The Role of Rock and Heavy Metal Mothering w/ Joan Jocson and Julie Turley

by | May 22, 2021 | MMS 101

Joan Jocson and Julie Turley  

“After giving birth, I told the doctor I needed to leave the hospital for five hoursOur band was opening for Johnny Thunders. I think I was on an adrenaline rush.”  

Cynthia, 67, B-Girls, Renegades, New York Junk  


Musicking, a term first coined by professor-musician Christopher Small (1998), is the active way in which we take part in the creation of music and in establishing relationships with society–a form of engagement and meaning-making. While scholarly literature regarding popular culture about mothers supporting their “musicking” children exists, there is a lack of literature on “musicking” mothers and their experiences. From previous thesis work on women and their participation in NY’s extreme metal music subculture, Joan Jocson-Singh saw the concept of motherhood come up as a recurring pattern during participant interviews. From her time spent in rock venues in Manhattan, Julie Turley encountered women whose identity as rockers who said that future motherhood would challenge lifestyles that have traditionally been set in opposition to motherhood 

This study in progressundertaken by the two librarianswho themselves musick as mothers—puts an ethnographic lens on women who identify as rock and metal music mothersUtilizing participant observation, semi-structured one-on-one interviews, and an online survey, they explore music-informed motherhood identity and the influence of cultural practice within the rock and metal subculture. They are particularly interested in how musical mothering transgresses iterations of motherhood and how the participation of mothers challenges rock and metal masculinity 

Of note to Joan and Julie is reflecting on what mothering and motherhood means to them. It has and continues to be a traumaticvisceral and all-encompassing experience. One moment humbling and quiet, and then–boom–dynamic and bombastic. Most immediatelyit’s been the global pandemic and all the new ways we’re all learning to cope and adjust to what has taken over daily life. The normal tasks of being busy with work, caring for kids and trying to make room for self-care took precedence. It won’t come as a surprise to say there’s nothing more extremely metal than birthing and the changes that happen to the body and mind. As mothers, we are both inside and outside this body, afflicted with a self-imposed alienation that places us in a liminal space of outsideness, or rather insideness that is othered; a “grotesque realism” Bakhtin ([1936] 1984:19), that equally offers liberation and catharsis of the mudune in motherhood 

The data gathered from this study underscores this. Overall, the data has been powerful and moving, and confirms Joan and Julie’s tentative assumptions: that identification and involvement in these subculturesconventionally hostile to women and profoundly incongruous to motherhood, is essential to these mothers’ practice of self care and empowerment.  


Songs to keep in your ear  

  • Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the WitchesMother” (2015)  
  • Lita Ford, Mother” (2013)  

Survey link: You can still take Joan and Julie’s survey on rock and metal mothers here 

Further Reading  

  • BakhtinMikhail Mikhaĭlovich, and Mikhail BakhtinRabelais and his world. Vol. 341. Indiana University Press, 1984.  
  • Joy, Rose M. Music of MotherhoodHistoryHealingActivism. Demeter Press, 2017.  
  • Linda M. G. Zerilli. “A Process without a Subject: Simone De Beauvoir and Julia Kristeva on Maternity.” Signs 18, no. 1 (1992): 111-35. Accessed April 25, 2021.  
  • Rich, Adrienne. Of woman born: Motherhood as experience and institution. WW Norton & Company, 1995 

Recent posts

Election for ISMMS Executive Board Positions

The positions of Chair and Ordinary Member on the ISMMS Executive Board will become available in January 2022, at the end of the current terms of Dr Bryan Bardine (Chair) and Dr Gabby Riches (Ordinary Member). We seek candidates to stand for each position in an election of the ISMMS membership, to...

read more

IASPM-US 2022 Call For Proposals

On behalf of IASPM-US, please check out the call for the 2022 conference, and consider sending in a proposal. Horns up!   IASPM-US 2022 Conference: Grooves and Movements May 26-May 28, 2022 Ann Arbor/Detroit Michigan Dates and Place: The International Association for the Study of Popular...

read more