While other genres of music grappled with words like "feminism" while obsessing over body parts of individual stars in 2014, dance music seemed engaged in far more tangible matters of gender. Chief among them, questions about the visibility of women artists (or lack thereof) and how those women are treated by the industry, other artists and all the lovely anonymous commenters of the interwebs.
The numbers speak for themselves: survey after survey shows that the divide of dance music fans is roughly even between men and women. Yet, even after years of thinkpieces and conference panels (what!? they didn't work?), in 2014, such equality was still not reflected it where it mattered most for the business of the industry: festival lineups, club billings and agencies. In a pair of articles, THUMP ran the numbers on women in dance music-specifically at festival lineups and agency rosters-and revealed some stark statistics. On average, female artists made up just 7.85% of artists at North America's biggest talent agencies.
A look across major dance music festivals in North America showed that female DJs on the lineups ranged from 9.6% to an abysmal 2.7%, with genre-focused events like Mutek and Movement at the upper end of the scale.
Meanwhile, in a legacy that began decades ago when record labels like Ultra and Thrive would put bikini-clad female bodies on the covers of their mix compilations, popular house music channels on YouTube used the logic of men's magazines to curry favor with the male half of their audience, using images of half-naked women as visual placeholders. An entire channel of vanilla house is devoted to women's thigh gaps.
When the EDM supergroup Krewella split up, THUMP called out the condescending, sexist reactions that surrounded their legal drama after Kris Trindl left the group and filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates, Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf. Although the exact circumstances surrounding Trindl's departure are unclear (he says he was fired; they say he quit), some people-including Twitter firebrand Deadmau5-were quick to assume that Trindl was "the guy who actually does shit."
Fans and media outlets expressed similar sentiments: that Trindl, as the male producer, was the real talent and brains behind the group, while the female vocalists and songwriters were mere accessories. In December, Jahan Yousaf spoke up against this double-standard in an op-ed for Billboard. She wrote:
"I am asking for everyone to think about the impact this unwelcoming online environment has on our youth wanting success, respect and acceptance…. I am asking for everyone to think about girls who are looking at this public reaction who might now be discouraged to pursue an authentic place in a male-dominated industry. I am asking you to think about boys who internalize messages that vulnerability, sensitivity and standing up for gender equality means they are a pussy."
Unfortunately, Deadmau5's reaction to the op-ed was predictably sexist.
These are the types of biases that likely deter women from pursuing careers in the electronic music industry. Still, many female DJs are sick of talking about this problem. Our own Star Eyes pointed out that the number one reason why there aren't more female DJs is because people are sitting around moaning about it, instead of actively booking and promoting the scores of talented women out there.
Annie Mac also wrote an op-ed for THUMP, pleading with journalists to stop asking her what it's like to be a female DJ. "There are shit loads of female DJs. Open your eyes. And your ears," Mac wrote. "They are coming through like wildfire. When you meet them, please for the love of God don't ask them about being female."
We invited the next generation of female DJs-the ones who are spinning at underground raves in New York City-the Discwoman crew to the VICE office for a roundtable discussion. The women shared some harrowing stories about the sexism they face on a gig-to-gig basis, and offered some clever ways to "hack the system"-such as throwing under-the-radar, girls-only residencies at popular clubs.
Going into 2015, we hope this issue continues to be considered and debated, instead of being swept under the rug for future generations to deal with.
What We Talk About When We Talk About the "Lack of Women in Dance Music"
Calling Bullshit on the Condescending, Sexist Reactions to Krewella's Legal Problems
Deadmau5's Response to Krewella's Op-Ed Against Sexism is Predictably Sexist
Rosters Don't Refute: Booking Agencies Are Still a Boy's Club
Lineups Don't Lie: Dance Music is Still a Boy's Club
Annie Mac: Stop Asking Me Questions About Being A Woman
The Number One Reason There Aren't More Female DJs
Majestic Casual's Thigh Gap YouTube Channel Proves that House Music Has a Misogyny Problem
Michelle Lhooq is THUMP's Features Editor - @MichelleLhooq