Opinion: DJ Magazine’s History of Sexism
Call me critical, but I don’t have much time for lists that feature the “Top 10 Females Killing It In Music Right Now”. There is so much value in discussing how masculine power is constructed and prioritised in the music industry, but it’s hard to achieve anything when you’re making a perfunctory gesture for clicks on the internet.
This isn’t to discredit them completely – they are important and have their place in disrupting the dominant narrative. So when DJ Mag published a women in dance music issue this February it got my nod of approval. It may have been a knee-jerk reaction to their 2015 Top 100 poll that featured a total of 3 female DJs, but it was a step in the right direction. DJ Mag said that they published a female focused edition to “keep talking, questioning norms, challenging stigmas and breaking down barriers” in the dance music scene.
Considering this, the decision to not feature any women on the cover of their silver anniversary edition was pretty counterintuitive. After giving big ups to dance music legends like Jeff Mills, Apex Twin, Daft Punk and a bunch of other dudes, DJ Mag has forgotten once again that girls can DJ too. What’s the point in bringing attention to chicks when it’s self-serving, but ignoring them when it’s important?
It’s an issue that transcends genres too – male privilege is rampant in the punk music scene, and can be clearly discerned in triple j’s hottest 100. With the benefit of a little hindsight and social media backlash, DJ Mag’s editor Carl Loben addressed this sexism and penned a heartfelt (read: totally inadequate) apology. Loben said that “the 25 pioneers feature (was) historical, and historically women have been under-represented in dance music.” He also added that there was “some very distinct criteria to be one of the chosen 25 pioneers.” Whatever the criteria involved, it came from the same outlet that said only two months earlier that they wanted to question norms, challenge stigmas and break down barriers.
Loben’s apology teeters on the edge of the “what about merit” argument, which not only implies that women just aren’t as good at making music, but ignores the unconscious and systemic ways that female music producers are disadvantaged. When men are more frequently programmed on the radio, booked for festivals, and women account for 5% of electronic producers and engineers, it’s hard to believe that simply less females like making music. Dance music isn’t gendered – you don’t need to look far to realise this is true. Take a listen to The Black Madonna, Magda, TokiMonsta, Doris Norton, Annie Mac, Ellen Alien, Bjork or go and Google Dapne Oram who invented the technique for creating electronic sounds.
There’s a lot of systemic change that needs to happen so that female voices can be heard in the music industry. Initiatives that prioritise women in music like FBi’s Dance Class and SQUAD are a great start and integral to this process – without them, we’ll continue to miss out on a whole world of sounds. In the mean time, outlets like DJ Mag need to forget about arbitrary criteria and bring girls to the front.
Words by Rhosian Woolridge.