In the past year, conversations regarding female representation in dance music have been more passionate than ever. It's about time. But importantly, this new wave of discourse is bringing with it a new wave of projects designed to highlight the women behind the decks. One such initiative is international collective female:pressure, who pool together statistics on female artists in electronic music, as well as photos of women in the studio, spotlighting their involvement in the technical side of music-making. Meanwhile, Twitter account Very Male Line Ups calls out all-male line-ups to “help bromoters do better,” and techno don Paula Temple’s Noise Manifesto label gives a platform to gender-balanced projects featuring 50% female and queer artists.
But positive efforts like these don’t come without their detractors. When New York-based “techno feminist” collective Discwoman were profiled in a huge NPR feature last year, the comments below displayed a notably negative reaction towards what they were doing—ranging from “And the NPR feminist rant goes on,” to “Sorry, but clubs don't have a bro problem. If you have a problem with the bros, that's your problem.” And these attitudes are still visible in the industry at large: last week, DJ Justin James went viral when he placed a Facebook ad looking for female DJs with ridiculous requirements, including specific height, weight, and being the owner of a popular Instagram account.
Though it might have been an unusually bold example of discrimination in electronic music, James’ request re-emphasized why all-female projects are so essential. While we’re living in an unequal world, it remains crucial to support voices that may not always feel comfortable with the bro culture of clubs. Speaking to The FADER over email, Paula Temple puts it this way: “Maybe when we reach the point where sidelining, gaslighting, denying, undermining, taking over, reductionism, hostile environments and sexual harassment have disappeared, there would be less of a reason to create all-female projects.”
In an industry where there are people who don’t encourage—and in some cases, actively discourage—women to pursue DJing for a living, exclusively female-identifying projects carry massive significance. Below, The FADER highlights and speaks to nine such crews that are supporting and positively impacting women in scenes such as house, techno, and club music.
Sister is an online collective that takes its form in a series of Soundcloud mixes and also a private Facebook group made for discussing and sharing music between female and non-binary people. The platform was created with “the aim of solidifying a network of women within underground club music.” Producer and DJ Toxe, who is part of Stockholm based label Staycore, founded the group and contributed the first mix in the series. Today, producers such as UNiiQU3, DJ Haram, and KABLAM are all an active part of the community—a safe place for women in club music to hang out and voice concerns that may be met with hostility elsewhere.
Miss Modular, L.A.
Operating from Los Angeles’ Radio Sombra, Miss Modular is a radio show run by host Sasha Ali with graphics and visual identity provided by designer Michelle Cho (who has also provided a guest mix for the series). Their other guests have recently included Nguzunguzu’s MA DJ and Lafawndah. The show is dedicated to “womxn-powered music,” and Ali elaborates on the phrasing over email to The FADER: “I say 'womxn' to be inclusive of music-makers who are femme-identified.” Miss Modular isn’t connected to any particular genre, instead showcasing the wide range of women’s musical abilities—"be it trombonist Melba Liston who arranged music for artists like Billie Holiday, Randy Weston, and Marvin Gaye, producers like Georgia Anne Muldrow or MA DJ of Nguzunguzu, as well as rappers and songwriters like Junglepussy or Selda Bagçan."
Apeiron Crew, Copenhagen
“Loads of women have the talent and dedication to work to make it, they just need a little push, a team or a role model, and that is something I realized the past two years being a part of Apeiron Crew,“ explains Red Bull Music Academy alumni Courtesy. Two years ago, four best friends from Copenhagen, Najaaraq Vestbirk (Courtesy), Emma Blake, Simone Øster, and Sara Svanholm (Mama Snake) came together to form Apeiron Crew. DJing in Denmark with heady techno selections in tow, the crew also fly in other female DJs to play with them. As well as being residents at the capital’s biggest techno venue Culture Box, members Emma Blake and Courtesy are also producing acidic techno together.
After being exasperated by yet another male-dominated list of top DJs, nine London-based techno lovers formed SIREN through a Facebook group in October 2015. “SIREN comprises DJs, producers, promoters, music journalists, A&R scouts, radio show producers, and live performers. As we began to address in our first zine, we want to change things across the board,” they tell The FADER. Working incredibly quickly, they’ve put on their first party already, with sets from rising DJs Resom, Lenny Jams, and the collective’s residents playing a lot of fun, energetic techno. With plans to run the night every few months, SIREN have some clear objectives: “At our nights, we ask people to adhere to our slogan: 'no bullshit, just dancing.' We have a zero-tolerance policy on harassment, whether targeted at gender, race, sexual orientation, or ability.”