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What Does Feminism Look Like In The Electronic Music Biz?

Female and queer artists will make up a majority of the lineup at this year’s Moogfest in downtown Durham. It’s a roster that pushes back against the prominence of men as the creators, performers and promoters in the electronic music industry.

To me a lot of women and nonbinary artists are making some of the most exciting music around. -Michelle Lhooq

As part of the event, music journalist Michelle Lhooq is moderating a panel entitled “Electronic Music and Feminism in the Wake of Me Too.” She has gathered artists and industry leaders to discuss their own challenges promoting their talents and sometimes fighting off harassment in the music scene. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Lhooq and local Durham-based DJ Queen Plz (aka Laura Friederich) about how to raise up women DJs and how to promote structural change in the electronic music scene. 

Moogfest runs Thursday, May 17 through Sunday, May 20 in downtown Durham. The panel conversation "Electronic Music and Feminism in the Wake of #MeToo" takes place Saturday May 19 at 11 a.m. at the American Underground Bullpen.


Laura Freiderich on organizing a women-inclusive DJ lineup:

When I started “Party Illegal” we had the goal of having at least one woman or non-binary artist on every lineup. And a lot of times that involved going and looking for female artists. It involved hiring female artists that had less experience. It involved teaching people how to DJ. And that was several years ago at this point so I think, like Michelle was saying, it sort of has grown. A lot of the people that were novices then are now creating their own collectives of other female DJs and teaching more women how to DJ, so it's growing fast.

Michelle on the scourge of the all-male lineup:

I think in the past it was just the norm to see an all-male lineup. People didn't even really question it. But now that women started carving out their own spaces and challenging this idea that: Oh there are no women in electronic music! It’s like: Of course there are! You just haven't been paying attention … And I think that's a really important shift that I've seen in the last four, five years. It's happened so quickly.

Michelle on not tokenizing women DJs:

In the past I think when this all female collective line-up started to become, like Laura said, a bit trendy, a lot of promoters sort of glomed on to the trend and just sort of started booking women for the sake of booking women. But I think that these DJ collectives are really leading the way in showing that it should always be about the music first and the community that you are bringing out. And that you need to book a lineup that's interesting, that's empathetic to the people who are coming and that has style and attitude. If you just have tunnel vision for the sake of booking women it doesn't even make sense and the party feels incoherent.

Laura on experiencing harassment at parties:

As [Party Illegal] got more popular I do feel it got straighter, and I do feel like as more men, and particularly more men that were not familiar with queer ethos came in, the creep factor increased. The creep factor being people putting their hands on my butt. The creep factor being people commenting on my breasts instead of on the music I was playing.

Michelle on the culture of consent at parties:

I think that people are becoming much more aware of issues of consent and harassment and how sexual harassment is endemic to the nightlife industry and that something needs to be done about it. And if that means having to educate the people who come to your party about what's OK and having very strict rules about: OK if you cross this line you are going to get kicked out. You are going to get called out. I think that the conversation and awareness around this issue has really improved, especially in certain corners of DIY parties and underground parties where the community is much more tight knit versus a big commercial festival where you're having thousands of random people coming together. But I think that the change is trickling upwards.


Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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