As a female DJ I’ve had guys telling me how to use the decks and even changing the speed of my records for me – so perhaps it’s no surprise we’ve been left out of a list of the best DJs …
Hanna Hanra · 28/10/2011 · guardian.co.uk
Head-in-hands moment … not even BBC Radio 1′s Annie Mac made DJ Mag’s top 100 list. Photograph: BBC
Clicking through DJ Mag’s newly published list of top 100 DJs, it’s easy to spot the one thing missing: women. Revered in the clubbing industry as the “black book” for DJs, producers and promoters, the list is voted for by the public every year. Between 2007 and 2011 just one girl, Claudia Cazacu, scraped on to the list, charting at number 93 in 2010. Not even Annie Mac – who hosts three shows on Radio 1, DJs regularly at Fabric and whose Annie Mac Presents mixtape is No 1 in the electronic charts – gets a look in. It’s clearly a bone of contention with some women in the business – Peaches, the Berlin DJ/producer posted “DJ MAG! Your Top 100 DJ boy club list can eat a dick! Where the ladies at???” on her Facebook page in a fit of frustration after the list was published.
For the last 10 years, my main source of income has been from DJing. It’s taken me around the world, from dive bars in Krakow where the kids went wild when I played Nirvana to glitzy fashion parties in New York where Grace Jones serenaded me with Pull Up to the Bumper wearing only a headdress as I stood in the DJ booth (which was, incidentally, disguised as a tiki hut). I thought, based on my experiences so far, that it could be an exciting career. I’ve DJ’d in the coolest clubs and the shittest pubs, I’ve played at a record-breaking 13 parties during a four-day period one London fashion week and I’ve been flown across the world to play 10 songs at a party. I lost count of the number of mornings I’ve spent trying to get tequila off my CDs. But just at the point where my parents finally began to understand exactly what it was I did for a living, it became harder to break through into top-billing territory. I hit the glass ceiling. I always thought that term applied to women in skirt suits in big, windowed office blocks – not those whose working day starts at 11pm and involves sticky floors and a disco ball.
I realised that it didn’t matter how many times a week I DJ’d or how much I charged or how much people loved what I played, I was losing the impetus to fight my way through the boys’ club and try and make it to the top. And if I got there, would the fight to stay there be worth it? Annie Mac, who is one of the handful of really successful female DJs, admits that she might not have made it without her radio show. “I had a profile through that and got gigs through that,” she said in a recent interview.
Boys aren’t better at DJing than girls. We don’t DJ with our vaginas. But the fact is, in my experience, they clearly think they are and do make it more difficult for us. I’ve had male DJs reach over as I mixed two tracks and start twiddling with the knobs. Or come and stand behind me and instruct me on what to do. My personal favourite was when, at a regular Sunday nightclub, the male DJ who played after me reached over the sound desk and start to change the speed of a track for me. Did he think I had sped the track up slightly on accident? Another brilliantly sexist moment was when a DJ span round and said to me bluntly, “Well, boys just know more about music, don’t they.” And it’s not just the other DJs – there are the soundmen too, who persistently ask me if I know what I’m doing. You know, after 10 years, I’m still not sure.
I guess maybe the whole unbalance is something to do with the fact that it’s only in the past 5 years that most venues have acquired CD decks, so you no longer have to play from vinyl, which is heavy to carry. Maybe that’s why there are so many more men at the top. They’re better at carrying heavy things.