As a self-respecting female with professional aspirations and a desire to be taken seriously as an individual, it's become increasingly difficult to identify with American electronic dance music culture without feeling kind of irresponsible.
By Kat Bein
Six or seven years ago, the playing field was pretty even. We went out to parties, we dressed as if David Bowie and Karen O had a baby, we got drunk on whiskey, we danced and we were never embarrassed by our surroundings.
But things have changed. What started out as fun, rowdy party tricks have been fully incorporated into the scene as sexist expectations. That which was once ironic parody has become a parody of itself. We no longer look around the dance floor and see a utopia of acceptance.
Yes, this party is sexist. Here's why.
Bodies as Billboards Sticker wars are one of the most enjoyable parts of the EDM game. It's exciting to be out in the world and find a sticker of a DJ/producer you enjoy, or a blog you read regularly, or even the sticker of a personal friend stuck onto a garbage can or a light pole or the side of a bar. It's like walking into an inside joke. But somewhere along the way, someone put a sticker on a woman's bare ass and had a million-dollar idea. Suddenly, stickers as pasties became the latest thing every DJ needed on their FB profile. Now it's sadly more an expectation than a shocking sign of good times. We shouldn't have to remind every asshole we meet with a sticker not to put it on our tits without asking, but we do.
Face Down, Ass Up Listen, Diplo. I'm glad you helped introduce the world to NOLA bounce, twerking, daggering and the like. You and Eric Wareheim definitely killed it with that "Pon De Floor" video. Shit is classic. But now that Miley has completely murdered the neo-swing art form and turned it into modern, misunderstood exploitative garbage, we need to make it stop. News flash: Strippers aren't role models. The idea that a woman has nothing but her sexuality to rely on as a moneymaker is disgusting, outdated and depressing. When executed properly, twerking and daggering are impressive, but when you're submitting pictures of yourself half-naked upside down on things just because everyone else is doing it, you're officially an attention-deprived moron.
Culture of Nudity Speaking of being half-naked, why are we doing that? There are a few possible reasons. One might be you've worked really, really hard to get the perfectly taut body that you've always wanted, you're proud of it and you want to show it off. Another might be that you're on a lot of designer drugs and the wind just feels really awesome on your skin. But we fear there is an underlying cause with more menacing implications -- peer pressure. If everyone at the EDM show wears a tutu and DJ stickers on their tits, would you do it too? Are you rocking a uniform because you want to have "the full experience" rather than expressing yourself in a unique and interesting way? What happened to modesty, humility and leaving something to the imagination? These are just questions to keep in mind.
Male Gaze Sometimes we try to explain this to people, and it seems to make them upset. But here's the unfortunate reality: When a man at a party sees you wearing nothing, his first thought is "that bitch is easy." Actually, our first thought as a woman is also "Grrrrrrl, you're better than that." Regardless of your intentions, this is the world we live in. It saddens us to speak to women at music festivals and hear that they're constantly being grabbed and harassed by men because of the way they're dressed. It's like, dear broseph, just because I have big tits doesn't mean you get to touch them. And if you see me dancing and having a good time, that doesn't mean I'm inviting you to shake your penis against my ass. We actually have moves, and your game of hide-the-dick isn't one of them. Creative women of EDM, we'd like to encourage you to express yourselves in new ways that don't cater to the male gaze. Let's get crafty and explore our options.
Champagne Facials You know how we know Kirill Was Here? Because you look like someone jizzed all over your face. No lie, there is something primal and appealing about drinking expensive alcohol with no hands. Being a total sloppy mess is the No. 1 way to show the world that you have no cares to give. That being said, signing up to be debased isn't exactly moving feminism forward. Is it worth taking your shirt off in a god-forsaken bathroom to be on LastNightsParty.com? No, it's really not. Again, the issue isn't that you're doing it, it's that it's expected, it's commonplace and it's becoming a complete joke.
Where Mah Girls At? It's nearly 2014 and yet the DJ Mag Top 100 includes five women, Nervo (two models turned DJs), Krewella (two sister singer-DJs with a male buddy) and someone named Tenashar. This is not a sign that the scene is inherently sexist. This is a sign that you, the listener, are kind of a douche. The DJ Mag Top 100 is fan-voted. You messed up. If there aren't more female DJs on your radar, it's not because they aren't out there, but maybe it's because they are taken less seriously and are forced to sell sex just to get any attention. You could dig deeper, youth of America (and the world), or you could just keep being an asshole. Meanwhile, the professionals are screwing up too. The blog Do Androids Dance did a list of the twenty most influential people in EDM and forgot to put a single female on there. They tried to cover their tracks with a whole list dedicated to women. But sorry, you're still a prick, and we're not amused. And Spinnin' Records? Kitchen jokes? Really? You're lame.
Party With Sluts We've all seen this guy. He's some fratty beefcake with an obnoxious drug habit and zero originality, and he's got a really offensive shirt on. It says "Party with Sluts" -- or something about drugs and vaginas -- it's brighter than the sun, and it glows in the dark. But here's the thing: Um, he's talking about you. Yes, girl who is so sure she's not a dehumanized sexual caricature, but still shows up naked to shake her ass upside down and put stickers on her tits and pretend Champagne is bubbly cum on film because "it's the culture." Much like a Dali painting, if we step back far enough and look at the whole picture, this shit takes on a totally different meaning.
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Shut Up About Slut Shaming Already All the time people tell us "it's totally not cool to slut shame." But you know what's even less cool? The fact that women have been brainwashed to think empowerment is being Britney Spears circa 2007. Excuse me, but what the hell? Feminism is about being able to be yourself. If your true self is being half-naked, drunk and proud of it, by all means, do you, boo. But our true self is trying to be a respected professional, and sadly, it's an uphill battle. It doesn't help when everyone around you plays into sexist stereotypes, or is afraid to say, "Hey, this is awkward as hell. I'm uncomfortable with the way you perceive me." Sometimes we do speak up, and people be like, "Sorry, it's just the way it is," or "You're slut shaming" or "You're just being overly-sensitive," and that's also a problem.
It's not cool to expect women to be and/or act like ratchet prostitutes, and it's not cool for youth culture to demean and debase women without also representing them as powerful, capable, talented individuals. Sure, not everyone is a sexist asshole, but the big picture is looking bleak. Until we live in a world where men respect us as equals, we have a responsibility to remind them. We have a responsibility to respect ourselves.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.