The Main Attraction
DJ and producer Sophie Lloyd is aware that she gets bookings, particularly for corporate events, on the basis of her looks, alongside her abilities: “In all honesty being attractive helps,” she says. “A lot of the time I’ve been booked for being female which I guess has worked in my favour, but like anything, you have to back it up. It may at times push you to the front of things but you have to prove yourself more, to show that you’re not just attractive and female but that you are actually good at what you do.”
DJ and events promoter Suze Rosser disagrees: “The importance of looks is in the more tits-and-headphones glamour/celebrity scene, not in the credible dance music scene which we’re in” she says. “In more underground clubs such as Fabric it would be rare to see girls like that playing. The DJs would be more natural and fitting to the vibe of the club. We’re all on the same page – the style of night carries a certain style. Music is the most important aspect.”
Despite this, the sexualisation and image control of female artists has to be considered in this debate. It isn’t a new observation that women (and some men) across all popular media platforms are sexually objectified in the pursuit of commercial success, but there are many women, in the electronic dance music scene as well as the more ‘popular’ scene, who have used this awareness to get noticed. From Madonna to Britney and Lady Gaga to Peaches (who in a recent show in Berlin shone light out of her anus) through to current electronic starlet Nina Kraviz, who, like her predecessors takes on – or, one could argue, confronts – the male gaze head-on through her hyper-sexualised image. All considered acceptable under the somewhat shaky umbrella of post-feminism.
It must be noted that there are plenty of other successful female acts who have not felt such overt self-objectification necessary on their career path. But the issues are in what we – as society – deem acceptable in how images of women are communicated. We have become so brainwashed with images of women fitting the prescribed formula that anything else is found shocking.
While researching this story I rediscovered one female producer who I interviewed 15 years ago and who has slipped into relative obscurity. The image of her now obese body shocked me, purely based on how we – both men and women – have been programmed via the media to respond and assign value to certain images, to judge what is acceptable in the feminisation and representation of the female body. One only has to refer to the recent gossip frenzy surrounding Lady Gaga’s weight gain to affirm what society deems palatable.
Support the next wave of talent
Over and above all else, is it the visibility of women acting as role models which is of primary importance? When Lottie started out as a part-time DJ in the early 90s she was the only girl she knew who spent all her money on records and fell asleep with her headphones on – until she went to infamous hard techno night Trade at Turnmills in London where she saw Smokin’ Jo. “There were no other girls DJing at the time,” Lottie recalls. “Even though I knew I could mix, I never thought I could make a career out of it until I saw Smokin’ Jo. It took me seeing her to give me the confidence I needed.”
Both Sophie Lloyd and Suze Rosser got a similar boost a few years later when they saw Lottie play in their home towns of Brighton and Jersey. Now they all play together at various events, including Lottie and Suze’s night We Are Geisha, which boasts an all-female DJ line up – a mixture of established and up-and-coming talent – hoping to influence the next wave of young women trying to break into the industry.
“Ten years ago it used to annoy me when people asked me about being a female DJ. Now I’ve done a complete u-turn on it,” admits Lottie. “Now it fascinates me and I think playing with just girls in one event is healthy. I think gender and dance music should be talked about. Dance music magazines, broadcast media and labels need to make women in the industry more visible. We need to support the next wave of talent coming through.”
And you know what? We do, too.
We Are Geisha is at Cargo, London, Friday December 21st.