I’m a dancer. Not a lyrical dancer. Not a tapper. Not a break dancer. Not a flamenco-er. I’m always hesitant to say it—even though I LOVE DOING IT—but I’m an onstage dancer for an EDM DJ. Funny how the professionalism of the idea of a “dancer” is stripped right out of that context, right? Less funny, more frustrating. I see perceptions of “slut,” “stripper,” “attention whore,” and, like, “working woman of the night” when I drop that bomb on people. Betcha never been dance-shamed! I love dancing. Love performing. But the invisible, weighty package that comes along with being a dancer—and a feminist one, at all—in the blatantly sexist EDM scene is really, heartbreakingly sucky.
1. I’m not viewed as a dancer. I’m an object.
As much as I’d love to be regarded as a dancer, I’m not seen as one. I’m just a girl on stage. Just a girl. To look at. I’m an object. I want to inspire people to dance, to feel the music, and have fun, but too often I just see guys elbowing their buddies and pointing toward my raised dance floor to oogle. Every time I’ve been onstage, I can look out into the crowd and see dudes with extended thumbs and pinkies mouthing “Call me!”, blowing kisses, and making distorted hearts with their hands. I would “call you” because I’m a good dancer or I’m a sex object? Right answer gets a cookie. Would I have the opportunity to do something I love if I had the same dance moves, but didn’t have a body that’s so… distracting? Could any amount of dance skill elevate me beyond a discussion of hotness?
2. I’m applauded for sexiness, not skill.
Not only am I viewed as a sex object, I’m expected and encouraged to act like one. It’s an easy experiment for me to conduct, and the conclusion withstands: The sexier the moves, the louder the applause. As a dancer, I’d expect my dance skillz—sexy or not— to be applauded. Whoops! Oh, silly, stupid me. I could whip out some intricate vogue-inspired arm choreography or complex juke footwork, but one tiny little butt jiggle is what will spark the overwhelming wave of auditory approval. Nobody seems to want to witness a ~*~MASTERY OF DANCE PERFORMANCE~*~, they want a tee-hee-hee allusion to sex. This culture not only wants girls to be overtly sexual, it demands it of us. Twerk contests, where men sit on the sidelines as the literal judges. The “Express Yourself” movement, insisting girls to put their asses up and spread their legs further than the next girl for pictures and videos. Where are the DANCE competitions in electronic DANCE music?
3. Sex sells… and sexy sexism sells the most.
Sex is what sells all types of music, generally speaking. But EDM went next-level on that shit and used sexist sex. No male DJs are using their own sexiness to further their brand. Ha! Not when their girl fans can be brainwashed to do it for ‘em! Women—both models and fans—are nothing but marketing materials in the EDM scene. Source: the bikini clad women on flyers, the girls as the static images on YouTube videos of EDM tracks, the promotional video footage of tu-tu-wearers at shows. It’s all a bunch of dudes selling the scene to other dudes, and using women as the means to do that. EDM-loving women are encouraged to prove their loyalty to their fave DJs by exploiting their own bodies. <<Have yourself a fun little Google search, and browse around for “sexy EDM girls” and then try “sexy EDM guys.” (Spoiler alert: Google thinks you’re trying to search for EMO guys, because even Google is like, “Sexy EDM guys? lol. We don’t have those on the Internet. Are they real?”)>> As a dancer, am I the ultimate automated marketer, being tricked into exploiting myself to advance a sexist agenda? :’’’’’’’(
4. Men run it. And no one seems to challenge it.
Every year, DJ Mag enlists the public to help select the top 100 DJs of that year. Of those 100 DJs in 2013, women took three slots. The first to appear on the list is Nervo, a DJ duo comprised of two former models (Phew! Luckily they’re just as beautiful as they are talented, amirite?!), in the 16th slot. The next women appear at 44: Krewella, a trio of two girls and one dude. The last lady on the list comes in at 87; her name is Tenasher and I’ve never heard of her in my life. In 2012, the only women on the list were the Nervo girls, holding it down at 46. Progress? I guess? Or maybe progress would be having women DJs make up more than five percent of the Ultra Music Festival lineup (one of the biggest EDM fests in the world). We can start by not assuming lady DJs must be getting production help in the studio, and pump the brakes on requesting them to show their boobs for photos. I want to ask where the girls are, where the Kathleen Hanna of EDM is. They’re out there, wanting to come in, but the sign on the scene’s door is very obviously “You can’t sit with us.”
5. I might be perpetuating a sexist culture because I like to dance.
It’s tough for me to even type that. Have I become my own enemy? Am I fighting a battle against myself? Is being a dancer in and of itself an act of sustaining sexism? It breaks my heart that the answer to those questions is not a resounding no. Part of the definition of feminism is doing exactly what you want to do. And, for me, that’s dance freely. But does my motivation really matter to an outsider watching me gallivant around a stage? To any given spectator, I could be wiggling in the spotlight conjuring ways to satisfy the male gaze. To another, maybe all my shimmying is plea to conform to the scene’s expectations. I consider dancing on a stage an empowering act of self-expression. SORRY? But if I’m doing it within the confines of a culture where freedom from sexism isn’t within reach, can it ever truly be liberating?
6. The misogyny is loud and proud.
If I’m seemingly unhappy with the scene, you might think, “Then go dance somewhere else.” The problem is, this is the music I like to dance to. That turn up music, that deafening computerized beat pattern, that BASS D-D-D-DROP. I’m not quite as crazy about the lyrics that go something like “SHAKE THAT ASS BABY LET ME SEE WHAT YOU GOT,” “DON’T STOP, POP THAT P*SSY,” “FACE DOWN ASS UP, THAT’S THE WAY WE LIKE THE F*CK,” “ASS, T*TTIES, ASS AND T*TTIES.” More of a visual learner? Try this gem if you’re looking for musical misogyny. I like to shake mah butt and also engage in consensual coitus, it’s true (and that’s FINE, as it should be). But there’s something very slimey about it when ass vibrations and the “s”-ing of “d”s are demanded of you. And it’s not just being shouted over the mic, or blared through the subwoofers: It’s being fed to the fans, and we’re serving it right back. Cue the “PARTY WITH SLUTS” shirts, and the ever-popular “I LOVE DRUNK GIRLS.” Ahh yes, and my favorite. Here’s a fun game: Play fashion police at an EDM show and ask yourself “How can I make the slogan on that flat-brimmed hat more rapey?” It’s a tough one, good for the brain.
I’m here for the music VOL: 1
I’ve ignored all of these thoughts and questions for a long time, because I fear I’m not furthering women’s role in the EDM scene. Rather, actually, I might be reversing it. In my head, I’m a beacon of hope for all the freedom-seeking girls in the crowd! On the stage, I look like any run-of-the-mill go-go girl, dancin’ sexy to serve the men on the decks and in the crowd. More than anything, I just want to dance. I JUST WANT TO DANCE, YOU GUYS. I want a platform to exercise my skill and love for zero-judgment, worry-free dancing to the music of my choice. But it kind of seems like that’s just not a thing.
Michael Cutrone is the man behind the alias TRILLWAVE. He is responsible for the gem of a remix “FUCK HER RIGHT IN HER PUSSY”. After reading this article he still doesn’t get it.
HERE IS A SCREEN SHOT OF HIM REPOSTING THE ARTICLE ON HIS PERSONAL FACEBOOK.
So…..who wants to talk about this now?
Joanie Faletto is the lead dancer and choreographer of feeltrip dance troupe.