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.
Discwoman, New York
This techno-focused New York collective has been running since 2014, founded by Frankie Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson (who produces as Umfang), and Christine Tran. “I met Emma at Bossa because she played a techno track I liked and I asked her what it was. Christine I had met previously through her collective Witches,” says Frankie of how they came together. “Centering women allows us to make dope parties whilst being conscious of the reality of the fucking world.“ Following a recent night in Mexico with The Black Madonna, Discwoman has been announced as residents at Chicago’s Smart Bar for this year, as well as having potential plans to take things to the U.K., Chile, Colombia, and India.
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.
TGAF is a French collective comprised of five DJs, whose unusual acronym stands for These Girls Are on Fiyah. Carin Kelly, Malibu, DJ Ouai, Miley Serious, and Oklou became a team at the tail-end of last year, and have a monthly radio show on the station PIIAF where they play an eclectic mixture of house, pop, experimental, and club tracks. Each of their radio shows has a different theme, the first three being Air, Fantasy, and 3 a.m. Playing at nights both separately and together, they’re mostly at parties in Paris but have also been known to venture to Berlin.
Childhood friends MyNa and Farah make up Swedish fashion, art, and DJ collective Mahoyo. Sharing a love for street culture and hip-hop, their creative venture combines a love of styling, photography, and filmmaking with music. When it comes to their DJing, there are no limits. “Hip-hop and R&B is [a] given, but we also love to mix our sets with dancehall, kwaito, kuduro, trap, and everything that we are inspired by at the moment,” they explain. “Through them we have found a way to express ourselves creatively and also use our creativity to empower the black and POC community.”
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."
Born N Bread, London
With a mixture of wavy, emotional hip-hop and R&B selections and friendly chat between close friends, Born N Bread has been bringing feel-good vibes to the NTS airwaves since late 2015. The south London girls started up their collective last year, which encompasses the radio show, their fashion, art, and photography zine and other individual projects. Read The FADER's interview with the crew here.
Work In Progress, Toronto
Toronto-based DJ and promoter Cindy Li's radio show Work In Progress is solely dedicated to playing productions made by women. Past guests have included 1080p’s D. Tiffany, Volvox, and DJBOYZCLUB. As well as that, Li has started putting on events with her friend Nancy Chen—first bringing Discwoman to Toronto, with plans to do more in the future. Talking of the importance of creative spaces filled with exclusively female talent, Li says: “Who you book is reflected in who comes to your show, so I’m hoping by doing my radio show and throwing parties that fall in line with the ethos of my radio show, it will encourage more female participation in my local music community.”