This article sets out the case for a new framework within which to study hard rock and metal fans as a group. I argue that dominant frameworks in metal studies – subcultural theory and the concept of scene – are inadequate for understanding the experiences of women fans; the underlying gendered epistemology has resulted in a dismissal of women fans or, at best, a systematic reduction of their experiences. Utopic visions of hard rock and metal as a community, (as proposed at the Heavy Metal and Popular Culture conference in April 2013), do little to change this understanding as they conceal the systematic discrimination that plays a crucial role in forming the specific experiences of women. I contend that a new framework is necessary that takes into account a wider spectrum of fandom and that addresses the feeling of togetherness that fans report, whilst also opening up the culture of the genre for a critique of its structures. I contend that my framework of imaginary community can bring new perspectives to studies of fans. The article is set within the context of debates about the inclusivity of metal, and in popular music studies about the usefulness of particular terms. I build upon the work of feminist popular music theorists, Cohen and McRobbie, to give a critique of masculine hegemony in stories about rock music; and upon the work of science fiction fan researchers and feminist critiques of community to argue that community is not a neutral term. I draw on Anderson’s theorization of the nation as an imagined community, extending it to develop the concept of ‘imaginary community’. This concept enables the consideration of how women fans imagine themselves as part of a community without eliding the difficulties imposed by structural sexism, and brings the focus back to the pleasure in the music.