Until a person’s sexuality, race, gender or class cease to influence their opportunities in the world, a conscious effort to endorse those often ignored or sidelined must be made.
Tokenism: actions that are the result of pretending to give advantage to those groups in society who are often treated unfairly, in order to give the appearance of fairness. The practice of making only a token effort or doing no more than the minimum.
As we collectively become more educated about structural issues in society, inequality is highlighted at the forefront and awareness brought to the provision of opportunity to people of different race, gender and class.
It’s more difficult to escape scrutiny for gender pay-gaps, systematic oppression in the workplace, and limited opportunity for progression for certain categories of people. And yet, it’s still happening every day all around us, often accepted by wider society outside of the marginalised groups who are forced to be the only voices fighting for change.
There is obvious progression in the variety found in lineups in Ireland, but the variety box often appears ticked when there’s a change-up in genre or sound. With constant comparisons to inclusive clubbing experiences found around Europe, what can we do better? Until a person’s sexuality, race, gender or class cease to influence their opportunities in the world, a conscious effort to endorse those often ignored or sidelined must be made.
Hosting all female line-ups is a great initiative – but what happens next? It’s what you do after the token equality display that reveals the true motive underneath. There is no progress, and frankly no point in hosting an all-female line up once if the next five events feature none. Highlighting a particular group of underrepresented people because it’ll boost public impression (while making you feel good) does nothing for deeper inclusive change. Moral licensing, whereby performing one token gesture allows you to believe you can do as you please next, is detrimental to the progression of a unified music scene, wider target markets and more inclusive spaces.
If the argument of “less girls are interested in it” comes up, look at the reality of the situation and the reasons behind it. Do women feel welcomed into these spaces? Do they feel the same sense of belonging? Smirnoff’s 2017 Move The Needle documentary, which featured ELLLL, Aoife Nic Canna and Joni amongst others, highlighted self-censoring of clothing and appearance amongst women DJs who feel they better dress down and casual like the lads to be taken seriously.
In college societies, are girls given the opportunity to try out the equipment in what is frequently a room full of lads who are bigger than you and confident to speak louder as they are safely in the majority. It’s important to implement inclusive structure at ground level, be aware of who speaks and create a learning experience that isn’t patronising or intimidating.
With fewer females showcased, fewer females will feel confident enough to work for success too. A minority’s identity and position within the club culture should not centre around their minority-ness, reduced to a box in need of ticking.
Lots of lads and women alike are thankfully encouraging their female friends to participate, but if women aren’t visible in the industry then what’s the use? Visibility creates confidence and further attraction into these spaces, hobbies and career paths. Normalise women on event lineups – normalise it so much that “ladies’ night”, “all-female lineup”, “girl power” and other condescending titles cease to exist. Hopefully artists will no longer be alienated as “female DJ” but just a DJ. People dislike gender quotas, but I’ll admit they serve an initial purpose. However, using women as a marketing tool defeats the purpose of conscious booking. Consciously change the structure and diversity within it, until it becomes something unconscious and normal.
Women who DJ are pitted against each other in the media, facebook commenters trolling and slating Nina Kraviz for her dance moves, Amelie Lens for copying her, VTSS deemed successful because she’s good-looking…need I go on? We can’t forget Konstantin claiming women were “usually worse at DJing than men”. Bashing those who’ve made it to the top for the most ridiculous traits reflects negatively on the industry rather than the women. It’s natural that other women may be discouraged from playing publicly if this self-conscious criticism is what you sign up for in doing so. While female DJs are a prominent topic in the past couple of years, the narrative following them needs to change.
There are many women in the industry smashing it, plenty who haven’t felt directly affected by the uneven ratio, but many are in a position of global fame or are the hot-topic of the minute (deservingly) scooping up bookings. To be taken seriously requires twice the amount of effort. Irish native Cailin commented on her initial experience:
“As I started to play outside of Waterford, I got a lot of scorn for using records. I felt it was often assumed that I did it for show and couldn’t possibly be able to play them properly. There was an immediate change in vibes and attitude once people saw that I could in fact play records, and play them well.” – Cailín
For every non-male DJ satisfied with their place in the industry, there is one who is not. One experience doesn’t represent all – women should be consciously considered and asked about their experiences, outside of assumptions made by others. Understandably it can be difficult to recognise tokenism, especially if you feel you’re coming from a genuine place. Get an opinion from a member of the group you’re targeting. Local lineups filled with male talent alone aren’t representative of the rising flux in interest of production and djing.
Depicting a one-sided landscape of the talent pool limits perspective. DJs feature their own unique styles and sounds, but just as people of different genders experience the world differently, they may experience music differently. Shining a light on different sounds, styles, inspiration from personal background and roots – it has the potential to be a transformative experience, in what is now a new decade.
This is an intersectional dilemma the industry must look at, with the same issue arising for LGBTQ+ artists. Club nights including Grace and Mother Club offer safe spaces while showcasing marginalised artists as much as possible. Grace is a queer techno night in Dublin, aiming to provide this safe space for “LGBTQ+ people to be themselves without judgement”, intolerant of discriminant behaviour. Their party in Berlin last November showcased one of my favourite sets of 2019 courtesy of HΛNИΛH, a Northern Irish woman I heard nothing of before.
Equal opportunity should transpire into all aspects of the creative industry, from performers and artists to those behind the scenes. Take a leaf out of Paula Temple’s 2015 label Noise Manifesto, which tackles the hierarchies by featuring at least 50% artists who identify as trans, female, woman, non-male, non-conforming or queer. Arguing the man was the best person for the job would be a fair point, if it wasn’t the norm and if it wasn’t a decision always made by men.
Honeybook, an American business and financial management platform for freelancers, published its second study into gender-based pay gaps on December 5th 2019. Their first study in 2017 showed female creatives are earning 32% less than their male counterparts. This dropped to 11% less in 2019, due to women working more hours than men in order to make up for unequal pay. Women have managed to decrease the pay gap by completing 17% more projects than men.
Female DJs and musicians earn 38 cents to the male dollar, or 44 cents to our euro. Even though female freelancers are more efficient in their work, they are being paid 35 per cent less for a project. Female DJs and musicians earn 38 cents to the male dollar, or 55 cents less in euro than men in the same field. Combining this ongoing issue with the harassment and bias women working in a music industry face, the barriers for women to move up on the ladder of success as as DJs are immense. Representation must also take place behind the scenes to ensure diversity is on the agenda at every level, in turn creating nightlife that works for everyone.
This is not to be misunderstood for choosing acts or fill job positions based on anything but merit. They should be talented in their field and able to put on a good show, often with successful productions behind them. Having an all-female lineup for the purpose of the once-off token gesture removes the merit. In conjunction, having no women on lineups suggests there is no merit at all.
There is structural misogyny built into society, and it is the responsibility of the spaces we call inclusive and important in our culture, to tackle these issues on some sort of level. Giving opportunity and a voice to those who have had it less is the right direction to go in to transform our clubbing experiences into something diverse, exciting and fresh.