Scan through listings of DJ performances and dance parties in most cities and a familiar pattern starts to emerge: Most are dominated by men. Dig a little deeper to the people booking and promoting the nights in question, and that seems to hold true as well. This is nothing new, of course, and it’s been a topic of conversation for years. Last year, three women in Brooklyn, N.Y., decided they would try to do something about it, launching Discwoman, a collective aimed at taking on sexism in the music world.
The results have been a series of discussions and parties in New York, Philadelphia, and Puerto Rico, with another to come in Detroit, and now a full day of events next weekend in Boston. In the meantime, Discwoman has also expanded into booking, hoping to increase the profile of some of the many talented female, queer, and transgender DJs and musicians that don’t get enough exposure in a male-dominated field.
Kara Stokowski, a.k.a. DJ Dayglow, who runs a party called Pink Noise at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain, and Ashley Capachione, who produces music as Bathaus, say they’ve shared Discwoman’s frustrations for years, and felt like they aligned with their own experiences here, so bringing the group to Boston was a natural fit. On April 25, they’ll host a discussion and hang-out with Discwoman founders Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson, and Christine Tran at the Vibrary in the Democracy Center in Cambridge, followed with a party at the Milky Way with a bevy of talented women, including UMFANG, Dayglow, and DJ Raq City, and an after-party with music from Bathaus, W00dy, Sitting Adult, Lychee, and MSG at a location to be announced.
The daytime panel is meant to involve an all-ages group, Stokowski says, and to facilitate discourse outside the context of a dance party. “It’s to get all the women in the electronic music scene together; we’re not able to do that often, and when we do it’s a party. There will be open decks, people can play records, and it’s just kind of a way for us to talk about some of the stuff that goes on, and share our experiences.”
Some of those experiences will likely revolve around the frustrations of trying to make your way into the world of electronic music as a woman.
“We resonated with Discwoman’s whole agenda from the beginning, because I think there are a lot of kind of male-dominated spaces,” Stokowski says. “And this music, house music and electronic dance music, has been taken over by kind of a white male agenda that excludes a lot of people from feeling their voices are heard, or they can even be in the space.”
If you promote a night with a flier that features a scantily clad woman, something that is common, you set the tone of the party before it begins.
“I think, as a DJ, you try to get into these spaces, proving that you’re good enough, but that didn’t work,” Stokowski explains. “So Discwoman was like, ‘We’re just going to start our own thing.’ It seemed to align with a lot of things that me and Ashley and other people are doing. . . . Let’s do our own thing too. Let’s not try to get into the boys’ clubs and prove we’re good enough.”
At parties like theirs, the difference from traditional club nights is palpable, she says. “It’s a lot less predatory, people are way more respectful, there a lot of queer kids. I think people feel a lot more more comfortable at Pink Noise or nights where a woman is in charge.”
As in previous events, they’ll donate a portion of their proceeds to a women’s cause, in this case the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
“We’ve been working together in the community for a number of years, and we’re constantly talking about battling sexism, and hearing stories of other women in our community battling it, noticing that the percentage of women headlining or even being billed for electronic dance music is significantly lower than men,” Capachione says. “That goes for both the DIY and commercial scenes. We decided we needed to create some visibility for women that are talented, making music, and DJing.”
Although things have gotten a little better in recent years, both women say, it’s still an uphill battle in Boston.
“Most of the bookers in the city are men, the community is mostly controlled by men, and the opportunities for women are slim,” Capachione says.
When she confronts the problem, she hears, “Well, there’s not enough women making music and DJing.”
“I do believe that and I don’t,” she says. “There are lot of awesome women making music in the city. What we’re trying to do is create a platform where they’re supported and encouraged. That’s the biggest part, support them, tell them they are talented, and they can be billed over a man.”
At the Democracy Center, Cambridge, April 25 at 4:30 p.m., and the Milky Way, Jamaica Plain, April 25 at 9 p.m.