Deadmau5, Krewella, and the Convenient Myth of a Post-Sexism Music Industry


On a day when the thesis that The World Is Fundamentally Terrible has been proven conclusively yet again, it feels more than a little silly to be writing about a man who wears a mouse head for a living. But at the same time, it also feels depressingly appropriate; in many ways, you can draw a line through many of the problems afflicting our society, from personal prejudices to ingrained societal ones and the awful ways in which they manifest. And as we’ve seen this year, the trivialities of our online existence can be all too revealing of deeper social problems.

So it’s gone with the feud that has Deadmau5 in the headlines this week: it concerns EDM act Krewella, two of whom (sisters Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf) fired third member Kris Trindl earlier this year. He’s suing because he thinks he was fired unfairly. Predictably, those who agree with him (including, yes, Deadmau5) have been going after the sisters on the Internet, in the usual manner in which people go after women on the Internet: by being offensively sexist and generally obnoxious. Jahan Yousaf wrote a Billboard op-ed about this yesterday, and everyone is going batshit about it.

So: I don’t know if Krewella’s music is any good. I don’t care. I don’t know whether the dude they kicked out really “did all the music,” or whether he was a sort of latter-day EDM version of the Happy Mondays’ notoriously useless Bez. I don’t care. I don’t know whether Deadmau5, bless him, is correct in his assessment of the abilities of Krewella’s female contingent. I don’t know. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. In this respect, Deadmau5 is only tangentially relevant to the story: his tweets were illustrative of his generally unpleasant social media presence, and he’s hilariously naïve if he really thinks that sexism doesn’t exist in his “department” of the music industry, but he’s just one of many involved here.

And it’s the many that’s the point, really, because what does matter is that there’s a mob of assholes on the Internet, again, attacking women, again. Before you take straight to the comment section to call me an SJW and shout about “bias,” here’s the thing: Deadmau5 could well be right, for all I know or care. Perhaps the dude from Krewella is more sinned against than sinning, and perhaps the two remaining women are awful people for knifing him. Perhaps they’re awful people. Or perhaps he is a raving alcoholic whose presence in the band had become intolerable. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that if this were a situation whereby two dudes had kicked a third dude out of their band, we wouldn’t be talking about it in the first place — not, as Deadmau5 suggests, because Yousaf is a “fuckin idiot” who is “play[ing] the sex card,” but because there’s a sex card to play in the first place. And the reason that’s the case is because… well, just look at any comment section devoted to this controversy, such as it is. Anyone who argues that sexism isn’t at play here is a fool, because it manifests in pretty much every word used against the sisters. “Slut.” “Whore.” Et cetera, ad infinitum.

These are gendered insults, and the fact that they’re thrown around with such abandon says more about the state of the music industry, and the Internet, than Deadmau5 ever could. No doubt there will be arguments that #notallEDMpurists are saying this stuff, and that there’s a legitimate issue here, and that Actually It’s About Ethics in EDM Production. If you are a person on the Internet who has managed to criticize the Yousaf sisters’ contribution without evaluating their attractiveness, or making nasty implications about their sex lives, or whatever else, then good for you: you have reached the most basic threshold for being considered a potentially decent human being.

If you are a dickhead on the Internet, and you are using these words to belittle a woman, you are part of a problem that extends far beyond Krewella, or the internecine beefing of EDM producers, or whatever else your favorite hobby horse is. But beyond that, if you’re one of those people who can look at Krewella’s Twitter mentions, or the comment section of articles about them, and then claim with a straight face that sexism isn’t a problem in the music industry, then you’re also part of that problem, because by refusing to acknowledge the problem you’re helping to perpetuate it.

It’s been a terrible few weeks in the world, so sure, there are more important things to worry about than the merit, or lack thereof, of a second-tier EDM duo who until recently were a second-tier EDM trio. But the general hostility of our culture toward prominent, vocal women remains a problem that extends far beyond EDM, and this is just another depressing example of it. These controversies don’t happen in isolation. They happen in the context of a society where if a man does something shitty, he’s (sometimes) criticized for doing something shitty. If a woman does something shitty, she’s criticized for being a woman doing something shitty. It’s an important distinction, no matter what the dude in the mouse mask thinks.