My dissertation is titled ‘Conceptualising Gender in Alternative Spaces: Sexism, Feminity and Boundaries in Club Cultures’. For my study I am aiming to conduct an auto-/ethnographic research study in to dance music subcultures and the misogyny and limitations for women within.
When I say dance music it includes house, techno, tech-house, bass, jackin, dub, drum n bass, jungle, lo-fi and all the other off-shoots of electronic dance music. From the lack of female DJ’s on an average dance event lineup to the rampant sexism and harassment experienced by most female clubbers, it is more than obvious that the dance industry is a heterosexual, masculine-dominated one.
So for my thesis, I don’t just want to recall the negative experiences from women on the dancefloor, but I want to begin to analyse the construction of dance music spaces, and how these have come to be male-coded spaces. To do this I need the opinions of both men and women…
Some of the issues I have come across and have interested me in exploring further revolve around dance and sexuality. Much of the academic research surrounding dance music/club cultures have found that women who display outright feminity (for example, wearing heels and a clutch bag, dancing in a feminine manner) have been viewed as less legitimate of a partaker of the music, purely because of their femininity. Other studies have found certain DJ’s relate certain sounds to women, (e.g vocals in house tracks) and play these tracks to attract women to the dancefloor because if the women are dancing, the men will too. This, of course is based on sexist stereotypes. Women are scrutinised for not conforming to male expectations of dance, or how they should act and behave if genuine followers of the music.
“The participation of women who are ‘regulars’ is validated in part by their choice to adopt masculine styles of dancing.”
These gender obstacles are experienced by female DJ’s too. Nina Kraviz recalls a time in which she was criticised for sitting in a bathtub in one of her videos, as this was interpreted as ‘sexual performance’. The issue here is that this naturalises masculinity. By suggesting anything a woman does is a “blatant use of sexuality and superficiality” only enforces the male gaze by presuming anything a woman does is to gain the attraction of men. Thus “there is no conceptualized space in which Kraviz can embrace or even reveal a feminine sexuality without it being seen as selling out or cashing in.”
This experience of Nina Kraviz made me think about the act of going to a club and dancing as a female in a completely different way. Is the way I am positioned, and what I do only validated in relation to masculine ideals? Can hyper-sexuality and hyper-femininity be expressed by women within dance scenes without delegitimizing their position as partakers of dance music?
To try and answer these questions I would like to gather the answers from individuals who consider themselves to be part of the dance music subculture and would regard dance music to be a part of their identity.
If you are female or male or any other gender and would like to be involved in an interview or focus group to talk about your experiences (harassment and sexism) and your views on gender in dance music then it would be a great help!!
Please get in contact via my instagram @babylannay or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
We all like to have a space where we feel like we belong. But the truth is, some people do not have that space.
When we think about our Utopian nightclub space, it does not involve the harassment, prejudice, resistance, racism and homophobia that come with most nightclub venues. Most women at some point have experienced some sort of harassment or unwanted attention in a nightclub environment. Increasingly, there have been attempts to tackle this behaviour with Zero Tolerance Policies and posters to encourage women to report any harassment in clubs.
So how do we create the perfect nightclub event? Is it even possible?
Siren DJ’s are the group of women pushing for forward thinking movements in dance music. The all-female collective have been hailed “The girl crew partying for a better world” after tackling the clubbing scene head on with a no-nonsense approach to the industry induced misogyny; aiming to create comfortable and safe nightclub spaces for women.
“No bullshit, just dancing!” is their slogan. The group are working together to put on nights promoting female producers and DJs who are largely underrepresented in the male dominated scene. They are confronting the gender discrimination, sexual objectification and treatment of WOC in the dance music scene, with the aim of creating female and LGBTQ dominated spaces. Siren’s nights are sure to be booming with great techno music, showcased by talented female DJ’s from across Europe and The UK and of all ages and backgrounds.
SIREN’S event descriptions are proudly branded “SIREN is a queer femme space and will be run on the principles of our safer spaces policy”. I recently attended the last of the SIREN parties this year with two of course female techno DJs – Dr. Rubinstein from Berlin and Ex Machina a London based artist.
