THE BLOG
21/10/2015 13:47 BST | Updated 21/10/2016 06:12 BST

Is Electronic Dance Music Inherently Sexist?

Women are under-represented in lots of professions, but music and the arts are generally thought to be areas where there is at least a modicum of equality. In rock music, for instance, the battles have been fought -- and largely won -- over gender parity, a plethora of female musicians (guitarists, drummers etc) proving that women can rock just as well as men.

You'd have maybe thought that in the world of DJing -- one of the more modern professions -- there would exist some similarly enlightened attitudes, too. And there does, in some quarters. There are LOADS of highly respected female DJs in underground dance music. But look at a mainstream dance music festival line-up, or indeed the DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs poll, and you wouldn't necessarily think so.

Festival line-ups statistically consist of about 97% male acts, so perhaps it's not surprising that -- due to a lack of widespread mainstream exposure -- only a few female DJs are voted into the Top 100 DJs list year after year. For this, DJ Mag is roundly accused of sexism. Yet this poll is 100% voted for by the public -- it isn't whom the magazine chooses to put in the list. Sometimes it's almost as if the young people commenting from around the world don't understand the meaning of the word 'poll' -- 'To record the opinion or vote of'.

The 2015 results have just come out, and again only a handful of female DJ acts have been voted into the Top 100. NERVO, EDM sisters Liv and Mim, originally from Australia, who started off writing songs for David Guetta; Krewella from the US, who are also sisters (Yasmine and Jahan); and a Ukranian hardcore techno spinner called Miss K8.

Anticipating a low figure such as this, at DJ Mag we decided to try to start delving into the issue by asking all the DJs who appeared in the chart: 'Why aren't there more women DJs in the Top 100 DJs poll?' Some answers gave quite an insight.

While most DJs expressed some form of disappointment that there weren't more women in the poll, and a few attempted to make jokes that may have been lost in translation, there were a number of responses that can only be termed 'sexist clap-trap'.

"The DJ Mag Top 100 mostly consists of people who produce, and sitting behind a computer programming music is not something that generally appeals to women," suggested Dutch EDM DJ/producer Headhunterz. "Because maybe they spent too much time in Sephora [a make-up store] and too little time on producing?" suggested another Dutch DJ, Frontliner.

Others thought that "Women aren't trying hard enough" or "Guys get way more into this stuff than girls", although these type of answers were the minority, it has to be said. Still, systematic sexism from some of the biggest DJ acts on the planet is a far cry from some of the equal, utopian ideals -- one nation under a groove, and so on -- that the dance scene was founded on back in the day.

Female DJs -- in my experience -- can sometimes, if anything, be more into electronic music than their male counterparts. They are maybe more likely to have got into DJing because of the music, rather than as a perceived short-cut to seeking fame or 'scoring chicks'. Their sets may be more intricately crafted, particularly in house and techno, rather than merely 'boshed out', which all too many jocks are prone to do. Some women DJs can do this expertly too when they want, however, as well.

In the year 2000, ten percent of the DJs in the Top 100 DJs poll were female. But this was before EDM -- the dominant sound in dance music right now, a kind of big room commercial electro-house style -- took over. EDM can be a bit of a bro-fest, cliques of exclusive self-appointed 'boys clubs' all helping each other out, but excluding women cos 'all this technology stuff is gonna be way too technical for them'. In some scenes, female DJs are expected to dress a certain way -- ie. ultra-glam, or even half-naked -- and others have to develop a thick skin to endure a barrage of abuse that can await them online from idiot male 'keyboard warriors' commenting about them -- or objectifying them -- on YouTube or Twitter.

At DJ Mag we put people on the cover because of merit, not through fulfilling any sort of quotas. As such we've had Mobilee chief Anja Schneider, Russian techno spinner Nina Kraviz, Radio 1 queen Annie Mac, B.Traits (also from Radio 1), Deniz Kurtel, Magda and others on the cover in the past two or three years, and run features in recent times on the likes of Maya Jane Coles, Hannah Wants, DJ Rebekah, Lady Waks, La Fleur, Blond:ish, Hannah Holland, Steffi, Ellen Allien, Charlotte Devaney, Helena Hauff, Paula Temple, Lady Blacktronica, Nastia, Eli & Fur, Alison Wonderland, Anna Wall, Jane Fitz, Nicole Moudaber, Miss Pink, Goldierocks, Nina Las Vegas... The list goes on and on. There are LOADS of great women DJs.

Many female DJs report that most men have been nothing but helpful to them in their careers. Yet others have their fair share of horror stories. Club-land is hugely enriched by women contributing at all levels. We need to be striving towards equality. As with racism, there should be no room for sexism in the international scene.