Year after year, British dance music festival line-ups strive to showcase the very best talent, but why aren’t there more women in the DJ booth?
DJ Barely Legal for Fabric London
It’s a known fact that female DJs seem to make up less than 10% of British festival line-ups. A sad truth. Where are all the women at?
Arguably, female DJs and producers are in the spotlight now more than ever, there’s no doubt about it. So why aren’t there more women and female-identifying DJs on line-ups? It just doesn’t make any sense. Just putting it out there, demographics have shown over and over again that half of festival attendees are in fact women, but what about behind the decks? It’s time we all cracked down on this systemic gender disparity.
Okay so how bad is this problem, *really*? Well the answer is: very bad. Festivals have a gender problem and it’s more pervasive than ever.
But where ARE all the women at?
I did some number crunching from past festivals and came to the conclusion that the representation of female DJs on dance music festival line-ups has been absolutely dreadful. Thump and The Huffington Post have scrutinised line-ups for American festivals each year, so we thought we would do the same for British festivals. There’s not really much of a difference.
Looking at loads of male-dominated line-ups, which are patriarchal through and through, the results have been nothing short of eye-opening. Take a look at these dismal stats broken down for you. On the 2016 Gottwood line-up, seven out of the 98 DJ sets were performed by women. Just seven. The Lost Village festival only recruited one female DJ for its line-up, and for Farr Festival it was only three out of 111. Madness.
It doesn’t stop there though. Less than 10% of the 2017 Boomtown line-up was female and the same goes for Creamfields. For Eastern Electrics, the stats were even worse with less than 5% of its line-up being made up by women. It’s happening all across the board and judging by these results, the electronic music industry still has a LONG way to go.
An infographic made by female-oriented network female:pressure in 2015, showed that 82.3% of artists on line-ups were decidedly male and only 10.8% were female. The numbers speak for the themselves – not much has changed. The industry is still heavily patriarchal and shows a horrible, stark dichotomy between male and female representation.
How bad is this problem?
How many people are even aware of this issue and why do all line-ups slant towards the talents of male DJs in the first place? It’s been discussed but no one has actually got to the heart of the problem. Why is the old boys’ club still running the male-dominated profession? Before you say women aren’t as good as men, with musical pioneers such as Honey Dijon, Nina Kraviz, Annie Mac, Tini, Maya Jane Coles and The Black Madonna making waves in the electronic music sphere, there’s no reason why there should be such a glaring gender imbalance on festival bills. They’re all doing pretty well for themselves - gender has absolutely nothing to do with it. People are pretty fed up of the situation.
Does the gender imbalance point fingers to a lack of desire by women to become DJs? According to DJ Electric Indigo, founder of female:pressure, people assume that women are not serious about their craft and making electronic music, even after they see them DJ.
“I don’t think that there is a lack of female artists. I think they are primarily less visible,” she says. “The absolute number seems to be considerably lower but who has an objective reference? Who has counted all DJs and determined their sex?”
The bottom line is – women are just as good as men and need better representation. According to Annie Mac, there are ‘shit loads’ of exceptional female DJs on the musical radar nowadays, but misogyny still seems to be deeply etched into the industry.
The Black Madonna
Last year, The Guardian posted an analysis of the amount of women on British festival line-ups in general. In the year 2015, 86% of festival performers were male. It’s evident that it’s not just dance music which is neglecting female artists - it’s happening on a wider spectrum. The dire gender split shows a lack of diversity and that the problem is not exclusive to just dance music, but music industry as a whole. But now that attention has been brought to this, why is it still such a prominent issue? The under-representation of women is surely killing the industry.
So what’s the reason for all this disconnect? Does the blatant gender imbalance reflect the existence of male-dominated subcultures which even the dance music world hasn’t been able to avoid? Has the imbalance been exacerbated by gender stereotypes? Probably. We need to keep challenging these perceptions in order to improve the current musical climate. Recognising the constant battle that women face to be acknowledged on the same scale as their male peers is halfway to defeating inequality.
Women are NOT sexual objects
Despite the improvements stemming from female empowerment and encouragement, the sexist ‘bro’ culture is still alive and well on the dance music scene. Boiler Room tried to tackle comments made on their chatrooms to DJ/producer Nightwave last year, stating that misogyny is not welcome on their site. Rightly so. Making misogynistic comments towards a woman, just for being a woman, makes you a massive twat, or as Boiler Room pointed out a ‘vile cowardly dickhead’.
This wasn’t the first time for this to happen though. Problems with misogynists have been rife since 2011, but Madam X pointed out that the sexist comments had become more common since Boiler Room had started broadcasting on Facebook Live. The onslaught of micro-aggressions directed at women could maybe subconsciously deter any novice female DJs from honing their skills and catapulting themselves in the limelight, for fear of being discouraged by these sexist slugs. Come on men, where’s your decency and respect?
In April, DJ Barely Legal was subject to a number of sexist remarks made towards her during her set at our Mixmag Lab in London. With derogatory comments made towards her such as ‘nice boobs’ and ‘I came for tits and stayed for music’, shows just how the social fabric of our society is still so messed up. Even DJ Heidi’s Facebook profile picture was tagged as ‘top shag’. Would this happen to a man? No. Women should not be judged by their looks and discriminatory remarks should not be made, nor condoned, by anyone.
Sadly, cloak-and-dagger sexism has also become a lot more common. Instead of outright misogynist chatter, women are forced to hear subtle, yet equally as damaging, comments made towards them. Why are they so damaging? Well, they propagate a vicious cycle of inequality which we need to break out of.
Honey Dijon for the NY Times
But why is there such a stigma surrounding female artists? Do men see them as less capable? In the public eye, women are often sexualised and these sexual stereotypes are particularly harmful. This sends a message to the world that a man possesses all the skills and women are only employed for their good looks. Sometimes men can fetishize the idea of the female DJ, because they are not pressured to meet the demands of the mainstream’s ideals of beauty and sexuality.
It’s fair to say that the dance music world is still unequal, but there is no clear-cut solution to solving this problem. It’s not as if festival promoters are maliciously leaving women off line-ups to upkeep some sort of twisted patriarchal standard. The issue at hand is more complex and runs deeper than that.
Now let’s be fair, most of us do not (well, should not) care about the sex of the DJ behind the decks. The only thing we should care about is the music coming from the speakers. At the end of the day, we should all endorse the simple fact that talent has NO gender.
What do you guys think?
The Glittery Goose x