More Women in the Electronic Arts: A HOW-TO GUIDE

 

The lack of ladies behind decks and on dance floors has really been bothering me for a while; not just the dearth of women in the EDM community but music in general and indeed, arts culture as a whole. Females are globally underrepresented in the arts from San Diego to Singapore, and I wanted to figure out why.

Naha, Seattle

Naha, Seattle

People told me it was too large of an issue to tackle or have any effect on; sure, I might be able to organize a local women’s DJ night or help promote various female producers, but this giant problem encompassed all music and all arts, and there would be no solution or answer. It was too big.

I did not want a quick fix, either, like an all-female DJ night where the chicks come out spinning beats in bras; those kinds of nights draw more males than females anyway. And I didn’t just want to convince promoters to book more women DJs in the name of diversity, rather I want there to BE more talented female DJs to book. I want young girls coming up in the community to throw down, and not just as DJs, but also as producers, promoters, journalists, sound technicians, laser artists- the whole show. I want to see more women in the arts, which meant figuring out why the hell they aren’t here to begin with.

And I’ve done it. Please read on.

ill-esha, Vancouver

ill-esha, Vancouver

Some of the weak female representation in music can be surely attributed to the history of male dominance of the arts; for thousands of years men were patting male artists and musicians on the back, commissioning each other and sharing ideas while the women were raising kids and making homes from households.

Nyx, Seattle

Nyx, Seattle

Arts in the traditional female domain like folk stories and handicrafts don’t stand the test of time as well as those in male-dominated spheres. A nursery rhyme evaporates into the blur of historical haze while the Sistine Chapel will be around for a while. Though females have truly come a long baby way in regards to our gender roles, the tradition of male domination of the arts certainly still affects the dance floor on Friday night.

But that isn’t the whole story. This is 2009 and for a generation now in the Western world, women have been able to pursue any career they could possibly want, from firefighter to fine artist. So why aren’t they? Why is only one of every twenty DJs I hear playing out female? Why are dance floors almost always over 50% boys? Why can’t I remember the last time I saw a girl in a sound booth, and when they write me, why do my blog readers overwhelmingly assume that I am male?

Sasha Perera of Jahcoozi, Berlin

Sasha Perera of Jahcoozi, Berlin

Don’t women love to make and experience music and art too? Maybe they are pursuing careers that they feel are more worthwhile to society than a creative profession; now that women can be doctors and lawyers and policymakers, they are. We all know that artists are the most important people in our society; art cures ills that no doctor could, comedy can take down a dictatorship, music can change minds. Maybe women are so busy getting college degrees and starting companies that they have forgotten the true value of artistic expression; however this theory also easily applies to men. So the question remains:

WHERE THE HELL ARE THE LADIES AT?

Imagika, Los Angeles

Imagika, Los Angeles

I put this question to email lists, to forums, to strangers at clubs, to friends on the dance floor, to my mother. I clicked on every link you sent me, I checked into every female DJ or producer you said was the shit. I read and took notes on every comment about how we can get more girls out, from cleaner bathrooms to more aggressive males to less aggressive males to house music.

And I have figured out the crux of the matter; the turning point that if we can effectively change will have an enormous effect not only on the DJ booths and dance floors of the future, but on arts production in the world as a whole. Hey, I’ve got big dreams. Don’t you?

The crux of the matter, therefore, is this: CONFIDENCE.

Ana Sia, San Francisco

Ana Sia, San Francisco

Women need more confidence. After thousands and thousands of years of being told we are the lesser sex and second-class humans, we have an acute case of learned inferiority complex. We are lacking the metaphorical balls it takes to put ourselves out there but rest assured: you DON’T need literal huevos to make it as an artist in this world. But you do need confidence.

It takes a hell of a lot of guts to pull something out of your head and lay it out for the world to see and judge you on. The artists out there know this. Choosing a career in music or painting or theater is a bold and terrifying choice, a decision that requires a steadfast belief that what you have in your head is worth sharing with others- take it from someone who just relocated across the country to try and feed herself as a freelance music journalist.

