Confronting the lack of Females DJing and producing
The subject of women in dance music and the lack thereof, has been a serious of debate in recent years.
There have been a few explanations offered.
Women aren’t as good at track selection or composition as men (I don’t need to tell you what’s wrong with that one…).
Female DJs aren’t given equal opportunities because sexism is rife in the underground dance music business (as someone who isn’t in the business, it’s hard for me to comment on the truth or otherwise of that statement).
Or perhaps promoters are, like many things in this world, subject to market forces.
Many of the current big names in dance music are male.
The theory goes that if you want to make money as a promoter, and attract people to your events, you therefore need to book the biggest names - most of whom are male.
The strengths and weaknesses of these assertions has been debated on many different platforms.
Artists have themselves taken to twitter to offer their opinions.
It has also been explored by more formal publications such as Mixmag.
I’d like to offer another opinion.
Yes, there are structural forces at the top of the dance music world that may make it harder for female DJs to become more established.
It is wrong to think that the people who run labels, promote events and make music, are the core of what keeps the dance music industry going.
Instead it is the individuals who enjoy going out and listening to music, who pay for tickets to events, who buy records and listen to DJ mixes.
However, there’s something I’ve noticed in the last few months: the majority of people who engage with this scene by going to events and buying records are male.
You see this in clubs, and the male majority is even more pronounced in record stores.
An extreme example of this is illustrated at a recent night I attended: The Hydra Presents 10 Years of Hessle Audio at the Bussey Building in London.
I didn’t do a headcount, but I would guess that at least 75% of those in attendance were male.
This is not a bad thing in itself, though it does seem strange that there were so few women at an event.
I soon found out why as the night became an eye-opener for me.
Having gone to an all-boys school, and living in a house of all boys, most of my experiences of going out have been in groups that are predominantly male.
Nights out are great fun in groups of boys; you go out, have a great time listening and dancing to music, and go home satisfied you’ve had a great night.
This time, however, I was the only boy in a group of six.
I had been looking forward to seeing some of the best DJs in the world all under one roof, and celebrating 10 years of a label that has pushed dance music forward in new, interesting directions.
Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the fact that instead of immersing myself in the music, I would have to be putting myself in between my friends and random men who thought it was appropriate to feel them up.
One friend went home early because the constant touching had meant she was no longer enjoying herself.
From what I’ve been told, this isn’t an isolated incident at one event.
This happens consistently.
I first got into dance music by going on nights out and enjoying myself.
I never really enjoyed going to clubs like Popworld or Gatecrasher.
I didn’t like the music and I didn’t like the vibe.
Going to more underground events and clubs changed my view on clubbing.
A club was no longer a place you dressed up to go to, posed for photos and heard Top 40 tunes.
It was a place where you could go and immerse yourself in the music, dance with your friends and meet like-minded people who loved music as much as you did.
It was a place where I felt I belonged.
Because I enjoyed going to these underground nights so much, and had such a love of the underground scene, I took up DJing.
I started going to record stores and buying records.
I even tried (and failed) to make some of my own dance music.
I’m sure this is a story that many DJs and producers will find familiar.
But that clubbing experience isn’t the same for my female friends, and I imagine all women have similar experiences.
For them, they cannot immerse themselves in the music and just dance and have fun with their friends.
Every time, they have to worry that they will be touched by a random man, or that they or their friends will be followed around by a man who won’t leave them alone.
If this had been my experience of the dance scene, I know that I wouldn’t go out as much as I do.
I just wouldn’t want to deal with that – it’s not my idea of fun.
Let me be very clear, these creepy men are a minority, but their actions can make women feel like they don’t belong in the club.
Instead they are made to feel like they are objects, outsiders to the scene who don’t deserve to enjoy the night in the same way men can.
Even when they are not being touched, they have to keep their guard up.
Having to be constantly aware of your surroundings and who might be around detracts completely from the ability to immerse yourself in the music.
And so, if I were female, I feel I would have gone out less.
I might not have seen DJs who inspired me to take up DJing myself.
I might not have gone to record stores to buy songs that I had heard on nights out.
I wouldn’t have tried to make similar songs myself.
Obviously, I am not a big-name DJ.
The world will never miss any of my sets or productions.
But for every 100 people who are like me, there will be one who does make it big.
One who creates an incredible song and who plays sets that provide the soundtrack to the best nights of some people’s lives.
If women don’t feel the club is a place they can enjoy themselves, or a place they belong, and as a result of this, the majority of people attending events are men, how can we be surprised when most of the DJs and producers we see are men and not women?
The problem of there not being enough female DJs and producers isn’t to do with either promoters not booking female DJs or heads of labels not signing female artists (though it is great to see some promoters and labels promote women in music more).
The root of the problem, in my opinion, is that women do not have the same opportunity to be inspired as men do.
Why would they want to contribute to a scene and spend time in clubs where they are made to feel unsafe and made to feel like they don’t belong?
This is not a problem that can be solved by the actions of promoters saying they want to create a safe space for women.
Of course, they want to do this, but they can hardly observe the dancefloor, or get bouncers to do so, looking out for this kind of behaviour.
The solution lies with each and every one of us who love the underground music scene and want to see it thrive, with as many male and female artists creating new music and playing at clubs as possible.
If we see a man feeling a woman up or following them around the club when they’re clearly not wanted, say something, do something.
In big clubs, men can run away and hide, or feel women up in the middle of a crowd where bouncers can’t see them.
But we can see them – tell them to stop, find a bouncer and let them know what is happening.
My eyes have only recently been opened to this problem.
I am guilty of ignoring it, being glad that I don’t have to deal with creeps myself and just getting on with my night.
As a result I have promised myself that I will do more to call out and stop this sort of behaviour from men who make women feel unsafe in clubs.
They don’t care about the music.
They are not part of the underground community.
Dance music has always been about people of all genders, sexualities and backgrounds coming together to dance and enjoy themselves.
There are some people who don’t seem to believe in this.
They make the club feel like an unsafe space for women, and make women feel like they don’t belong.
However, it is not women who don’t belong to the underground music community – it is these men.
Those men who would make people feel unsafe and unable to enjoy the music certainly do not belong to this community.
Let us remove them from the clubs.
Let’s make it clear that we won’t accept this behaviour from anyone.
If we can do that, more people will be able to be inspired on nights out, and the underground music scene will be able thrive in new and exciting ways
Written by Jamie Mitchell - Underground writer