On November 19, Kat Bein posted a blog on The Village Voice discussing the sexism within the EDM (electronic dance music) community. Her article, EDM is Sexist: Why it Sucks to be a Woman who Raves, addresses countless aspects of the EDM community from sticker wars to nudity culture and the “Party with Sluts” guy.
In concept, I wholeheartedly agree with Bein. I think it’s important to say that in the beginning of this article, because at her core, Bein means well. And to be fair, she’s likely been in the EDM scene longer than I have. She wants what we all want: for women to respect themselves and be respected by men at raves. But where Bein goes wrong is that she fails to address that this isn’t EDM culture gone wrong, it’s American culture rearing its ugly head into something that was previously untouched.
Yes, it’s not okay for a random person to come up and touch your body without your permission. But is that a matter of the EDM culture or a matter of the American rape culture? (Hint, it’s not EDM that causes men to think they have the right to women’s bodies. Otherwise, shouldn’t congress be dancing a little more?) As EDM gains popularity, the original ideals that came along with it have been thrown out the window. I’ve said this before in my review of the Krewella concert over at Blast Magazine, but the concept of PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect) is one that current ravers have no knowledge of. If they did, they would know better than to slap a sticker on a random girl.
If you look at the history of music, the majority of it does not start with rape culture. For instance, rap music. Rap started as a form of socio-political commentary. It didn’t begin to focus on drugs and sex until rap moved into the mainstream American culture, and now? For rappers to not refer to women in a derogatory manner is celebrated—despite the fact that rap has existed in West Africa since before the 16th century, and it has only become so misogynistic in the last fifty years or so.
Lets just briefly map out this timeline then. Rap starts as a form of story telling and a form political dissent in the 1500s and is used particularly in slave communities within the United States. By the 1970s, rap is getting some airtime, and in 1980 Blondie releases a single that includes some rapping, and the white American public gets their introduction to rap.
So how does rap become violent and sexist? Could it be because America has structurally locked Black men into a culture of misogyny and violent masculinity? Is it because Americans have created a stereotype of what Black men should be like and now Black men, recognizing that they can only be successful if they perform how the white American public wishes to see them perform, are fulfilling those stereotypes?
Truth is, I don’t know. But what I do know is that EDM is changing much in the way that rap changed, and Bein is correct; as women, we have a right to be upset. What started as a way to just dance and lose yourself in the music is quickly turning into an easy, predatory grab-and-go for creepy guys. I had a friend who once told me, “Concerts are the best, because you can grope someone in front of you, and it’s so packed they won’t notice.” (Side note, we’re no longer friends.) And I understand Bein’s frustration that female artists are not getting noticed. But again, is that because of EDM or because of the American patriarchy? Women are still not being given equal pay and we’re still fighting for our reproductive rights in government every day. To quote Chris Rock, “the black man gotta fly to get something the white man can walk to.” Replace “black man” with “any minority” and bingo, you see the problem doesn’t just lie within the EDM community, it’s endemic to this nation.
Throughout the entire article, I had this nagging feeling, like something wasn’t quite clicking. Is this piece really about EDM and feminism? And is this my feminism, or the feminism of a generation ago? And although I personally hate to read the comments on any articles—especially on things related to music and feminism—I was curious as to how people reacted to Bein’s piece. As I expected, not a single person agreed. Many people made comments similar to this one, by the user Atomsk: “EDM culture is 45% about drugs, 45% about fucking, and 10% about shitty music you need drugs to enjoy, and only listen to as a prelude to fucking. And you expected it to be Feminism? lol. Go listen to music that doesn’t suck, problem solved.”
However, one of the few comments made by a woman, from user kjpetillo8392, read, “I don’t understand why some “feminists” feel the need to point out the faults in other women just to make themselves feel strong and composed. Just be proud of who YOU are, rather than shaming others.” Bein, in all her efforts to tell the women of the EDM community to stand up and rally together to end sexism in the industry, is still acting like our mothers’ generation. “What happened to modesty, humility, and leaving something to the imagination?” writes Bein. Oh no, I thought, here we go again.
And then there was this particular gem: “News flash: Strippers aren’t role models.” Ah, there it is, women-on-women hate! Really Bein, really? I would argue that in this economy, anyone who is trying to make a living wage is a role model. Sex workers included, who, by the way, face the most violence and harassment for their work every day, prompting the LA Times to run an article titled, Are Sex Workers’ Lives Worth Less than Everyone Else’s?. (And in case you missed it, yesterday was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.) Bein claims she wants to be a respected professional, yet sits at her computer, harping on a population that is already being attacked on the daily by not only their clientele, but the American government and even ordinary citizens like Bein.
“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.” Wait, didn’t she just write a few paragraphs before, “News flash: Strippers aren’t role models”? So does the whole, “you do you” only apply to the folks who can afford to make this behavior recreational? Kind of like how pole dancing classes are this new, fun, sexy way of getting exercise for upper middle class white women, but when working women of color do it, it’s trashy and reprehensible? Sorry, I’m just trying to understand what exactly prompts a person to write an article that says men don’t respect us, we have to respect ourselves and band together as a gender, and then turns around and becomes very anti-women and degrades sex workers. I just don’t get it.
Do female producers and artists need more exposure? Absolutely. Do men need to stop harassing us on the dance floor? Definitely. But there are larger factors at play here than a man wearing a “party with sluts” shirt—factors like rape culture, colonialism, and the American white male belief that everything is inherently his (or what I call “the Manifest Destiny”). And while we’re trying to promote safety, respect, and equality in the EDM community, lets not forget about artists of color, shall we?