In hype of the Electric Zoo Festival this past August, West London darling Maya Jane Coles graced the cover of the Village Voice making the rising popularity in female DJs, at least in NY, hard to miss.
For years DJing was a closely guarded secret by an elite boys club, but the uncanny access to new technologies, video instruction and music of all kinds has opened the floodgates for people looking to try their hand at DJing, women included.
Editor of Fader, Alexandra Wang, agrees saying, “DJ-dom has definitely been a boy’s club, a kind of cabal...It is a club," she noted, "that women are only now penetrating in significant numbers.”
It wasn’t until I really started focusing on my image and branding myself that things started happening for me...you have an obligation to the audience to maintain an image...you should be humble about your good looks, but if you have it, use it. -Farrah Sabado
I am pleased to say that there are supremely talented female DJs out there rubbing shoulders with the boys. Names like Claudia Cazacu, Annie Mac, Magda, Ellen Allien, DJ Rap, Lauren Flax and Audrey Napoleon come to mind.
Having met hundreds of DJs over the years, I have found that one thing which separates the boys from the girls is their path to success.
Like most male DJs, I hustled my way up from the dive bars, built a ridiculous mailing list alongside my record collection, and had ample time to learn my craft so that when I played on my first big sound system, it was well earned.
Certainly there are female DJs who are no stranger to this long-winded method, but female DJs have been known to receive opportunities sometimes before they are ready, and often before their male peers.
Why? The answer is simple. Female DJs have a few things going for them that men don’t. They are rare, they seem to have been trained since birth to be more style conscious and they are generally sexier than male DJs.
Not all male DJs are unattractive or un-stylish, but how many super talented male DJs can you name that are attractive enough to grace the cover of Interview or Rolling Stone Magazine? deadmau5 made it, but he had to wear a mask to cover his ugly mug.
We live in a society that is focused on image, so being physically attractive is a valuable commodity. Allen Ginsberg famously said, “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.” Having a marketable image is becoming a prerequisite for success. This is especially true for DJs, whose money is primarily made performing.
No stranger to the higher end New York clubs, glamorous DJ and producer Heather McAlpin, aka Heather M, adds,
Everyone loves a hot DJ. It has helped me get my foot in the door a few times for sure.
A regular on the Burning Man scene, model and DJ, Farrah Sabado aka Miss Sabado, has been DJing for the past three years and is a resident of the successful Williamsburg party, Resonate, alongside NY veteran Son of Sound. She explained “It wasn’t until I really started focusing on my image and branding myself that things started happening for me...you have an obligation to the audience to maintain an image...you should be humble about your good looks, but if you have it, use it.”
Unfortunately, the male competition doesn’t always share Miss Sabado’s sentiment. Historically, female DJs have encountered resistance amongst their male peers due to both jealousy and a presumption that they will simply bank on their genetics and a higher marketability, rather than take the time to learn a craft that is not nearly as forgiving for men, whose competition pool is far more crowded.
Rising young New York DJ and creator of Submercer’s House on Mute party, Lauren Martinez, better known as Cry Baby, said that when she first got her start in Miami male DJs regularly told her “Girls shouldn’t DJ.”
In a recent interview for SF Weekly, DJ ThatGirl of the infamous Peaches party in the Mission District exclaimed that, “When I first started, I found that some of my male counterparts were very supportive while others were very territorial. I even had one gig where the guys wouldn't let me get on the turntables at all, even though my name was on the bill.”
DJ Heather M sarcastically remarks, “When performing, I love when male deejays come up to me and say, 'Wow you play really well for a girl DJ.' They just can't believe it.
I do not condone poor attitudes or the presumptions that a female DJs don’t know what they’re doing, let alone belong, because she is attractive, but these ideas are not entirely without merit.
Of the female DJs who rise quickly, only a select few possess talent beyond their years, while others bank on their good looks, social connections, or the ever-lowering standards of musical taste.
If a DJ, regardless of their gender, expects to earn the respect of the DJ community they must pay their dues. DJ ThatGirl reflects on her own experience stating,
I quickly learned that riding on gender and sexuality alone wasnt enough to establish respect or longevity.
DJ Crybaby says that as a girl in the DJ booth, “You have to put in that extra effort to stand out. You have to prove that you deserve to be there.”
As long as a woman’s beauty continues to be held up on a pedestal, female DJs will continue to meet resistance from men. This may be a small price to pay for the obvious advantages that come with it, but that can only be answered by those who choose to utilize their cultural pole position. The female DJs that I have met who are not interested in playing the gender card do not want to be thought of as “female” DJs at all. They shun the modifier, and would prefer to be judged on their musical abilities, not their sexuality.
Despite coming from a fashion industry background, DJ Cry Baby is less inclined to dress flashily or flaunt her sexuality and says, “If I could be in a DJ booth that was completely hidden, I’d be happy.”
The argument has been made that if women want to be judged solely for their musical talents they should shave their heads or do whatever one does in order downplay their sexuality, but it does seem irrational to hook a gift horse in the mouth.
Women who exhibit this kind of behavior would undoubtedly be proving one of Aristotle’s much chagrined theories… a founding father of Western philosophy, Aristotle is regularly berated by feminists for his view that women are not rational animals.
As far as I am concerned, anyone who throws out the winning hand they were dealt, or expects someone else to do so, is an ass.