We rolled up to Rye Wax in Peckham at about 11:30, just as the venue started filling up. Rye Wax is a quirky little venue within Bussey Building in Peckham that doubles as a record store. With sofas and seats the venue is extremely warm and welcoming, which was perfect for what Siren are trying to create in the night. There was no pressure, and with the price of drinks being reasonably priced… for London, the night had started off well.
The atmosphere was great, the music was pulsating throughout the room; heavy techno beats that excited the crowd. The night was in full swing at about 1am; the club was full and everyone was dancing freely; girls of every colour, shape and size, shaved heads and large hoops and a handful of guys too. It did feel different to a normal club night; there was no tension in the air and it felt like you were surrounded by real, wholesome people who genuinely just wanted the best clubbing experience they could have.
Ex Machina’s set similar to the film of the same name was a heavy experience! She got the night off to an intense start with a memorable set of dark industrial techno; repetitive thuds that are hard to find in London’s dance music scene. If you wanted the feeling of clubbing in Berlin but without leaving the comfort of the capital, then this was the night for you. Dr Rubinstein continued with some fierce and dynamic techno sounds which later transformed into the acid-style techno typical of her style in sets.
The night was fun, the girls were cool and friendly and the atmosphere was comfortable and free. SIREN pulled out a “No Bullshit, Just Dancing!” dancing event for sure, and I would recommend anyone to attend one of their parties; you won’t regret it!
The emergence of The Network Society has seen the mass commercialisation of the internet and digital media forms, and with this comes the expansion into new territories that were once excluded. Whilst technological use was once limited to certain demographics and access relatively unattainable for some, what we are seeing now increasingly is a growth in a counter-hegemonic dimension to the internet and digital media in which it is being used to express radical and often extremist views (Castells, 2010). As the use of the internet has grown ever more uninhibited it has been questioned whether a digitally connected society is a more liberal one.
Alternative media are media texts that differ from established or dominant types of media in terms of their content, how they are produced or how they are distributed. What will be discussed in this part of the text is the far right wing and their alternative internet presence in reference to the British National Party (BNP) and to what extent the BNP positions itself in cyberspace, how they use digital technologies and to what impact. The BNP is a party that was formed towards the beginning of the early 1990’s after a surge of popularity of the far right within the centre of Britain’s politics. Its beliefs are founded deep within racial nationalism in which their success is based on the collective admonition to protect white British identity as whiteness is an “essentialised social identity which they say is under threat”. The website displays the motto ‘Love Britain’ however the upholding British “Identity” is one of the codes that the right wing on the internet uses to disguise its discourse on racism.
The BNP use internet technologies to reach out to a wider audience and to gain a sense of community within this online public sphere. They have asserted them into the public sphere in Habermas’s sense of the term by creating a wider sense of identity. The party’s huge focus on their online presence has stemmed from the need for a space to bypass the censorship and criticism they faced from the mainstream media. “The BNP makes use of the expected technologies of web site construction and presentation, such as internal hyperlinks, PDF downloads, online shopping, email links, mailing list” and audio and video extracts from both public and commercial broadcast media (Atton, 81, 2004). Currently, the BNP website contains no chat forum or discussion rooms after they were forced to close it down after messages were posted by oppositional political organisations.
The construction of cultural history is emphasised on the website with focus on heritage and culture. “The culture is emphatically pan-British, emphasising Celtic and Anglo-Saxon influences” (Atton, 73, 2004) and it is interesting to see how the BNP use fundraising campaigns to promote the protection and preservation of white Britishness, for example one that is currently featured which reads; “Rebecca will be an ethnic minority in her British ancestral homeland when she grows up, unless you take action today, donate now” (BNP, 2015). We can assume that the choices made on content are one occupied by racial purity, and what such campaigns endorse is the very racist thought of ethnic cleansing. What is present here is the imaginary construction of white identity as one in which is seen as repressed and in need of defence. The threat is that of multiculturalism and the endeavour is “to preserve the ethnic and cultural identity of the British People”. Stuart Hall in his writings on Caribbean cinema and cultural identity identified three presences in which identity can be fabricated, one in which is useful to explain the BNP’s discourse. He argued that an ‘imagined community’ exists in which Africa to Caribbean people becomes the origin of their identity, unchanged and unattainable (Hall, 231, 1990). Similarly the Britain that the BNP constructs with its odes to historical English figures is imaginary, yet it wants to protect this cultural identity from other presences that may adulterate its purity and produce difference and change in a culture that they ultimately want to protect.
