It must be noted (and it must be clear, too, if you’ve read through the pages of this site) that heavy metal is a predominantly male scene. Machismo is at the core of the genre, so much so that for years Judas Priest’s Rob Halford couldn’t say he was gay and had to hide his sexual preference from his fans and from the press (homophobia is also rampant).
The singer in a heavy metal band is usually seen as a prophet-like figure, a druid who dispenses wisdom, messages from the spirits or gods. Not surprisingly, pagan cults and religions feature prominently in the imagery for this musical style. Also not surprisingly, these figures are identified with males and males alone.
That said, although a minority, women do exist in the metal scene, and they’re making themselves be heard. And very loudly so!
From being a presence in the backstage to stepping on an actual stage may seem like a minor distance to cover, but truth is, it was no joke: no women were featured in the early heavy metal bands, and even bands who did have a female presence were few and far between (think Jefferson Airplane). The mid-Seventies brought about The Runaways, with Lita Ford and Joan Jett fronting an all-female rock band, although nothing heavy was going on with them, sound-wise. Then again, for many young female listeners that was the spark that pushed them to pick up an instrument. Decades later, most female heavy metal performers are among the genre’s best innovators: Anette Olzon from Nightwish, Otep Shamaya from Otep, Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation, Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil may be in the minority, but in no way they are staying silent.