Don’t Ask Me About Being a Female Performer

Image via Dani Deahl on Facebook
Image via Dani Deahl on Facebook

When Do Androids Dance asked me to write an article on sexism in EDM, I didn’t immediately say yes. It seemed too expected, too topical. Women’s role in dance music is on the tip of everyone’s tongues and it’s not just inner circle blogs – everyone from The Huffington Post to the Village Voice has written about it recently. I’m not sure what the tipping point was for it to suddenly become dinner table conversation, but 2013 was a goldmine for the men vs. women debate.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a DJ and producer who was vocal about a couple unfortunate interactions with DJs and producers who are male. I had my boobs slapped by one and asked upon introduction to another “who makes your music?” followed up by “you should work on your production for a year to try it out” when I showed him Ableton files. I get that given all this, and given that I have an established history of journalism for music-centric magazines like Elektro and URB, I would be the natural selection to talk about a subject that people feel very fired up about.

But here’s the thing: I am an artist…I happen to be female. I don’t call myself a “female DJ,” “shejay,” or any other term that separates me from my peers and distracts from the music I create and play. I embrace the fact that I am female in that it influences who I am as a person and musician, but it does not define me. People who approach artists who are female with gender first, artistry second, are putting up a wall before the conversation is even started. This does not just apply to male artists. This applies to media, promoters, and other artists who are female that use their own gender as a crutch or promotional point and wonder why others aren’t as interested in their music.

I think it’s so passé to ask me to talk about being a female performer. I never believed that being a female would hinder (or factor into) my success. I just worked. I mailed out hundreds of demos, got to travel around the world DJing and was delighted when my parents bought me Logic as a Christmas present in high school. Somehow, as the scene developed around me, the topic of my gender became of pressing importance to everyone, it seemed, but me. I was always bored with questions about being a female DJ. Every interviewer wanted to know my thoughts on how having a vagina dictated how people treated me, and I didn’t get it. I believe that how people treat me is dictated by how I allow them to treat me, and how I treat others. That’s it.

99% of the people I interact with in this industry treat me as an equal and it’s unfortunate that two fine examples of asshattery in recent history have qualified me to write some “exposé” on sexism in EDM. Look, I think it’s cool I got named on several websites as one of the best female DJs/producers (including this one), but if I had my choice, I’d rather not be on those lists at all. I’ve had a release on Dim Mak, have an upcoming release on Cr2, had Diplo guest star in one of my music videos and been lucky enough to be a musician full time for years. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t really care who’s bitching about which gender this month…all I care about is making music. So who wants to collab?

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Check out the music video for “Thunderbolt,” Dani Deahl’s latest collaboration with Animale.

  • Vibes

    I want to collab!!!

  • John Philip Becker

    Excellent article Dani. I’ve been following you for years and I admire your frankness. You are absolutely right: gender should not be an evaluative factor. I think merit should be the sole criterion.