In support of far right politics we have also seen the emergence of facebook groups such as ‘Britain First’ who are clear in their racial policies, hatred for immigrants, and extreme nationalism. Over 400,000 people have decided to “like” Britain First’s Facebook page, meaning this extreme-right hate group has more followers on a social network than any other political party in the UK. The fascist digital community use animal cruelty shock tactics to gain donations disguised as fundraising campaigns. The illegal funding of this group highlights the extent radical groups will go to achieve popularity on social media.
Following Foucault’s ideas on power as discourse (1980), it has been argued that “discourse is not only constituted by existing social formations and historical accounts, but is itself constitutive of social groups, subject positions and identities” (Atton, 67, 2004). The role of discourse in producing power is evident in the use of radical media practices. Through the knowledge that is constituted as power through discursive formations, this power is what is capable of forming subjects and followers. The discursive formations that are used may come in the shape of propaganda, rules, speeches, writings and practices. From a constitutive approach it is important to understand how “discourse can produce forms of social action”. What will be considered is the application of these ‘rituals of power’ and ‘the effects such rituals have on agents and subjects’ in close relation to The Islamic State (Atton, 67, 2004).
A successful strategy in which extremist movements are using is that of digital marketing. Daesh or The Islamic State as we know is a salafi jihadist militant group and terrorist organisation who declared themselves a worldwide caliphate in June 2014. Whilst remorselessly murderous, what is particularly threatening about ISIS is that they are a contemporary globally networked terrorist organisation that are technologically sophisticated (Roberts, 2014). They have taken to social media to try market the group as legitimate and focus on entrenching its political longevity as a caliphate and encourage Western Muslims to join the group.
One journalist noted that “In addition to an extensive use of Twitter, ISIS militants have taken to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other online platforms in a bid to raise money, recruit fighters and amplify their message. Theirs is a sophisticated effort directed at winning hearts and minds within as well as beyond the borders of the caliphate” (Bonzio, 2014). There are three levels to the geography of online extremism; level one sees the use of social media outlets to promote propaganda and publications, level two consists of “dedicated websites for the dissemination of propaganda and some web forums with both public and private sections” and the final level named ‘the dark web’ consists of “password-protected forums which are often hidden using file repositories and storage sites” (OSCE, 2015).
What is disturbing about ISIS is how carefully planned and coordinated there digital efforts are. Current images and information of the fighters are updated online along with recruitment videos posted on YouTube, are filled with ISIS ideology. The twitter and facebook accounts used to try and recruit fighters and lure young girls into a life of jihad marriage are terrifyingly successful. Monitoring what young people are exposed to on the internet is difficult and predicting how they will react to it is even more so. The Islamic State romanticise its portrayal “in the nature of a religious obligation or duty” and thus exploit their recruits who often just want to go and help their brothers and sisters in Islam. A glossy Islamic state propaganda magazine under the name of ‘Dabiq’ – a key location in Muslim mythology, is regularly produced and printed aimed to appeal to The West. The most recent issue boasting of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut with the angle of a medieval fairytale, referring to the attackers as “crusaders” “knights” (Claron Project, 2015).
Following a leaked document of ISIS papers headlined by the guardian as “behind ‘death cult’ image lies a methodical bureaucracy”, the ISIS blueprint was covered. Whilst the leaking of these documents may in itself have been a publicity stunt, entailed in these documents is a chapter on ‘media strategies’ which revealed the extent in which ISIS manipulate the media and use propaganda. One of “the themes that come through from the documents is Isis’s desire to portray itself as a utopia for true believers” and the groups commitment in creating an ‘idealistic caliphate’. The use of cheerful Islamic state images, facebook and instagram accounts of the militants smiling as ‘brothers’ brand the organisation and promote the idea of unity and a utopia (Malik, 2015).
