Interview: Tigerlily on EDM and Feminism

"Being a girl in the industry is great because initially it's much easier to be recognised and get your foot in the door. However once you're in, it can be very hard to be respected and taken seriously."

Earlier this month, HARD announced its plans for the first ever all-female DJ festivals set to occur in Los Angeles and New York. This is a huge step forward for women in EDM, as the “boys’ club” of the industry dominates festival lineups, tours, productions, and more. However, more and more women are getting behind the decks and into the studio, showing men they can “play hard” too. One of the most notable new additions to the EDM scene is Chicago trio Krewella. A huge supporter of women’s rights and feminism, Jahan Yousef of Krewella recently took to her Tumblr and Twitter to discuss these issues of modern femininity and gender equality. In her tumblr post, she addressed the Miley Cyrus debate, saying that women should be able to choose to be sexy and dominant, and not be forced to follow traditional gender constructs of society. She goes on to say, “Despite the popular belief that our society is ‘advanced’ and forward-thinking, gender fairness is still curtailed by the strictly defined boundaries of sex. Femininity is controlled by the male dominated sphere and it extends beyond the realm of ‘music video hoes.’ The attempt to rob a woman’s power of her own body exists to this day in anti-abortion laws and restrictions to birth control in some states.” She also stressed that feminism is not about one gender being “better” than the other, but that “it’s fundamentally about gender equality.”

Other female DJs, such as Nervo, Tokimonsta, Éclair Fifi, Dani Deahl, Jessie Andrews, and many more are proving to the world that girls are just as musically talented and hard working (if not more so) than many men in the EDM scene today. Unfortunately, many female DJs and producers have to face ugly stereotyping from their male counterparts. Recently, Chicago-based producer and DJ Dani Deahl posted a status detailing some of this sexist language she (like so many other women) faced while playing a gig. Deahl wrote, “I played a great set, including my tracks on Dim Mak, Cr2 and upcoming ones on other labels (and even one I just finished today) – was put down by bigger artists who asked me “who produces your songs” and asked to show my tits for photos and told to “work on my production for a year to try it out” when I said I do make my own music. Hey industry, f*ck you very much and I am going to rise to the occasion and show you exactly what a female artist can be made of.” Deahl, who recently played a show at the famed Lure in Los Angeles, vocalized the thoughts of many other women in EDM today.

I asked Australian up-and-comer DJ Tigerlily for her thoughts on feminism in EDM. Tigerlily, who has opened for Avicii, Madeon, Tommy Trash, and more, is one to keep an eye out for. Check out the interview below for Tigerlily’s excellent insight into being a female in the EDM world.

Is sexism prevalent in the electronic music community today? How so?

Yes. I think sexism is prevalent in almost any industry, however I do think that in the electronic music community, which is traditionally a male dominated environment, that sexism is still very prevalent. You only need to take one look at big festival line ups to notice that they are 99% male and the ‘boys club’ as I like to call it, is still in full swing.

It’s often hard for girl DJs and producers to be taken seriously and given the respect that they deserve. There are many very amazing and talented women out there who work very hard at what they do, and are producing some amazing stuff. But breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ can often be really hard, and unfortunately for some reason there continues to be a lot of doubt surrounding the ‘girl dj’.

For me, one of the aspects that clearly demonstrates that sexism is still very prevalent in our industry is the way that many girl DJs are advertised. It’s really surprising to still see girl DJs posing in bikinis on club flyers, and the phrase ‘world’s sexiest dj’ seems to be flung around like no tomorrow. Although this is disappointing for me to see, it reinforces that there is a place for everyone within our industry (sorry you’ll never see me in a bikini on a flyer haha).

I honestly believe that in time, the barrier between men and women will slowly fade, and acceptance and equality will be achieved. However, as mentioned before, sexism seems to be prevalent in almost any industry today, so for me it’s something I just try look past. It gives me more motivation to work hard at what I do, and to be successful.

Do you believe there is a tradeoff between the ideas of “sexy” and “skilled” with female DJs?

I don’t necessarily think it’s a trade off, as there are many girls out there who are super sexy, and super skilled. However I do believe that a lot of people believe that you cannot be both sexy and skilled. It’s really unfortunate because a lot of really beautiful girls are also very talented behind the decks.

I think a lot of people believe that this tradeoff exists because they are intimidated. I can imagine for a guy that it would be pretty daunting to see a hot girl shredding behind the decks. However for me, it’s the best to see gorgeous girls getting up there and killing it!

Women such as Annie Mac and Maya Jane Coles are extremely influential in the world of electronic music, yet in most festival lineups the majority of the artists that play are men. How do you believe that ratio can be equalised?

I think that time is the main solution. People want immediate changes; to see an almost even distribution of male and female Djs performing at big events and festivals. I truly believe that this will happen one day, but it’s not going to occur over night.

Every day more and more girls are standing up and believing in themselves and having a crack at the electronic music scene which is great! The unequal ratio and distribution that exists between male and female djs is only going to be improved as the community supports and accepts the upcoming females, and makes an effort to demonstrate to these girls that they have just as much potential (if not more) than the boys.

Sweden recently implemented the Bechdel test, a new rating system that rates movies based on “the presence of strong female roles.” Should this idea be utilized in electronic music? Why or why not?

Personally, I don’t think that this should be implemented in electronic dance music. Yes, it would be great to have more girls out there Djing and producing, but when it comes down to it, I truly believe that the most important elements are that good quality music is being produced and performed for the right reasons. Whether there are females involved should not effect the quality or the rating of the music or show.

What struggles have you had to face as a female DJ, and what advice would you give to other aspiring female DJs and musicians? 

I’ve been pretty lucky in my career so far. I’ve been surrounded by a lot of very supportive and positive people. However, I do find that people often don’t take me seriously and they think that the only reason I’m doing well and achieving my goals is because I’m a female.

Being a girl in the industry is great because initially it’s much easier to be recognised and get your foot in the door. However once you’re in, it can be very hard to be respected and taken seriously.

Whenever a guy tells me that the only reason I’m getting booked is because I’m female, I politely ask them to come and watch one of my gigs. If they do make an effort to come watch, they are always pleasantly surprised, and believe it or not, I’ve had guys come up to me an apologise for misunderstanding what I do (high five!).

I try to not let this get me down too much, and I just continue to do what I do and love what I do! I truly believe that if you continue to work hard and have the passion and motivation, there is nothing stopping you!

For other girls out there, my advice is to surround yourself with people that you trust and that believe in what you’re doing. Positive support and reinforcement is essential! Not to mention, practise practise practise and show everyone what you’re made of.

Girl Power!

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