Menami, Seattle

Menami, Seattle

Following an artistic path in life is a risky choice, and many women have children and will choose security over self-expression. If you have three kids to raise, are you going to go for the nursing degree or try and make it as an abstract visual artist? Yeah. I do not fault these women, not one bit, as they are doing what they deem necessary to take care of the future.

Vaccine, California

Vaccine, California

But even females without dependents are not taking the risks we should, and it is because we don’t think we are good enough. How many times have you seen a male DJ strut up to the decks like he is God’s gift to the dance floor and then proceed to take you straight to train wreck city?

Think of the female DJs that you know: a bunch of badasses, right? Outspoken, confident chicks that don’t give a shit if anyone thinks of them as are lesser human beings- because they know they are not.

Subeena, London

All women need to take a cue from these ladies, to learn confidence and make it part of ourselves. Worldwide, every one of us must come to believe that what comes out of our minds and our hands and our hearts is worth sharing. This is an epic task and a daunting challenge; one that cannot be conquered overnight. But every single one of us, male and female, can do something right now, tonight and this weekend to push females forward in the arts so that our daughters and granddaughters will be dancing to female DJs and listening to tracks produced by females half the time instead of once every blue moon.

Mary Anne Hobbs, UK

Mary Anne Hobbs, UK

Ladies, I challenge you to instill the women of the world with confidence, starting with yourselves. Men must do the same right beside us, but for females to succeed, we must unite. I once saw a female DJ walk up to the decks at an outdoor party, scheduled to play her set right after a charismatic male DJ had been just killing it. She was intimidated, and she gave up her slot- but ONLY because another female had discouraged her from playing. Had this second female instead encouraged her to play her set, bang it out, go for it- she would have. We CANNOT have this bullshit cutting down of one another. It does not make you less of a female to build another woman up; in fact, it makes you more of a human being. So step up and quit knocking down.

Each one of us can incorporate certain actions into our lives to fuel the journey of women to a greater involvement in the industry of artistic production and expression, from sharing their musical tastes as a DJ to creating giant murals to tweaking sound design and production. Females must become more confident in their artistic abilities, and if we can accomplish this, the future of humanity will be richer and more colorful for everyone.

1.    THANK FEMALE ARTISTS. Words have power. Ever gotten a compliment that made your day, or your week? As a writer, I live off the kind words of my friends; I could not write this blog without the love and support of my fellow human beings. Thank female artists always and often. Even if you are more of a glitch girl and the DJ played prog house all night, you can still thank them for getting up there and sharing. Recognize the guts it takes to perform. No need to have a colorful vocab, a simple “thank you” will do. Shy? That’s why God created Myspace and Facebook; just friend ‘em with a quick message: “Thank you for your music.” It may seem like nothing to you, too simple, a waste of space, but believe me: it is not. Please feed the animals- with your words.

2.    INVITE GIRLS TO SHOWS. Yeah yeah yeah, fear of rejection boo hoo your ego can’t take it, WHATEVER. This is an area where both males and females could really grow some balls. Weird girl in your office who smells like oranges? Invite her to Deadmau5. Neighbor chick listening to really bad pop shit? Ask her if she wants to go hear Flying Lotus. And SEATTLE- I know I have a lot of readers from the two-oh-SICK, and let me tell you: I have been asked out to electronic shows more in three months in LA than in three years in Seattle. Girls don’t bite- unless you want us to. What are you waiting for, your next life? Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to ask a girl to an electronic music show. This month. Do it.

3.    GET YOUR ASS ON THE DANCE FLOOR. Actions speak louder than words, and nothing is more encouraging to a DJ than seeing people on the dance floor getting down and having a good time. Nothing brings girls out onto the dance floor like girls on the dance floor, so get out there, ladies!

4.    TALK TO GIRLS AT SHOWS. Some people have a problem talking to strangers. I am the opposite; I have a problem NOT talking to strangers. For those of us extroverts out here, make it a little easier on the introverts by saying hello. Having a good night? This DJ rocks! Why the hell are they charging $11 for a vodka soda? Is that spit on the wall? Etc. Create a more comfortable environment for your fellow human beings. Guys, don’t be dicks. Girls, don’t be bitches. Life is better when you are nice, anyway. Figure it out.

