The DJ world is a boys club. Line ups are dominated by men and the Resident Advisor Top 100 poll of 2015 featured just nine women (none of whom are in the top ten.) But, at last, the tide is turning. Female artists such as The Black Madonna and Honey Dijon are, deservedly, getting a lot of hype right now and fast becoming the must-see acts of the summer. They're outspoken, talented and extremely experienced music selectors. But why has it taken so long?
Well, there are a few ways of looking at it. One is you take the traditional [read: inherently sexist] view that girls don't like technical things. Being a producer these days (which is how many DJs get their gigs) involves sitting on your own in a room, spending hours on a computer, often making music using very nerdy software. In many ways, it's no different to being a programmer, which historically has been a very male pursuit.
The other point is that electronic music is a massive patriarchy and perhaps a lot of women get intimidated out of it by men. As one male DJ said: "Men are really competitive with their knowledge and you often hear them questioning whether women have made their own music or got someone else to do it for them." With attitudes like this, it's no wonder women are put off from entering the industry.
Depressingly, there's also an expectation for women to look the part. Famous female music stars often look polished – they have a team of make-up artists and stylists. DJs, however, are constantly appearing in front of crowds of people having not slept and living out of a suitcase. It's not like being a pop star; you don't have a dressing room. Most DJs are on their own. As the unnamed DJ said: "If I show up at a gig, looking like shit, the promoters say, 'oh you legend, you had a big one'. I don't think it's like that for women." Similarly, as Marea Stamper, aka The Black Madonna, says, there are also practical concerns she encounters as a woman that make her feel unsafe. When she’s in a club, she says she has to watch her drink and she fears herself or girlfriends being touched inappropriately. Plus, working nights in cities she doesn’t know means she is always wondering if her ride back to the hotel will be safe. "There are just some factual things about working in this industry that all women have to face," she says.
However, despite the negativity (or perhaps because of it?) the women that have become successful female producers and DJs out there are really breaking the mould. It may have taken some of them longer to get where they are today, working in clubs, and running radio shows, but we think it's worth the wait. Here's the lowdown on the current crop of U.S. female DJs making it big in Europe.