Famous in Our Own Right

Recently, I’ve been learning to DJ. I’ve even played a gig, at La Di Da in Belconnen. I had a great time, and was very grateful to be given the chance to play alongside my mentor, Isaac Dugdale (Gate Five). There aren’t many female DJs around, which I knew before I started learning how to do it myself – but I hadn’t really experienced this lack of diversity before. Even though it was obvious that we were working together and both adding integral beats and synth chords to the mix, men kept coming up to Isaac and congratulating him. I kept trying to catch an eye, give a smile, but all unsuccessfully. I know this was because he knew these people, and it was his show, but this lack of recognition seems all too familiar when it comes to female DJs and musicians.

More and more attention is being drawn to the fact that female musicians, and particularly DJs, aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts. First of all, they are often referred to predominantly by their former career position – DJing is merely seen as a hobby. This is demonstrated to an extreme extent in an article written by electronic music news website Run the Trap in 2014 about DJ Sasha Grey, who previously worked as an adult film star. The article started with this sentence: ‘that’s right, boys, long-time porn star Sasha Grey is heading out from behind the dicks to behind the decks as she attempts to make a (tramp) stamp on the EDM world.’ I can’t begin to point out the number of things that are wrong with this sentence. The article continuously refers to her as an ex-porn star, rather than a DJ, which seemingly removes the obligation of the magazine to show Sasha Grey in any respect as a musician.

This example exposes even deeper tensions between the the workplace and gender. A study done by Stanford School of Business a number of years ago found that women’s dedication in the workplace was most often interpreted as a ‘favour’, or ‘just being nice’, rather than actual talent and hard work. Female musicians are so often seen as just dabbling, because they aren’t recognised as legitimate until they have been in the music industry for a long time, or until a male musician decides to work with them, which is equally unfair.

‘Famous’, a song off Kanye West’s latest release, and ‘The Life Of Pablo’ is yet another example of this problem. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Kanye, and I’m sure plenty of people will agree with his lyrics just because they aren’t a fan of Taylor Swift – but finding her tacky doesn’t give Kanye an excuse to be sexist. “I feel like me and Taylor still might have sex/Why? ‘Cus I made that b*tch famous.” It’s clear that Yeezy is referring to the infamous incident at the Grammys when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s best female video award presentation to say that Beyoncé should have one instead. The worst part of these lyrics is the idea that she owes it to him. Sadly, it is so commonly assumed that successful female women have had sex with powerful men in the music industry as a trade for fame, production benefits, or networking. Sometimes I think I’m lucky that I don’t particularly want to be a part of this industry; I wouldn’t want my success to be reduced to “blonde, size 10 girl attempts to DJ.”