I was going to do a Linking Horn today, but this article from the NZ Herald came across my desk today, and I thought I’d comment on it.
For folk outside of New Zealand and Australia unfamiliar with the term “bogan”, it means different things in both countries. As I understand it, in Australia it is essentially a synonym for “white trash”, and in New Zealand it means a Westie or Metalhead – usually someone who lives in West Auckland, drives a Holden Kingswood, smokes a lot of dope and loves Metallica. It’s an insult, but a lot of folk – my group of friends included – wear it proudly. A lot of metalheads resent being called bogans because the term implies you’re a bit thick.
Dave Snell, a PhD candidate at Waikato University in Hamilton (2 hours south of Auckland and a bit of a bogan-centric city) was in the news back in 2007 when he was awarded a prestigious scholarship – including $100k of funding – for his PhD thesis looking at bogan culture. His research looked at how bogans/metalheads belonged to other groups and how this affected them as metalheads, and his research has proved a valuable case study on the nature of community and identity. Well, he’s finished now, and speaking out against bogan and metalhead stereotypes.
The font of Internet knowledge, Wikipedia, terms a bogans hailing from lower-middle-class backgrounds, having limited education and exhibiting speech, clothing and behaviour that reflect their upbringing.
“I’m a bogan but I also work at Wintec. I’m a son, a brother, there are all these roles and identities that have different demands and mean I negotiate them in my life and it may mean that I dress differently in certain circumstances so we are not just one person.”
Snell doesn’t believe bogans/metalheads can be slotted into neat little groups. I think a lot of us can identify with this. I’m a metalhead, but I’m a bunch of other things, too. I’m a writer, an archaeology buff, a home-brewer, a wife a sister, daughter and Aunty, a friend, an adventurer and an eternal optimist. I am proud of my metalness but not defined by it. As metalheads I think we’ve all at one time or another felt the stigma of stereotypes – we’re considered unintelligent drug maggots or aggro Satanists. In reality, most metalheads I know are geeks of the highest order, but even that doesn’t encompass the affiliations, talents and identities of this complex community.
Together, we have a single identity that unites us – a love of metal music. But individually, we’re a melting pot of different personalities with unique opinions, passions and life experiences. It’s important to celebrate that, I think, and to each do our bit to rise above our stereotypes.
Have you ever experienced discrimination or stereotyping for the way you dress or the music you listen to? What do you say to people who stereotype metalheads and other alternative subcultures? What do you think we should be doing to abolish these stereotypes?