5.    IGNORE THE HATERS. In my research for this piece, I got some pretty nasty answers back from boys regarding the reasons behind the lack of females in the EDM community, ranging from “females don’t know what good music is” to “women are dogs.” There will always be haters in the world, like the girl at the outdoor who effectively discouraged the female DJ from spinning, or the cavemen guys who still think women are dogs without souls. IGNORE THEM; they are stupid, and the boys are obviously just not getting any. Move on, and surround yourself with people who will build you up, leaving the haters behind in a slimy pool of their own negativity.

6.    FEMALE ARTISTS: STEP THE FUCK UP ALREADY. You all know the archetypal cocky DJ, right? The guy who plays everything and knows everything and IS the next big thing and DAMN anyone who thinks otherwise? God help me I LOVE these DJs, because I appreciate the absolute BALLS it takes to live like you are going to grab every dream you ever had. Having a ridiculous amount of unwavering confidence in yourself is a necessity and now is the time to go for it. DO IT, whatever IT is for you. You will never regret trying and hey- you might even succeed!

7.    WANT TO LEARN HOW TO DJ? Or produce? Or create visual art? Or run the sound? Ask someone to teach you. I have spoken to many female DJs who said they would be more than happy to teach other girls the tricks of the trade, to share the secrets and be a mentor. Who wants to be in the boys’ club when you can be in the artists’ circle?

8.   ENCOURAGE FEMALE ARTISTS. This is different than saying thank you, which in my opinion we should say to every artist every time. When your night or your life is made a little better by a female DJ or producer or promoter, tell them so, and be specific: I really liked that track with the drums, the dance floor went nuts when you dropped the dubstep, those blue lasers with the dots wicked tripped me out, I love the parties you throw because you bring a tight crowd. Encourage each other to helps create a nurturing artistic community.

9.    ALREADY INVOLVED? In the EDM community or otherwise? Are you a bad ass female DJ? Do you promote? Own a venue? Produce sick tracks? Dance? Whatever your talents, figure out something you can personally do to promote female artists and do it. Even small gestures can have an impact and you never know who you may be inspiring. I will start more heavily promoting female DJs and producers in my blog; in fact the ten pictures in this post are my ten favorite female artists in the international EDM community. Do more than you are doing right now, and make a greater effort to support women who are doing their thing in the electronic arts.

10.  AND FINALLY, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. This is the most important item on the list. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else? Become a madly ridiculous promoter of your talents in your own mind. Talk yourself up to yourself, even if it feels stupid at first. Do whatever it takes, from tacking up pictures of inspiring females to writing positive quotes on your hand to pushing any negative thought about your abilities out of your head with nary a second of rumination. You don’t have time for that bullshit; you’ve got things to create and art to produce. SO DO IT.

If all you do is reach out to a female artist this month and say thank you on Myspace, do it. Don’t let the giant nature of this task stall you. We can do it. YOU can do it. And you have to, for the eons of women who didn’t even have the chance, and for the females of today who not fortunate enough to live in societies where they can shave their hair into a Mohawk and play minimal techno until eight in the morning. LADIES, IT IS YOUR DUTY TO CREATE, and every time you do, you inspire another female to do the same and help to insure a future full of female artists. So get crackin’.

 

14 Responses to “More Women in the Electronic Arts: A HOW-TO GUIDE”

  1. Nice one Shilo, women need to quit hating on each other and start supporting one another! I couldn’t agree with you more on this one. I do think it would be nice to see more female TALENT in the scene (which Seattle is lucky to have) rather than the typical female DJ performing in her underwear (the only reason she got her booking in the first place).

    “The guy who plays everything and knows everything and IS the next big thing and DAMN anyone who thinks otherwise?” – Are you talking about Matt?? Hehe (I had to say it).

