It’s a conversation we’ve had time and time again, yet here we are once more. It’s no secret that there is a lack of attention paid to women in electronic music, evidenced by the seven or so female DJs we counted amongst many men at this weekend’s Electric Daisy Carnival in New York City. But website Thump recently brought a troubling new development at DJane Mag to our attention. We were pleased to see features like an interview with 10-year-old twin sister DJs Amira & Kayla at the top of the page, but Thump led us to a “beauty contest” at the magazine. Sadly, this is an annual event. There’s been a loud negative backlash around the contest, and Thump reached out for comment receiving very little feedback in return. We’ve chosen to let women in the field speak for themselves by highlighting several female DJs who have spoken at length about the treatment of women in EDM and their personal experiences.
“Boys aren’t better at DJing than girls. We don’t DJ with our vaginas. But the fact is, in my experience, they clearly think they are and do make it more difficult for us. I’ve had male DJs reach over as I mixed two tracks and start twiddling with the knobs. Or come and stand behind me and instruct me on what to do. My personal favourite was when, at a regular Sunday nightclub, the male DJ who played after me reached over the sound desk and start to change the speed of a track for me. Did he think I had sped the track up slightly on accident? Another brilliantly sexist moment was when a DJ span round and said to me bluntly, ‘Well, boys just know more about music, don’t they.’ And it’s not just the other DJs — there are the soundmen too, who persistently ask me if I know what I’m doing. You know, after 10 years, I’m still not sure.”
“I don’t see myself as a woman in a male dominated EDM scene. Sure, it’s obvious that the majority of people involved are men, but this has so many reasons… EDM requires certain affinity for technology. And although we live in a technical world, most girls still play with dolls in pink kids rooms, while boys get computers and video games. It’s a complex topic, but I don’t see it as a problem. The house scene is not defined by gender and everyone is welcome. Neither is the knitting scene, which is female-dominated, I guess.”
“I think there are many successful women now. It’s that women have to work more together like the men, then it will change. Most of the women have their own ideas, they want to go their own way. . . . Men want to be the heroes, but most of the women I know in the music scene are artists. Men are artists too but the commercial ones do it to make money, to be on stage, to be the number one. . . . Also the nightlife isn’t so easy for women to deal with. I don’t see the difference so much between the man and the woman, personally. I have a very strong personality. Men aren’t as strong as I am.”
“DJing is definitely male dominated. I think in a way it works for us, but sometimes it works against us. I don’t think our generation will see the day when there will be more female DJs than male DJs. We try not to let it affect us. We love working with the guys, that’s always fun. I have worked with a few other female producers and female promoters, and certainly female artists. I think being a DJ; people think that we’re different from artists. In the end I still feel like we’re taken very seriously, and I believe in our artistry, just like any other normal pop star or artist would.”
“Recently I did an interview for a reputable dance music magazine in which the journalist asked me what it was like to be a mum and a DJ. Then he asked me what it was like to be pregnant and a DJ. Then he asked me about an outfit I wore to the Brits and asked me how I DJ in a dress and heels? Finally he asked me for two music recommendations for 2015. I recommended a female artist and a female DJ, so he asked was this me doing the ‘supporting women’ thing?
As far as I know ‘DJ’ is a genderless word. Yet I’ve been asked questions like this in every interview I’ve ever done. Let’s think of the reasons being a female DJ would be different to being a male DJ. Do journalists think I spent years learning how to scratch records with my boobs? Or that I hide my USB keys in my bra?
Seriously though, the tools it takes to DJ – the technical knowhow, the crowd perception, the music knowledge – these are human tools. DJs are all just human beings playing records to people.”
“Girls, they all do their own thing like everyone else. If you’re good enough and your music is good, people are going to love it.”
“I’d like to see more girls being conditioned from their early youth by their parents and stop putting dolls in their hands. If they want to play with machines, let them play with the machines, because I never played with a doll.”
“I do my best to not be a woman DJ and just a woman. Of course I am happy to be a woman in this profession gives me a different point of view . . . even if it’s extremely annoying sometimes having to deal with latent misogynism and chauvinism . . . it occurs time and again . . . but in the end it’s the men’s shortcoming . . . their loss not mine. I will make my way, can’t be bothered to get turned off or demotivated.”
“Women in particular are socially conditioned to be more insecure, self doubting, be supporters instead of leaders. And men are conditioned to expect that. . . . a lot of women get stymied with production for these reasons. And production is the #1 thing today. Unless you are planning to be a DMC turntablist, you cannot just be a DJ anymore, you need to produce your own tunes.”
“I take issue with is the idea of the woman as the permanent ingenue. It seems like every month there’s some story about how ‘women are finally breaking through in dance music.’ It’s a new crop of women each time. Maybe at one time it was Sandra Collins, a few years ago it was Cassy. People wrote those articles about Superjane. How long are we going to be breaking through? We’ve been breaking through for 30 years. That’s not to say there wasn’t a period in the early days when there truly were very few women in certain areas of dance music, but certainly the woman as that central figure of a DJ was something that people like Teri Bristol and Psycho Bitch—both of whom don’t get nearly enough credit—broke early. A woman was a manager at The Loft, Judy Weinstein. She went on to be a founder of Def Mix and remains an influential force. We don’t want to erase the women who truly did break ground, but I want to broaden the discussion a little bit and say that women have always been in electronic music.”
“I don’t necessarily think it’s harder for females as long as you’ve got the skills and the ear, but I have previously experienced quite judgmental attitudes from fellow male producers when I first tell them what I do. Obviously being a young female producer a lot of guys would write me off a shit before they’ve actually heard any of my music. So sometimes it has been hard to be taken seriously on initial meeting! But luckily I’ve never had that problem once a person has heard my productions. Female producers come pretty far a and few between so when one comes along that is equally as good as the boys I think sometimes people get a bit shocked or maybe threatened. I get asked by so many guys whether I use an engineer or If I really do it all myself? The answer is NO I do not use an engineer to do all the work! And YES! I make all my own music!”
“As a girl, people were judging you more, I mean they were judging me technical-wise. I knew a lot of male DJs who weren’t as good technically as many of the female DJs, but people didn’t seem to be paying as much attention to them in the same way they were to us. So this was something you had to deal with. . . . I didn’t like, and I still don’t like, people coming up from the crowd and saying, ‘You’re my favorite female DJ.’ Because you wouldn’t get this as a male DJ, of course you wouldn’t.”