In my continuing set of articles about the DJing industry from a woman’s perspective, here’s a piece about how out-of-place women are behind the decks. Spoiler: we’re not.
“I was not expecting a girl”
That’s the problem. Nobody ever is. You’d think society had come far enough to make no bones about the gender of the person stood in the DJ booth. Think again. Time after time, people are surprised, sometimes even to the point of genuine disbelief, to find a woman DJing. That woman is me, and today I’m here to tell you why that sucks.
I’m not alone on this – another DJ friend of mine recently reported that someone had asked her if she’d been hired to dance behind the booth. Last night a man asked me if I was “helping out with the cloakroom.” – yes, ladies and gentlemen, in his eyes I couldn’t even be trusted to run a cloakroom by myself. Sadly these are not one-off occurrences. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked if I’m the DJ; from behind a booth in an underground club, to standing alone on a giant stage in a 700+ capacity venue. If it isn’t me, I’m not quite sure who it’s supposed to be (unless they’re expecting a man to pop out from under the table, Paris Hilton style, and secretly do the work for me).
The extent to which the general public are assuming a male DJ is most apparent when I have other people – men – in the booth with me. They might be friends come to say hello, or reps retrieving payment, but you can bet your bottom dollar they’re the DJ in the eyes of the crowd. It doesn’t matter that I’m wearing headphones and they’ve got their phone in one hand and a pint in the other, you can guess who gets the handshake, the compliment, the praise. Seven years in the business and I’m getting duped out of high-fives by my vagina.
The title of this article comes from the mouth of a male customer, whom, after enjoying a 5 hours of my finest indie-electro, came blinking in the glare of the house lights to congratulate the DJ on a job well done. Presumably. Except he didn’t get that far. He went in for a handshake, saw me, froze momentarily like a rabbit in the road, then retracted his hand, laughing “I was not expecting a girl!”
Herein lies the issue. We’re scarcely acknowledged, and when we do get a bit of recognition for existing, it’s often trivialised. Let me clarify. It might just be me, but when someone tells me ‘well done’ or ‘you did a really good job’ at the end of the night, honestly? I’m a little miffed. Although probably meant as an honest compliment, it comes off as condescending and implies that my ‘good job’ was a blip, maybe beginner’s luck, rather than a professional delivering consistently high standards of work on a nightly basis. Well done, little girl. You didn’t fuck up once. The verbal equivalent of a pat on the head. These congratulatory statements only appertain to perceived effort, and regardless of whether it’s meant or not, struggle to sound genuine. If that seems arrogant, just bear in mind you probably wouldn’t hear these things said to a male DJ. They’ll get compliments on what they did, not how they did it. Great set. Sick tunes. Top night. I’m not saying I never receive this kind of feedback, but apparently audiences are often surprised to see a woman occupy this position, and furthermore… they couldn’t even tell. Funny isn’t it?
I guess my point is you can keep the sympathy vote. Just tell me you liked the music. Or maybe you didn’t? That’s fine too. Just don’t make it about my gender.