In September 2014 followed the video released by ISIS of the beheading of James Coley, the CIA admitted to staging fake jihadist videos in 2010 (Stein, 2000). What is important to consider when looking at radical media practices is the elements of media images and staged images and events being used for maximum publicity. There have been speculations into the authenticity of the ISIS killing videos. “Media Images speed up information” and “are generated through hypermediacy”, if then ISIS wanted to establish themselves as an immediate threat once announcing themselves as a caliphate then staged image events such as graphic videos that would reach maximum publicity through shares online and news coverage are a way of articulating their political standpoint and causing a media spectacle (Roberts, 161, 2014).
In conclusion as Atton noted “We can examine radical media practices for examples of how naturalised media frames and ideological codes can be disrupted” (Atton, 64, 2004). Radical media use has produced harmful results. It has been said that right wing extremists are “Creating an “electronic community of hate”. Islamic Extremism, White supremacy and Racism within the public sphere of the internet are communicated and networked without censorship. The internet being used to express radical and oppositional views can render dangerous as it allows extreme racial ideas to circulate, with the people who do so being a threatening part of society. Is what has been considered in this text harmful distribution or just free speech and really should racist and extremist discourse on the internet simply be considered as alternative media?
Aus Music the record label founded by Simple Records Will Saul and Ninja Tune’s Fink turn’s 10 next month, and to celebrate they are hosting a series of events throughout April and May around the UK where you can see a number of the biggest and best artists from the label. The label is hot on the scene, with new releases premièring weekly and shows from artists hitting NTS, BBC, and Rinse regularly.
An essential component of the UK’s dance scene over the last decade, we can thank Aus Music for introducing us to, and producing tracks from some of the hugest names on the scene today including Bicep, Joy Orbison, Huxley, Midland and many more. For Aus Music’s London event Will Saul brings his imprint to XOYO for a big celebration to mark ten years in the game. The lineup is yet to be announced and they’re keen to keep us guessing, I predict Bicep, Midland, Will Saul, Tom Demac and Joy Orbison. Any guesses?
Get your tickets for 10 Years of Aus Music at XOYO here.
Aus was one of the first record labels I can remember being extremely fond of and I will still find old playlists full of the array of massive hits that Dusky, one of my favourite duos to date have released as EP’s on Aus Music. Think ‘Careless‘, ‘What I never Knew‘, ‘Atone‘. So to celebrate I’ve created a playlist of my top 10 Aus Music Tracks, take a listen below.
A fresh face on the scene, Birmingham boy Ben Galyas who goes by the artist name of Homes for America has been producing mixes and performing sets recently and is soon to start a residency on NTS. He is also an LGBTQ officer at University of the Arts London and has been djing to help raise funds for charity and awareness of the cause.
He has recently produced a mix on vinyl in relation to Black History Month named ‘Outta America’. The mix has features music from artists of African decent whilst others have been inspired by or sample African Music. Artists include Etta James, Sylvester, Maâlem Mahmoud Guinia and Floating Points, Jay Dee, Willia Onyeabor, Ajukaja, and Kerri Chandler.
I caught up with Ben to talk about his recent mix, about the artists he admires, Music of Black Origin, Plastic People and gender neutral toilets.
L: Hi Ben can you start with telling me a little about yourself?
Ben: So I’m a fine art student at Chelsea, but I’ve been DJing for maybe 8 months now, collecting records for a couple of years and playing on vinyl for about 4 months? I think.
L: Homes for America, can you tell me where you got that name from?
B: It’s an artwork by Dan Graham, someone I have a great deal of respect for. He had a reputation of being a jack of all trades, he was an artist, critic, and musician. I really admire that kind of multiplicity. Homes for America was a pretty radical work, it was an image in a magazine along side a short text. As a title too it has some kind of political thrust.
L: So you said you’ve been djing for about 8 months, why did you start?
B: (laughing) it probably came from wanting to play songs at parties and it just developed from there. I used to play around on my laptop to make mixes and I’m pretty embarrassed about that now. I always just wanted to play records and i’m lucky to be able to move onto just playing records pretty quickly. It’s an expensive business for a student (laughing again)
L: Everyone has to start somewhere! So what artists do you admire or would you say are your main influences?
