Gender & Music: Women in EDM
Like the majority of the music industry, Electronic Dance Music is dominated by men. Male producers, DJs and executives are controlling the relatively new genre’s trip into the mainstream. Popular EDM artists receiving widespread airplay — Calvin Harris, Skrillex, David Guetta — are exclusively male. Though the lack of female representation is a problem, the bigger issue is the way that these male artists depict women in their music. Women are treated as objects and used as little more than accessories to man-made beats.
It’s not hard to draw up a list of EDM tracks that fall into this category, especially when considering the more popular dance tracks. “This is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna is a current example of this gender-driven mold: the men make the beats and the women make it sexy. Artists like The Chainsmokers, Diplo and David Guetta have all fallen into this pattern with party tracks like “Hey Mama” and “To U.” The lyrics are seductive and generally heteronormative, spinning the tale of two lovers meeting, missing each other, being reunited and so on. In “Lean On” by DJ Snake, Major Lazer and MO, a pervasively popular example of this phenomenon, lyrics are fantastical and suggestive of a powerful romance: “All we did was care for each other / But the night was warm / We were bold and young.” The lack of artistry and control given to the female features on EDM tracks reduces the women to little more than the sexual suggestions that can be found in their voices.
But the over-sexing does not end with vocal features. The visuals of EDM are also extremely objectifying and, like much mainstream media, cater heavily to the male gaze. Simply search “EDM” or “Dance Music” into YouTube and the images for the resulting videos are covered in sexualized women women wearing bikinis or something equally as revealing. There’s nothing wrong with women dressing like this and celebrating their bodies, but it becomes an issue when it’s forced upon them. As is expected, the music videos for these kinds of tracks are no better. Diplo especially has been called out for his objectification of women, particularly women of color, in both his lyrics and his videos. For these straight white DJs, the female body is something to be sold and consumed.
The tracks that feature male vocals demonstrate this consumption clearly. As is the case with many lyrics written by men, women are made out to be objects of sex and little to nothing more. Borgore is the epitome of this objectification. “Nympho,” a Borgore track, states, “This bitch is so used I wouldn’t sell her at a second hand store” and “Do you know what’s hardcore / Me shoving an elephant up your sisters back door.” Blatantly degrading and suggestively violent lyrics like this promote a sexist culture.
This being said, it is obvious that the boys club that is the EDM industry is in dire need of female DJs. With the exception of Krewella and one or two others, female DJs have been unable to gain the popularity of their male counterparts. The presence of women may not entirely mitigate the harmful actions of the male DJs, but it will add representation and another, much needed point of view to the current niche of artists and producers.