Stuck Between a Gimmick and a Token: Female DJs Negotiate Binaries

My Vagina Weighs a Ton

By Maren Hancock, PhD Candidate (ABD)
Department of Women’s Studies, York University



This study was initially presented at the PCA/ACA National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, February 2011.

Gimmick: something which is not serious or of real value that is used to attract people’s attention or interest temporarily, especially to make them buy something [1]

Token: a member of a group (as a minority) that is included within a larger group through tokenismespecially:  a token employee [2]

This study examines how professional female DJs in North America are often considered to be either tokens or gimmicks, both within DJ culture specifically, and the public imaginary in general. In demonstrating how female DJs are imagined according to the token/gimmick binary, I also seek to emphasize some resulting strategies that female DJs employ to either use each stereotype to their advantage, or reject them both altogether. This research…

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Pledge for Parity

International Women’s Day is Tuesday, March 8th, 2016. The day’s purpose is to “celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” This year’s theme is: Pledge for Parity. Professional dance music DJs today are internationally known entities, touring the world and benefitting from what’s become a globally recognized culture. Yet the industry surrounding it is far from being equitable for women.

To accelerate parity from within, turn(the)tables on, a non-profit using dance music to fight problems of inequity and injustice, is suggesting DJs and producers make a pledge for International Women’s Day and beyond to challenge conscious and unconscious bias and create a more inclusive, flexible culture. How? Through the creation of charts on sites like Beatport, Traxsource, Juno, Resident Advisor, and wherever else they may already be active, on March 8th dedicated to the special day, with the intention of turning the tables on gender gaps in dance music by featuring the work of female producers and musicians. In doing so, we hope to raise awareness about the current inequity the industry faces, gage where we’re at collectively, point people towards the various female groups already doing great work in this arena, and increase the visibility of female DJs and producers.

Why is this problem so important? female:pressure, an international network of female artists in the fields of electronic music and digital arts, surveyed the industry in 2013 and provided an overview of its state. The percentages of female artists featured on festival lineups, club billings, and record label rosters were dismal, but even worse, had not improved when revisited in 2015. They found women to comprise only 10.8%, 9.4%, and 18%, respectively. This is despite heavy organizing, the issue being covered more often by the media, and the current trend of open dialogue around the subject. (

While many women have come forward to heighten the collective consciousness around this issue and inspire debate, one voice largely isn’t being heard, and that’s men’s. With the greater society we live in being structurally patriarchal, gender parity will not be seen if men continue to stay silent. The sentiment from the other side of the gender spectrum is that more intermingling is the desired end goal. This is obvious in that many women in the industry are weary of being featured on all female lineups, but their counterparts ironically don’t think twice when it’s all male. There are plenty of cases of blatant sexism and misogyny to point a finger at, but perhaps more damaging is the false allies who are complicit in the unequal representation of women DJs, their harsher judgment, and the unfair demands leveled at their sex.

Besides giving men a chance to stand up and be counted alongside their female colleagues, the campaign will tackle why gender parity is also in their favor as well, through the combined efforts of editorial and the surrounding discussions. We’ll also be looking at some of the many reasons behind the current situation and developing solutions, like our campaign. The plans to execute include collecting signatures through a change.orgpetition, creating online event pages, spreading content through social media channels, sourcing editorial and press coverage, and curating media playlists on sites like SoundCloud and Mixcloud — all leading up to charts pouring in on March 8th.

Sign the petition today:

Facebook event:

Pandora’s Box: female sound and power in music technology

by Helen Reddington

Historically, women have not been associated with technology unless it helped with the housework – vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and washing machines – or their fertility (ten years ago I did a search for women+technology and was rewarded with a pageful of sites offering reproductive technology solutions). In times of war, we were useful as code-breakers and navigators; suddenly our supposedly non-mathematical brains develop useful ‘male’ attributes that disappear as soon as peace resumes. Women were at the forefront of computing in the 1940s (see I Code Like a Girl). In the competitive world of the music industry, the marketing of women’s sexuality has always been to the forefront, conveniently stereotyping women as singers, and men as instrumentalists or controllers of sound production. This stereotype appears to be impossible to shake off. Continue reading