Yup, it’s time for the “being female in the underground dance music culture” post. But, I’m going to be speaking from personal experience here and I want to keep it current, not discuss what may have been an issue twenty years ago, so I’m leaving the 90’s Raver behind and will talk to you from the experience of a novice DJ who is a white cis female and who owns that she also benefits from middle class privilege. I’m also speaking only of my personal experiences and observations as a performer working on the local level.
So, there’s this belief that female dj’s have it harder in our community. That it’s a boys’ club. That we’re not taken seriously as artists and are just boobs with headphones that may as well be replaced by gogo dancers and I say this is absolutely true/untrue. How is that possible that it’s both true and untrue? Well, from my observation the event planners seem to make an effort to include a woman in most events if a local female fits the bill and that is both good and bad for the woman trying to chisel a place for ourselves in the very competitive world of the local underground dj.
It is good, of course, to always try to be inclusive, but the “girl dj” is so very othered that it often points out that she is a woman right in the biography each event invitation posts about it’s artists (even though her name usually gives it away), using her sex as a selling point or a something worth of the promoters’ self congratulations for booking her. The there are the “All Female” line ups which are problematic in that no one is sure if they are celebrating the woman who stepped up to say “Hey, we can do this too!” or are banking on the novelty of a bunch of women doing the boys’ job for a night.
While there seems to be no preference given to pretty or younger women in my region, I have as a fan and attendee of events, noticed that nearly every single national level female dj booked is not only young and pretty but dresses in the traditionally accepted “sexy” attire and make up you’d see from a woman at a dance club. I have spoken to some event promoters who hire DJ’s and have been told that the only way they will bring i a lesser known name who is female is if she has a great looking picture to put on the promotional material. So while local woman, like myself, can wear cargo jeans and baseball hats, if we want to have a chance to get booked out of the area where we are already known, we had best be ready for some serious objectifying.
There’s also the problem that there really are less women dj’ing then men to hire from. Well, less woman trying actively to get booked then men; no one knows how many woman are playing music at home and just not bothering trying to break in to the club. But this begs the question as to WHY so few woman feel the need to say “Hey, it’s MY turn to pick the music now! Give me my turn!” and take that most important job of any dance event for themselves. And there’s really no way to tell but I’ll be a nickle to all comers that the tradition of men only being dj’s (which dates back to the very first dj’s in the 40’s) simply put women in the mind that it’s a man’s job and it never even occurred to them to tamper with that assertion.
There are more issues facing female dj’s local and nationally known, but this article is just a little nibble of the topics at had for feminist discussions of local entertainment industries. Future topics will include dress codes (official and social), trans and gender nonconforming people in our community, the practice of using gogo dancers as stage decoration where we used to have artistic visual displays, and so much more. As for the answers to the issues I’ve raised here, there will never be any until we start talking about them and hopefully this article will start that conversation between the fans, the promoters, and the artists in your local area. Happy Listening!