We’ll call her “DJ Emily”, because that’s not her name and she really doesn’t deserve to be slandered again like she was slandered that day.

About ten years ago, I was talking with a friend about Emily one of her records which you’ve probably heard before.

Emily had put quite a career together, to the point where she made a living exclusively from music. That’s really the most that people in this business can ask for, right? She had the same opportunities many of her peers in Chicago had, with the key difference that she didn’t piss most of those opportunities away.

“But do you know how she learned how to DJ?” my friend asked me. “I do. I was there. See, she dated a guy who DJ’d, learned everything she could from him. And when she couldn’t learn anything more, she just threw him away. Can you believe it?”

I could, actually. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that a fair percentage of the industry basically viewed women through the lens of the clip art on their shitty Beatport records – big boobs, wind-swept hair, long legs – and their heads often cropped entirely out of frame.

Over the years I would hear this story over and over again, applied to each and every female DJ and producer from Chicago that achieved significant renown or credibility. Can you believe it? Every single female in this industry met a guy, sucked his talent through a straw and threw him over her shoulder like an empty beer can when she was through.

No, I really couldn’t believe it anymore. This isn’t some cosmic coincidence. This is what institutionalized misogyny actually looks like. The story kept being repeated – I heard it over and over again through the years, applied to people who weren’t even on the scene back when I first heard it applied to “Emily”.

I really need to emphasize that I’m not taking artistic license here. The same story has been fitted over nearly female Chicago House Music DJ like a straightjacket custom cut for dangerous women.

I also don’t mean to imply that this is a “Chicago thing”. It’s just conceivable that having been on the cutting edge of electronic music for three decades, we were trailblazers in being misogynist assholes too.

 

SO IT HAS NOW BECOME a rite of passage for a woman in this industry to tolerate groundless slander that she slept her way to the top. I can’t even imagine how irritating it is to be asked in interviews “how it feels to be a woman in this industry” and yet being unable to address this particular aspect of it without giving credibility to a slur.

Take Krewella. The sisters in the group, Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, recently parted with their third (male) member. Suits and countersuits are flying back and forth. Immediately the knives came out: they’d grown too big for their britches, and their egos had gone so out of whack that they had cast out the actual “brains” behind the band (one that one of the sisters had a relationship with).

 
krewella-tweet5
 

See, this is what underlies the toxic slander: the idea that a woman can’t do what a man can. The misogynist looks for a man behind her pulling the strings and – the ratio of men to female being what it is – eventually he’ll find one. The “real” talent identified, he can now piece together for himself the story of how a female artist managed to leech off their Pygmalion like an insect.

The misogynist can now assure himself that women still can’t DJ, produce music or do anything really other than sing and dance and look nice on the headless clip art of their shitty Beatport releases.

Jahan Yousaf held her own “Mean Tweets” segment, posting just a handful of the dozens (if not hundreds) of comments suggesting the sisters should quit the industry and go into porn because they weren’t good for anything else.

 
krewella-tweet1
 

Maybe that sort of public airing is what it takes to burn this out of the scene, and frankly she should be congratulated for having the courage to do so. This is why I’m writing about this, despite not really giving much of a fuck about Krewella’s music. You could change the name “Krewella” to any of a vast number of females in this industry and you bet it’s been said about them before. Hell, it’s probably been said about them TODAY.

And while we’re at it, let’s be honest about who’s saying it too. Not everyone who talks shit is an anonymous troll or 19 year old candy raver with molly-curdled eyes that’s going to look back at this portion of their life with equal amounts of confusion and regret. I’ve heard the same slander directed at female DJs and producers from people who ought to know better. People with decades in the game. People who are all smiles to their faces. People who might not be able to survive if their name were hung with these words.

If you agree this is a problem – again, I’m not sure you can know female talent in the industry and not heard this story told at least once – I’m not sure what we can do about it. Call it out? Shut it down? All good things.

On an industry level? This isn’t a fair playing field, it never has been, and that’s without insinuating that every female in the business built her career on casual sex and the craven manipulation of clueless men.

 

Photo by MitchDoner via Wikimedia Commons

  • Lisa

    Defamation through writing is libel, slander is oral defamation.

    • terrymatthew

      You’re right — I added a couple of words and didn’t notice. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Finally! It’s about time someone shines the light on this bullshit.

  • Jessica Fortune Fenner

    Yes! And.. when there is no way to slander around male sexual involvement because there is none, it’s even more terrifying! And every other type of character assassination is invented, including disparaging the lack of a man who’s been manipulated.

  • disqus_BLoWjMS4ys

    If you don’t have a story in your background of dating a man in the biz, or sleeping with anyone, you’re just a “bitch”- when you’re working passionately. Slut or Bitch- those are your two choices with misogynists-

    I think it’s rarely discussed, but a lot of it comes from other women. It’s most painful when it comes from that direction. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a girlfriend or wife of an artist grab their man extra tight when I walk up- Or blatantly attack me for “texting their man” (my boss). I think it’s more painful when it comes from a woman. It;s almost expected from Men. I can remember walking into the hotel of a very well known Dubstep Producer. I announced as we walked in that I don’t f*ck musicians.. He was so offended.. He wanted to know why I felt the need to announce that. I suppose we, as women, become conditioned to it.. That we have to separate ourselves from groupies.

