It's different for girls as female DJs discriminated against

The music industry's a man's world with women disc jockeys, outnumbered four to one, according to new research.

Thursday, 10th November 2016, 7:43 am
Updated Friday, 18th November 2016, 11:22 am
Time to turn tables to support female DJs
Time to turn tables to support female DJs

And they are routinely discriminated against because sounds they play are "too feminine" (here debunked by DJ SARA freestyle scratch soundtrack).

Beyonce, Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift are all examples of female musicians finding huge success alongside their male counterparts.

But the same cannot be said for the women behind the scenes, with just a quarter of DJs on the dance music circuit female .

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And the gender differences pervade the business in its entirety, says academic Dr Tami Gadir.

Even the title 'DJ' is masculine by default, she said.

"When someone says DJ you automatically picture a man," said Dr Gadir.

She says when female DJs turn up for a gig they're often asked what they're doing there, if they're the DJ's assistant or girlfriend.

Dr Gadir said: "The numbers are important. The share of women must increase.

"Other strategies include making club policies non-discriminatory and providing consequences for those who misbehave in terms of gender discrimination or harassment.

"Most important is a cultural shift, which has to come alongside the changing of the numbers. Otherwise, you're dealing with the symptom and not the cause. But a really awesome starting point would be policies that say bookers have to have a certain share of women in the line-up.

"That would probably have a domino effect. The niche clubs seem better at this than the mainstream clubs, and it could be interesting to find out why."

DJ-ing takes place during the night, and the audience is often intoxicated, with one woman telling how she had enough when the audience gathered into a mob repeatedly shouting for her to undress.

Dr Gadir, of the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo, a DJ herself, said what she found corresponded well with her own experiences.

She said: "Gender is completely unavoidable, because it is in your face the entire time."

Dr Gadir, who has her PhD from the University of Edinburgh, cited a typical situation outside a major nightclub in the city where many people are stopped by the bouncers.

Some girls have dressed up to go clubbing after a few drinks, and the bouncer asks' are you sure you're in the right place, girls?' while directing the girls out of the long queue. They just didn't fit in, as this particular club has a more serious 'vibe', said Dr Gadir.

She said: "I have found women as a general rule are marginalised in the electronic music scene. There are far more men than women DJs.

"Then there is the discrimination in the settings they work in. This can be assumptions that they don't know how to use the machines properly.

"Or it can be actual harassment from either male colleagues or other people in the scene. Most women experience some discrimination. Some are more bothered than others, and some have developed strategies to care less about it.

"There is this bizarre assumption you can somehow predict what kind of music women will dance to. For example, it is assumed that women like music with vocals, or sounds that are 'softer' or in a higher register, better than the men on the dance floor do.

"Men, on the other hand, are presumed to like a more aggressive or hard sound, or deeper sounds. This connection between taste in music and gender is a very powerful myth that keeps being perpetuated."

Australian born Dr Gadir has done fieldwork at clubs in Sydney, Edinburgh and Oslo, but she has also visited dance clubs all over the world as part of her research.

"What I saw as a visitor of dance clubs was that there were always fewer women than men DJing. But I was also made aware that both on the dance floor and as DJs, women experienced a sense of precarity.

"The clubs, the dance floors, and the night life scene make up an unsafe space, where women are being harassed, and even attacked."

According to Dr Gadir, the myths about gender and music make up a self-fulfilling prophecy. For when you think that a certain type of music will make women dance, and women in fact are the first to come to the dance floor, the male DJ is happy.

He then continues to spread the idea that women have a different taste in music than men.

Added Dr Gadir: "People would say girls like 'fluffy' sounds. Some even used the term 'girly', by which they often meant 'happy' or 'light' music that is easy to listen to. And surprisingly often, the term 'soulful vocal house' is mentioned, assuming that women like electronic music with soulful vocals."