The topic of sexism in EDM is not a new one, and certainly, it can be said that giant strides have been taken in the past few years to address the lack of women on festival lineups and in the studio. From the rise of Discwoman, an all-female DJ collective in New York, to rapidly ascending producers like Deadmau5 protégé Rezz, women in dance are becoming much more visible. Sometimes though, just when you think everything is on the up-and-up, a stray comment comes your way to remind you that the more things change, they more they stay the same.
Such was the case when Florida-based DJ Justin James recently posted an advertisement to a Facebook group called “Support FEMALE DJs !!!!!!!!" calling for women artists who met a certain criteria. For musicians, it’s not unusual to be asked for things like an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) or social media statistics. What was unusual about James' ad though, were the age, height and weight requirements, stated as 21 to 32 years old, between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, and in the range of 105 to 120 pounds. He also requested to only talk to the applicants firsthand, no managers or agents. Oh, and you must not suck as a DJ. Afterthought.
The post went viral not just because of the overt sexist overtones, but a subsequent private follow-up message where he said, “If [venues] wanted talented DJs, then they would just hire men.” People took offense not only to the obvious, but also other subtler messages. Why, as someone who in his post self-proclaimed to run an agency (and thus, respect chains of command), would he want to only talk to female artists directly and bypass any management? Why make it a point in the ad to say he “books female DJs from time to time?” Why did he feel okay posting this to a group centered on supporting female artists? James recently issued an apology on his Facebook fan page, but as many pointed out there, it carries every hallmark of a “sorry, not sorry” response.
In the wake of this, the EDM industry has been ablaze with both men and women in every scope of work voicing their opinions. “All the backlash to this shows me we’re making tangible strides in equality,” says Nathan Beer, managing editor at NESTHQ (Skrillex’s online imprint). “And if those at fault don’t want to admit it and take responsibility, we’re more than happy to make them.”
Taking the issue to task today is L.A.-based non-profit Nap Girls, a group of women in the entertainment industry who seek to empower other women in creative fields and make sexism in music a thing of the past. Click through to read James' original posts and our enlightening discussion with the Nap Girls in their wake.
Participants: Ascia Johnson, social media manager for SBCR and American Authors and publicist at MOOVS; Molly Hankins, music journalist; Joséphine Huan, music journalist; Jess Stadler, assistant at Warpath Group; Angela Samartano, social media manager for Tiësto, Seven Lions and others at Red Light Management; Jill Brown, artist; Reid Rosson, artist, founder of Play Me Records; Morgan Neiman, artist and founder of Club Aerobics; Kelsey Saunders, artist.