    It’s been a personal choice of mine not to engage in any type of relationship with my male counterparts. Because of this stigma- I hoped at some point in my career that I would be valued solely on my body of work..

    I’ve been blatantly sexually discriminated against one time. It was hurtful. I was told I cannot come on the bus because I’m a girl. I had so much work to do.. When the manager admitted it was him that told the TM to say that, He made it even worse, Trying to defend his actions- “I was just looking out for you, there’s 11 guys on that bus. That’s not safe for a girl” – as if he was some kind of fucking hero… As far as lawsuits go, If I were litigious I had that one in the bag.

    At this point in my career, I’ve accomplished enough to no longer care. I’m gonna date who I want, I’m gonna say what I think.. If that makes me a “slut” or a “bitch” than so be it.. I still make hits- and every professional in this industry respects it.

    • Jessica Fortune Fenner

      Just yesterday this comment was left on a post I made about a man pinching my ass in the club. Oh the joy..

      “Get a sense of humor then. You poor conceited bitch. I don’t feel sorry for you or outraged at all. You probably bumped into someone’s wallet and let your obviously over inflated ego run rampant. End follows about how important you are.”

    • Angel G. Alanis

      “At this point in my career, I’ve accomplished enough to no longer care. I’m gonna date who I want, I’m gonna say what I think.. If that makes me a “slut” or a “bitch” than so be it.. I still make hits- and every professional in this industry respects it.”

      and the right people will notice. Fans and professionals.

  • DMN-D

    Maybe if the girls of Krewella would learn to sing correctly and produce decent tunes and mix correctly, they would get the respect that Annie Mac, B.Traits and Maya Jane Cole get! I don’t see them getting insulted with sexist comments… The girls in Krewella chose the image they wanted to have and it boosted them to the top, so they chose image over talent unlike the previous female DJs I stated who are all about talent and not about making a scandal acting like superstars…

    DJing used to be about sharing music but now it’s becoming more and more like a reality TV show, so Krewella shouldn’t complain if we treat them like reality TV stars instead of real DJs… They want to be the heart of the conversation, they will be! If they just minded their own business like Maya Jane Cole and concentrated on their music instead of their popularity, this article probably wouldn’t exist and deadmau5 probably wouldn’t have taken shots at them…

    This isn’t just a sex-specific problem! Male DJs have the same attitude problems! Some are here for the music, some for the fame! Those in it for the fame are all gonna have fingers pointed at ’em and scandals around ’em! It’s their own fault and not everyone elses! You alone chose what you do and what image you give out! Krewella has NEVER given out the “I’m in it for the music” vibe even when they were still 3 members! Now we just realize that it’s gotten worst since Rainman left.. (at least in my opinion) and this is in no way based on if they are or aren’t women…

    But hey, apparently they’re succeeding in their publicity stunt, so props to them 😉

    • Guest

      Blah blah blah it doesn’t only happen to them. That’s the point of the article.

    • narcosis92

      All the girls did was vocals and expeted to find someone to both produce their albums and mix for them live for less than 33%

  • Lauren Josephine Coccia

    I’ve lived this, except it escalated to getting beaten up at a gig by the dude DJ. So ya, this shit is real.

    • Angel G. Alanis

      hope you put his ass in jail, or promoters did something.

  • GG

    Good stuff Terry. Thanks.

  • Rissa Garcia

    thanks Terry, nice read 🙂

  • littletubesoftoothpaste

    Great article – well said.

  • Carl Cox

    Don’t worry anyone i think they are rich enough to hire a professional producer now, new light / co2 blast show , buy a sync button DJ set up or Ableton out a DJ set’ hit space bar and the sheepeople will cheer because no one really cares and all this attention towards them still won’t get me to listen to one song.

  • narcosis92

    Krewella was a male dj, whos moved on to better things. The females did it to themselves. They didnt do anything related to production or djing. Theym just put out sexualized titles and lyrics, and did vocals… they expected to find a producer and dj to work for l30% or less. Not sure how the two sisters apply here. And chicago on the cutting edge of electronic music? It took years for most genres to even exist in chicago. Ill give us house, and cutting edge till late 90s and thats where it ends

  • Klaus Mogensen

    Well, it’s probably true that they picked someones DJ brain when they started out. Not necessarily a boyfriend, but somebody.

    Because didn’t we all? Almost all DJs I know got interested in DJing because someone they knew was DJing. It could be an older brother or a cousin, and you thought it was cool, wanted to do it too, and tried to figure out what they were doing. Maybe they even helped you along.

    So maybe it’s because there is some truth to that part of the story (they got inspired to start by somebody – maybe even a former boyfriend), that these kind of stories doesn’t die.

    So a possible answer when someone tells a story like that could be “So I guess nobody inspired or even helped you when you first started DJing? You had to re-event every DJing skill all by yourself without mimicking what other DJs were doing?”

    • I taught myself how to dj by watching other people do it. There are plenty of people who have managed to do the same. Some of us are even women.

  • Paris Hilton rules!

  • Mitchy Rich

    I love these conversations for their irony. Calling out misogyny by making sweeping generalizations et al.