Whilst we are on the subject of the apparent novelty attached to female DJs, it seems DJ Justin James has set out a criteria for hiring female counterparts to join his tribe.
The crux? She has to be attractive.
Posting it in the “Support Female DJs” Facebook group certainly wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but it also sheds some light on the ingrained mentalities certain male DJs possess.
Justin James reacts to the backlash by saying that he “was given a very specific set of criteria to employ here in Asia and instead of wasting peoples time I decided to be honest and up front about the requirements”, and that he is not to be mistaken for a misogynist since he does respect female DJs and producers, and lists the (in)famous socialite, Paris Hilton as one of them. Judging by the comments on his page, few people bought into his explanation.
Yolanda Leaney (aka DJ Callmeyo), who juggles her beat-matching prowess whilst holding down a full-time job as social media manager of Details (Condé Nast), observes that “more often than not ‘Model-DJs’ are talentless, and are the end product of a machine designed to churn and burn young female DJs for cash flow”. But that being said, Yo notes that such a view isn’t the be all and end all.
If she is talented, then all power to her, she’s a triple threat and that’s awesome. But i’d like to see her beat match, and her knowledge of music history, I think that’s really important to see where someones passion / talent lies.
Citing DJ Tama Sumo as someone she looks up to, Yo opines that to be successful it is not a prerequisite to be attractive. What keeps her DJing is a drive fuelled by passion rather than a means to garner attention: “Its more of a hunger to hear something. Whether i’m in a mood, or looking forward to something, I crave really random jams, things I haven’t heard before.” That hunger for music that breaks new ground, is something she wishes to see more in time to come, and laments that “its rare people write and produce their own music anymore”.
Yo bemoans that in the NYC DJ circuit, females are by default deemed to be unworthy of their musical craft. The only way to keep on keeping on in the industry, Yo figures, is to deal with the constant skepticism of her skills with a pinch of salt.
I have shown up to gigs many, many times and had managers, club owners, even patrons talk down to me like i’m an idiot or a child. Telling me that they know what music I should be playing, or long stories about how many people they know and so that makes them more knowledgeable about DJing than me – the ridiculousness is never ending. But I think as a female DJ you have to take this with a grain of salt, otherwise you’ll never survive. And I think those that have copped it on the chin, brushed it off their shoulders and continued to push are the ones that really succeed.
The transsexual movement is gaining more light; and Yo is beginning to see its prevalence, especially in NYC. Having a more masculine self-image definitely helps in securing bookings but her image is something she hopes does not override her music, which is where her heart is.
In alcohol-laced environments, it is not uncommon for the guzzling crowd to get a little rowdy. When the crowd gets downright sexist, though, that is something that Yo is unable to tolerate.
I’ve had the regular shitty remarks like, “Why do they have a girl DJing?”, or “If you play this song i’ll f*ck you”
“Like thats a reward for me? No thanks.”
That’s not the worst of it all.
I was playing late at a club downtown and I had a guy jump in my booth, and start touching my laptop scrolling through songs, and I was like “Hey man, what are you doing, you cant be in here” and he said, “Yeah I can,” and we had an argument where I refused to play his song request. He then pushed me, called me a slut and a cunt and told me, “Why do they book dumb women DJs here anyway?”
Despite her negative experiences, Yo remains hopeful.
Whether your starting out or have been playing for years, stand your ground. Don’t let people tell you what you should be doing, how you should look, what you should play, just do what your gut tells you. If you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation then leave, don’t stick around cause you feel you have to, you’ll get another gig and you’ll earn money eventually, its not worth putting yourself in that position. Don’t take people’s negative remarks or comments seriously, brush them off and know your worth, cause if you don’t fight for yourself, no one else will.