where're all the women?
just warning you straight from the jump. there's going to be a lot of talk about the festival here in this blog. i'm planning to use this space to detail the nuts and bolts of what happens behind the curtains at coalescence. and being that we've just launched the facebook event page for this year's event and opened up the applications (for musicians, markets, volunteers, etc.), I figure now is the appropriate time to write a little bit about how we organise our involvement with the event. I know I promised something about eating meat and ethical food and whatnot, but as the festival is now whirring into motion, this topic seems a little more topical.
first thing's first, I need to address the elephant in the room.
the elephant is this: the music scene (particularly edm) is a bit of a sausage-fest! the vast majority djs, producers, bands, event promoters, and so on are male.
you remember a few years back when triple j did that hottest 100 of the last 20 years? the one that only featured 9 female solo acts and 9 groups featuring a woman? and it provoked this big discussion about women's involvement in the music industry? i guess this discussion got us all thinking on something we normally take for granted: where're all the women? this discussion ruffled enough feathers for triple j's hack to take a deeper look into it. It's a pretty interesting article, but i'm going to skip to the part about edm as that's the world i'm more involved in.
it seems that on a closer look, the bigger mainstream festivals have about a 9:1 ratio of male performers to female. for coalescence festival's maiden voyage in 2016 we actually had zero solo female acts. we had a couple of bands with women in them, and that was it!
each year after the event, I put a thank-you on facebook and ask the punters for their feedback: what can we improve on next time? "more women on the line-up" was one of the comments offered. I hadn't even noticed this fact until someone else brought it up! so for 2017's offering, we made a purposeful effort to seek out more solid female acts. we were aiming for a 50-50 split, but we found that this ideal was tougher than we'd anticipated. turns out there's a much larger pool of men than women, so even if you have the foresight go for equality, you may not have the option. we ended up with 20% female solos and another 19% mixed groups. that leaves a full 61% of our performances handled by males.
I wonder if you noticed that I used the typical "pink for girls and blue for boys" colour scheme. apparently this default colour assignment is only a few decades old and human babies don't really show any particular preference one way or the other. in fact, some records indicate that pink was once the preferred colour for boys and blue for girls, though this too has been disputed as a myth (sciencey stuff here).
but never mind the weird colour associations assumed by western culture, what's the go with there being so many more men in music? especially electronic music? especially when some of early pioneers of electronic music were actually women too! i'd like to offer a few thoughts on that. please be forewarned, this is speculation for discussion's sake: I'm just thinking aloud. in researching for this blog, I did have a few yarns with my female dj mates and their experiences are reflective of what you may have heard about the entertainment industry in general. it mostly boils down to this: the entertainment industry is a boys club. women tend to have a tougher time achieving success than their male counterparts. i'm not pointing the finger at anyone in particular and i'm not suggesting anyone is masterminding it, it's just the way the system has developed.
BUT WHY IS IT SO
AND HOW CAN WE FIX IT?
I've heard explanations, based on loosely understood evolutionary theory, that men are more aggressive (i.e. higher testosterone levels) and so fight harder to get themselves on line-ups. I've heard similar things about men being more ambitious and having a greater need to show off; to establish their position in the social hierarchy and get the girls to notice them. there's probably a little truth in both of these explanations, but a solely biological focus manages to forget about the influence of culture.
it's probably got some other more accurate name (feel free to enlighten me in the comments) but i'm going to call it 'socialisation'. humans are biological pattern recognition software: monkey see, monkey do. and we've grown up in a world where, historically, women have been rendered less visible through exclusion from certain activities: working, voting, making their own decisions, etc. on paper much of this has been reformed, but the momentum of centuries of female submission is a hard thing to sway. so the boys grow up seeing the men making and playing and organising music events and the girls see this too.
all too often, the girls are seen as a prize for being the most rockstar, rather than being the rockstar themselves!
and when the boys grow up to be the ones organising the events, maybe they book their mates to dj. by now nine of the ten people on the stage have a penis, and I imagine it can get a little intimidating to be the odd one out.
so what are we going to do about all this sausage-fest business? well, we hope to set an example with our event. we're putting together a workshop to teach and inspire any aspiring female djs. the workshop will be held during coalescence festival and will be helmed by an experienced and successful female dj and is open to any women who are keen to brush up on their mixing skillz. in additions to the workshop, last week we fired up applications for the 2018 festival and i'd like to personally encourage all the talented ladies to head over to the applications page and get onto it asap! don't be shy, we are an event that prides itself on diversity. diversity of entertainment and diversity of people. all are welcome: dj, singer, dancer, fire-twirler, educator, artist, teletubbie, black, white, purple, male, female, child, elderly, alien, WHATEVER! bring it on. we have a strict style-quota that keeps the event diverse and fresh. we don't want too much of any one thing, so there's room for all kinds of weird and wonderful entertainment. if you have something unique to show off, SHOW OFF TO US!