B: Well a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time at Plastic People where I saw Kieran (Four Tet) and Sam (Floating Points) on different nights. That was a pretty amazing experience and the guys that played there have been really influential. Theo Parrish too but I didn’t get the chance to see him which is sad. I have a big thing for eclectic DJs, like going to the club and having no idea what you might hear is a lot more exciting than going to listen to 6 hours of house music.
L: Each to their own Ben, I still love my house! Haha. I’ve seen a few of your sets now myself and I can see a sort of pattern emerging with your record choices and vibe, “it’s very Ben” I’d say but would you say you have a certain style?
B:Hahahaha that’s good I guess. I probably do, I think I play quite a mixture of quite high brow early electronic stuff like musique electronique or John Cage or whatever, and I’ll also play like really raw garage or techno or old bassline. I like the idea that there can be a really weird coherency between them within a DJ set, but if you were going to see them at the time, one would be in the Royal Festival Hall or the Barbican and another would be in a really sweaty basement in Sheffield (continues to laugh).
L: What made you want to make a mix for Black History Month?
B: I wanted to make the set that would trace back to the origins of a lot of contemporary electronic music, specifically African Origins because I think they’re fundamental. Black people played such an integral role in the development of contemporary electronic music too. You have guys like William Onyeabor and Francis Bebey who’s use of synths still seem really new and amazing. And then you have guys like Carl Craig, Larry Heard, Kerri Chandler. The list is kind of endless.
In that set there are two tracks by Sylvester, who I’m really interested in. He was gay and black at the worst time to be both them things. He was really overt and flamboyant and his music is really amazing. I think he died of AIDs in the late 80s.
L: What was your thought process behind the mix, how did you want to create a collection of music that represented Africa when you are not African yourself? Was this difficult?
B: Yeah it was. I never feel like I should be speaking for the black community, especially in an industry which is really whitewashed. At the same time, black musicians have really informed the understanding of music I own today. I thought for Black History Month it would be great to celebrate that; which is what I’ve tried to do within the set. I could never claim that this set represents Africa, because so much is missing. It’s a really timeless narrative and I don’t think you could ever put any kind of set together that could claim to do that.
L: Of course, could you tell us a bit more about your campaigning for UAL? I voted for you!
B: So I was elected LGBTQ Officer at the beginning of this academic year. We’ve been working hard on improving mental health services across UAL and securing Gender Neutral Bathrooms across all campuses. We’ve also been organising events for LGBTQ history month, which has been a real stress. Next year I’ll be moving to Trustee, which basically means I sit on the board and helping to make decisions on where the budget is spent.
L: We both attend University of the Arts, would you say being in London makes it easier to be a creative?
B: Definitely! It’s sad that so much of the culture is centralised in the UK. It’s an almost impossible situation for artists, especially early on in their careers where they earn so little and yet they have to live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet to have any chance of being really successful. I’ve had so many opportunities here that I just would not have had if I were still in Birmingham. But as you know that comes with great expense in terms of debt…
L: Finally you’ve got quite a few mixes out but is a track of your own on the way any time soon?
B: Unfortunately not, I’m trying to raise money to buy this processor which will allow me to sample and loop records easily. I have a few ideas but I feel like most people don’t make great records until they’re in their 30s. I have lots coming up though; I have an exhibition where I’m showing a film I have been working on next month. I’m also playing at a new night called Steady Levels in Camberwell next month and my friend and I are starting a night called Birds. A residency on NTS may be on the cards in the coming weeks which is really exciting.
L: Thank you Ben!
Bring on the Birds!
Catch Homes for America’s extended version of the Africa mix streaming on NTS radio over the next few weeks.
Follow Homes for America on Soundcloud by clicking here
I’ve featured a number of posts on PC Music, however this release slipped under my radar! Danny L Harle has released a music video for the amazing ‘Broken Flowers’ that is slightly different to the original version… which seems to have completely disappeared.
An unlikely collaboration sees Bassline Producer DJ Q remixing the PC Music track, which Danny L Harle evidently took to as it’s up on his own YouTube channel. It created something pretty wonderful. Check it out below, I’d say its the better alternative!