what men can do – so why separate us?”
Megan Targett

When I was asked to write something for Kerrang! for International Women's Day, I jumped at the opportunity.

Kerrang! was the first heavy music mag that I ever went out and bought for myself when I was 13, and that I continued to buy for many many years. My bedroom walls were covered in Kerrang! posters from floor to ceiling and it was a huge part of my teenage years. The magazine helped me find my identity and style and it was always a dream to one day be in the magazine itself.

Seeing my heroes on the front cover or reading their interviews made me feel a sense of belonging that I didn’t feel in my day-to-day life. There was this world of people who were doing what I wanted to do, and they were admired and praised for it instead of being shunned and bullied.

However, those rose-coloured glasses eventually came off as my band started to get more media attention, and we fell into a bracket that I hadn’t prepared myself for – “female-fronted”.

As I said before, seeing my heroes on the front cover made me feel a sense of belonging and hope, but what I didn’t mention was that those heroes of mine were all men. There’s no reason as to why my heroes were men, it had nothing to do with their gender, it’s just who I admired growing up. They were artists whose music I identified with and who I wanted to sound like as a vocalist.

Suddenly, our whole band was being put into a category that didn’t feel included or as important as my heroes because it had the word “female” in front of it. We were being asked to tour with only other “female-fronted” bands and being asked in interviews what it’s like to be a “female in a band”.

I felt like I was some kind of science project, like my genitalia and gender had to be announced before people could listen to our music. Like my private parts determined our whole sound and genre.

I felt like my whole identity was given a new narrative and that my dreams of touring or working with my heroes were now unachievable because I had to stay in the “female-fronted” lane.

Now, please don’t interpret this the wrong way, I am so proud to be a woman in music and there are many bands with frontwomen who I’d love to tour with, however, “female-fronted” is a term that I've struggled with for a few reasons.

What I can do with my voice and band, and what many other women can do, is just as good as what the men can do – so why separate us? Yes, I am a frontwoman, but, sorry to be so crude, since when has my vagina gone into the studio and written an album or recorded vocals!?

Yes to frontwomen, no to the “female-fronted” genre.

Another theme seems to be that there are very limited spaces in the “female-fronted” category. Unless you’re in the 'Top 3' you’re considered to be a copycat and/or just terrible. I’ve been told a thousand times that I’m trying to sound like Jinjer, Spiritbox and Arch Enemy and that Vexed are just copycats... and this bullshit needs to stop.

The vocalists of these bands are incredibly talented women who don’t deserve to be used as scapegoats for degrading other women in the industry. There are so many talented frontwomen who make music of all different genres and subgenres. Women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, upbringings, cultures, religions, sexualities and opinions. We're all taking inspiration from so many different places and experiences, and to assume we’re all trying to copy one another is just a lazy and ignorant opinion. It’s time to break the bias of ”females” in metal and the separation of genders in music.

I want to remind any women in the industry reading this that I know how exhausting it is to constantly be compared to one another, but do not let it turn us against each other. The problem lies with the people making those comparisons, not the women they’re comparing us with. Call out that ignorance and explain to people the damage it causes. Don’t be threatened by other women – be uplifted.

Stay authentic to yourself and be proud to be inspired by other women, for that is not something to be ashamed of. Praise women for what they bring to the industry: their talent, their music, their uniqueness and individuality. This is ultimately opening a path of opportunity for generations of women and girls to come.

Vexed are on tour with In Flames across the UK later this month.

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