Pink Moogs & Ponytails
Our resident agony aunt Charlie Leigh Gamble is here to answer your queries on music, life and existential crises. This month, our question comes from a female musician who’s sick of sexist jokes.
Hi. My question is about being a girl in music. I’m fed up of not being taken seriously as a producer and DJ just because I’m female. I’m sick of all the jokes from guys about me getting back in the kitchen to make them a sandwich (or worse). I’m 25 years old, I’ve been DJing since I was 18 and producing for the last few years but I STILL get patronised in music shops, stared at like I’m an alien in record shops and groped by sleazy, sweaty men in clubs. I’m not saying I’m special but I just want to be treated the same as anyone else. How do I make men see past the fact that I have a pair of tits and a ponytail and treat me like any other producer or DJ?
This is a tough one. I can totally relate because I’ve been playing this game for 12 years now and there really is no cut and dry answer. It’s an issue you’ll have to deal with your entire career as an electronic musician, because at the end of the day production and DJing is a man’s game; it always has been and probably always will be until the likes of Roland and Moog start marketing their products with pink as an optional colour.
Not being taken seriously when you’re passionate about something hurts. People will tell you that you have to be thick skinned and ignore it, which is both far easier said than done and also – unfortunately, for the sisterhood of female musicians – ultimately right.
“If you can pull it off, not giving a fuck is by far the quickest fix.”
If you can pull it off, not giving a fuck is by far the quickest fix. It may not be the best fix or the most healthy fix but eventually you have to thicken that skin or the chip on the shoulder will grow ever heavier until you become so bitter you no longer find enjoyment in the thing you love.
In my own quest to overcome the same obstacles I’ve tried everything. I’ve been the the self-righteous, let the music speak for itself cow who looked down her nose at female DJs pulling the ‘book me coz I’m sexy’ card. I’ve released music as myself and under a male alias at the same time to see if the gender prejudice was really an issue or if it was all in my head (for the record, when the reviews came in my ‘girl track’ was described as “talentless” while the track I produced as a man was hailed as “raw and innovative”… on the same page of the same magazine by the same reviewer). And yeah, I’ve also thrown my hands in the air and said, “Fuck it! If you can’t beat them… join them!” and exploited my own sexuality to extreme levels to prove the point that you can be a bad-ass producer/performer and a sex symbol at the same time.
I realise of course that what’s worked for me might not work for others – I’ve always been headstrong and admit that when the occasion’s right, I take pleasure from shocking people – so probably the best advice I can give is this: the best way to combat the constant feeling that you’re not being taken seriously is to start by… not taking yourself so seriously.
That may sound ass-backwards but hear me out.
“Sometimes, the very key to happiness is simply staying away from assholes”
Get yourself to a mental place where you no longer feel as if you have anything to prove, be happy with yourself as an artist but remain humble. The more genuine and down to earth you are, the more people will respect you as a person. Once you’ve earned respect as a human being, your beauty and talent can be appreciated as a bonus rather than a gimmick. This road is a long, arduous journey where you must find inner peace, self confidence, emotional balance and an understanding that sometimes, the very key to happiness is simply staying away from assholes.
I wish I had a magic wand to fix this problem, because I know first hand just how much it sucks. I wish you the best in your music career and urge you to never give up on your dreams. The industry needs more women like you if the entrenched gender stereotypes are ever going to go away – which, by the way, I think they will eventually; it’s certainly better now than it was when I first started, but there’s plenty to do before we find ourselves on a truly level playing field.
If you’re looking for advice, brutal honesty, or a little devil on your shoulder to nudge you down a path of troublemaking, debauchery and bad decisions, Charlie is your girl. Send her your dilemmas via the Contact page.