When DJ Justin James posted a listing in a group supporting female dance music artists, he thought he was doing women a favor. The advertisement, rife with body fascism, sexism, and general ignorance quickly made the rounds on the internet.
It shouldn't need to be said that the ludicrous height and weight requirements, along with the implication that social media attention and attractiveness denote (or perhaps trump) actual talent, are absurdly offensive. When one of the group's members attempted to address the advert, James ended up digging himself deeper:
For many female DJs, this kind of rhetoric comes as no surprise. These issues are precisely what producer Dani Deahl spoke about to us about last year. The resulting response from various communities within the world of electronic music were swift, righteous, and angry; this kind of rebuttal is also expected these days.
So: what more can be done? Well, we can start by listening to actual women in the industry. With that in mind, we reached out to a handful of underground women turntablists for their reactions on the incident.
Circe, courtesy the artist
Many of the DJs we questioned were quick to point out the seriousness of the post. Circe, a Brooklyn based techno DJ, stressed how easy it is to point out chauvinism in the music industry but emphatically stated that "[Female artists] aren’t put off by flyers with beautiful women. We're put off by not having our opinions heard until a man repeats them. By others taking credit for our hard work. By being hired only to find out it's because someone wanted to sleep with us. We're put off by the people who have abused and violated our sisters while all the time claiming they respect women."
DJ Nightshade, an NYC and Boston based drum 'n' bass DJ, found herself disappointed by the incident, but not for the reasons one might expect: "Artists with experience in the industry are already well-aware of the many roadblocks women may face," she told me. "The most damaging aspect of the post in question is not to already-established female DJs who have learned by necessity to thicken their skin, but to aspiring female artists who may silently start to believe that they are not pretty enough, thin enough, or the right age to give DJing a shot. The reality is: we need them."
DJ Nightshade, courtesy the artist
Nightshade added, "Perhaps what is new (and even promising) about this story is the public backlash that it has incited, demonstrating an increasing intolerance for this kind of misogyny in the music world and maybe beyond."
In fact, many of the women I spoke with agreed that despite the overt foulness of the original post, the outraged response from allies and women alike seemed to be speaking to a new trend in the industry. "What was really reassuring about this incident in particular was the backlash; the speed with which a large number of people responded attests to the power of the online femme-centric music communities that have been thriving recently," said fellow techno enthusiast DJ Lychee.
While this attitude is optimistic, other women I talked to (some asked to remain nameless) suggested that many of the men who speak out against this kind of behavior are just as guilty of not supporting female talent or booking ladies on lineups. "Everyone is a feminist when it's convenient for them," said one. "All those dudes that are coming for [James], a lot of them have been just as bad as that guy behind the scenes," she continued.
Nonetheless, DJ Raq City is trying to remain positive. "His behavior is indicative of the prejudices that still exists against women and other minority groups in the music industry, especially the more mainstream sphere," she echoed. "I'm happy to see the community coming together in an effort to stamp out this kind of behavior and mindset. I feel like a year and a half ago that wouldn't have been the case, so I am proud of that progress."
DJ Raq City, photo by Nabeela Vega
With all the conflicting and conflated opinions on the issue, what seems evident is that women are banning together to address these issues, and they don't need men weighing in. Circe spoke about her feminist minded collectives, ready to leave this incident in the past: "I'm a part of the Facebook group where this image (and the resulting PM) originated. I want to talk about how a community of talented, smart and outspoken women banded together and supported one another. There is a deep well of positive community and solidarity between female (and non-binary, queer, POC) artists in the electronic music industry that's happening right now — that's really what's most interesting."
"We're rising up," Circe concluded. "Let's not give this loser any more attention."
[Featured image of Lychee, photo by Miles Martin]