"If you meet the following requirements, please contact me directly," James—not to be confused with Canadian techno DJ Justin James—wrote in the group's comment section. "Not your manager or agency, but you. I want to deal with you directly."
Then, he listed the requirements female DJs had to meet in order for him to work with them:
Justin James' post—with its implication that female DJs had to possess certain physical attributes in order to find lucrative work in clubs—almost escaped the attention of the forum; it received zero comments for about 14 hours, until a Berlin-based DJ named Linnea Palmestål noticed it and called him out, commenting, "wtf???? please tell me this is a joke."
Palmestål immediately took a screengrab of James' post and shared it with a private Facebook group for women in electronic music called Sister, sparking a wave of outraged reactions in the comments. (THUMP was given permission by Palmestål and other members of Sister to name the group in this article.)
One member of Sister, a Southern California-based DJ named Grace Lamdin (AKA frruitbat) shared James' post on another popular Facebook music group called Classical Trax, drawing more negative attention to it. Then, Lamdin messaged James on Facebook, writing, "I'm offended and disgusted by your criteria. Do you honestly think any female DJs is going to treat you with respect if you talk to them that way?"
Over the phone, Lamdin, who attends Pomona College and is currently studying in Paris, explained to THUMP why she decided to confront James directly: "After DJing on campus this past year, I had to deal with a lot of bullshit with guys, because the majority of the DJs at my school are men. Dudes who didn't know what they were doing would try to give me tips and sexually harass me."
"It felt like [reaching out to James] was a lost cause—this probably isn't the first time he's done something like this, and he's probably gotten away with it—but I was pissed off in the moment and it was the only thing I could do," Lamdin said.
According to screenshots of their conversation that Lamdin posted online and shared with THUMP, James responded to her and insisted that he was merely doing his job. These requirements came not from his own beliefs, James told Lamdin, but from the international clubs he works for:
"I would say that I am sorry that you are offended, but I would be lying," James wrote. "As a DJ of 12yrs [sic] and nightclub owner, I understand the current state of the industry…. If [these venues] wanted talented DJs, then they would just hire men."
Asked to respond to James' defense, both Lamdin and Palmestål said they didn't buy it—and that as someone in a position of power in the music industry, James' refusal to question these sexist standards is even more unacceptable and damaging to women.
"I do understand that because of the world we live in now, most of the people hiring DJs and running clubs are men, and [James] is part of the system," Lamdin said. "But I don't think he's in a bind. He doesn't need to work for these people if he's morally opposed to it. The industry is fucked up; you shouldn't wait around and keep perpetuating the same things. He has a lot of power over what sorts of DJs he can bring in, and he's obviously not doing anything to change the status quo."
"He's completely supporting the patriarchal capitalist structures of how the business works. He's not trying to fight it at all," Palmestål added.
Palmestålalso pointed out that James' attempt to position himself as an industry insider ultimately comes across as amateurish. "The way he wrote [the post] is really sketchy and patronizing," Palmestål said. "He's trying to sound professional, but he's asking to talk personally to these DJs; he doesn't want to talk to an agent. He says, 'Do not suck,' but he's numbered his criteria '1,1,2,3,4,5,5,6'—he's not even counting right. It's ironic in so many ways."
James eventually removed his post later that same day on "Support Female DJs," but remains recalcitrant over his original remarks. In a statement released this morning (February 3) on his Facebook page, James wrote: "In retrospect, the post that I made was not the most tactful, but my intention was not malicious… I do not care about the opinions of what small minded people think or have to say." Naming Miss Kittin, Maya Jane Coles, and Annie Mac—as well as Paris Hilton and "that girl from Zach [sic] Efron's new movie"—as among his favorite female DJs, James continued, "the comment I made about 'just hiring a man' was misplaced sarcasm," referring to his remarks to Lamdin, which have since been shared widely on social media.
but I would still kick that fedora wearing EDM cunt's pathetic ass really hard!!!
— Legowelt Official (@DWolfers) February 2, 2016
Several DJs have encouraged their followers to direct outrage over James' remarks towards the larger issues at stake. Writing on Justin James' Facebook page, Derrick Carter said, "As a gay person of color who has been marginalized by the world at large more times than I can count… the 'that's just how it goes' attitude is nothing more than a cop out." (James has deleted Carter's post.) On her Facebook page, The Black Madonna pointed out, "Many times people experience oppression much more subtle ways. Now is a great time to start thinking about that." She encouraged others to follow feminist groups like Discwoman, Female Pressure, Salt & Sass and Nap Girls Int'l.
Other members of the dance music community have ridiculed James' remarks. The profile of a satirical Twitter account @djjustinjamess states: "Hates fat girls, ugly girls, short girls, tall girls, old girls, but I LOVE HOT FEMALE DJS! I'll be your #EDMpimp"
While James' post might be one of the more blatant examples of sexism in the music industry, it certainly isn't the only one. According to a 2014 survey conducted by Female Pressure, the number of female DJs booked at clubs around the world is slightly below 10 percent. This abysmal figure is partially the result of gender discrimination, which female DJs in the US and Canada have discussed during two recent THUMP panels on this topic.
Yesterday, in a series of since-deleted tweets, Grimes criticized the male-heavy nominations at the Juno Awards, stating, "I believe there were qualified women besides myself for many categories… I can't help but feel that if women were equally rewarded for technical work they would feel inclined to participate more." David Vincent, the owner of Sankeys in Ibiza, also announced this month that he is launching a night for female resident DJs at his club in an attempt to close the gender gap.
Ultimately, Lamdin points out that destroying sexism in dance music is more than just trolling Justin James. "It's about bias in the way [female DJs] are hired, pay inequality, workplace gender bias," she says. "It's more subdued and internalized—not blatant stuff like this."
"Still," she noted, "that he would post this in a group called 'Support Female DJs' was shocking."
James did not respond to THUMP's request for comment by time of publication.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that James owns a US-based booking agency called Boardman Group. James is not affiliated with Boardman Group, and we apologize for the error.
Michelle Lhooq is THUMP's Features Editor. Follow her on Twitter.