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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.