  2. dancefever5000 Says:

    How did you know? Click on the link for “archetypal cocky DJ”

  3. I like the article. We don’t see enough female dj’s. But we shouldn’t limit the positive feedback to specifically female artists. We need to do what we can to bring everyone closer, everyone’s confidence up. Don’t just encourage the ladies. There’s guys out there that need that encouragement too. But I do love the invite a lady out this month to a electronic music night. That’s a great idea. Everyone find a girl that maybe has never experienced some of these amazing advancements in our music technology and invite them out, and while your at it maybe invite one of your guy friends that has never experienced electronic music as well. More people sending out positive vibes on the dance floor is always welcomed. Not trying to insult any of your blog Shilo. I think its a great idea but at the same time we shouldn’t specifically limit this to women. We are all people, and we should look out for ourselves as one. I’m deff going to check out some of these dj’s you posted with the blog. Ana Sia is awesome, saw her last year at emrg-n-see festival. Naha played my first party when I was 16 and I just turned 23. Thanks for your beautiful writings Shilo. Your amazing with words, and really pulling the reader in. And I learn about some amazing artists through you so thank you for that as well. Peace, love, and light.

  4. dancefever5000 Says:

    I agree with you 100%, Nate, that all artists need to be encouraged whether they are male or female. I try to thank every single artist of any sort I ever experience, whether in person or with a message the next day.

    We are definitely all in this together, and I think that is why some female DJ nights or DJ groups don’t work, because they divide the community instead of uniting it. Besides, I DO love the boys!

    Right on, and thank you!

  5. I’m new to your blog so let me first say “thank you!” for awesome overall coverage of this scene I’m crazy about.

    I’m also an ethics teacher at an all-girls high school in San Francisco and I’d love to share this insightful and exciting post with them as we talk about patriarchy, gender, and misogyny through analysis of music/art/culture (see the great documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/hiphop/).

    Thanks so much!

  6. YES! Creating, implementing support systems for female artists of ALL ilk. But right now, my focus is adding more feminine perspective, energy, in music…especially electronic.

    Don’t forget Kristina Childs http://nwtekno.org/showthread.php?threadid=129503 ,who competed against all males, in a vinyl mega mix battle…. and won TWO YEARS IN A ROW ….now that is inspiring. Thanks for this blog, it too inspires me to keep pushing forward!

    In support, love and VISION… :-)

  7. Great article. I’m always impressed with your writing. And much thanks for giving me some ammo to get my wife out of the house more. It’s a struggle for me to get her to participate in EDM stuff with me because she feels like it’s my territory and wants to give me some space with it, though I always tell her I want to share some of these things I love with her.

    • As an update to this, I had kept this article in the back of my head as some ways of encouraging her to participate in the scene a bit more. Well, one night I remembered that a friend does a beginners night and somehow convinced my wife to try her had at it. Thank god I did because about 20 minutes after she got behind the decks she had the whole crowd dancing a grooving on a Thursday! I was so proud of her. She’s playing out for her second time tonight and now she’s finding new artists and searching for new music and finally getting involved in the music scene. So happy now.

  8. Awesome article. I get asked all the time why there aren’t more of us, and never have an answer. I’ll be quoting you next time. :)

  9. Believe in Yourself,
    Don’t wait others for playing and creating..

    Without Music, Life would be a Mistake (Nietzche)

    Amazing Article :)

    Unu

  10. Hello,

    I’m a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University and I am working on an article about female DJs in EDM. I enjoyed your article and I’d like to get your perspective on a few things. Would you be willing to talk about this? If so please shoot me an e-mail. Thanks!

  11. all i want to say is FUCK YEAH.

    I started reading your blog posts yesterday when I found your what to bring to music festivals guide (which is brilliant). Then I read and “shared” your blog on the top 25 worst DJ names (which is hilarious). I wanted to find out what Brostep was really, and now I know for sure that I do like Brostep, so thank you for that identity clarification. Now I’m in the midst of reading all your posts and would like to let you know that you’re a fucking genius. Thank you.

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