After years of people asking why more women aren’t in EDM, it seems at least one star has finally woken up. Speaking to Channel 4 News, the cake-thrower himself, Steve Aoki, thinks it’s time for change. "I think that one thing male DJs have to do is step aside to make room for women DJs and women producers on festivals,” he said, “and also be an ally and supporter and invite them to play with them."
It’s a nice sentiment. But it might be a little tricky when the DJ on stage next to you is someone like Borgore, who seems to view women as little more than jiggly asses with bodies inconveniently attached to them. If you’re unfamiliar with the Israeli dubstep producer, his Twitter bio charmingly reads “Turning next doors to bad bitches,” and he recently tweeted, “her chicken is dry her handjobs are drier.” This dude’s entire schtick is misogyny, and his music isn’t much better. But he isn’t alone. Most famously there’s The Chainsmokers, whose misogyny has been well chronicled by ourselves and others. In fact, they seem to relish douchebaggery with casual utterances like, "Even before success, pussy was number one." Well, they love it until they get into trouble, then they swear they're not really misogynist assholes, even if they get busted cheating on their girlfriends. Then it’s time to publicly moan about how miserable they are.
Which brings us to whatever lays ahead for the bros of EDM. As movements like #MeToo continue causing upheaval in the larger entertainment industries, it’s going to become much more difficult for even the least socially aware dance entertainers to ignore the gender gap problem. But while the question Why aren’t there more female DJs? has been asked for what feels like time immemorial, it’s always been a lopsided one. The further up the corporate DJ ladder one climbs, the more white men you'll find clinging to the top.
In more underground circles, groups like Discwoman and female:pressure have been leading the charge for undiscovered non-male talent for years, and in a wholly authentic way. But niche dance music scenes have always been pretty inclusive spaces, where DJs like Magda, Tama Sumo, Steffi, Ellen Allien and Miss Kittin long ago paved the way for the plethora of today’s newer names, big and small. The same can’t really be said for the bro-tastic, bombastic stages Steve Aoki, The Chainsmokers and Borgore inhabit. Only three spots on the DJ Mag Top 100 list in 2017 didn't go to men. And fairly or not, the magazine's fan-voted ranking has often drawn ire for its lack of diversity. Though in the industry, the list is often seen as a barometer for who plays the biggest clubs and festivals—and makes the biggest paydays—in the commercial dance music world, and so is hard to ignore.
Nervo, who ranked #42 on this year's DJ Mag Top 100 list. Photo by Dan Monick
That’s not to say Aoki’s sudden enlightenment isn’t encouraging. He absolutely should put his money where his mouth is through discovering, nurturing and promoting more female acts in every way he can. But without some serious introspection, and a hard look at why there aren’t way more women (or non-binary, for that matter) playing EDM’s main stages at this very moment, any attempt at correcting EDM’s massive gender imbalance will feel pretty hollow.
Because if there’s one thing the commercial dance music industry excels at, it’s cashing in on whatever’s trendy. And a cravin attempt to quickly sweep sexism under the rug will only do a huge disservice to the women and scene Aoki claims to care so deeply about.