Guest Blogger: Catherine Zhang

When I was a senior in high school, I remember driving up to a red light in a rich suburb of Atlanta with Flosstradamus’ remix of “Original Don” bumping on my sound system. I pulled up next to an old white man, who looked over at me with an unassuming smile.

I rolled the windows down, bass rumbling my car, and watched his expression change from modest amusement to apparent shock. He wasn’t expecting me to listen to such raucous music - no one ever does.

Since high school, my music taste has - for the most part - shifted to electronic music, with college giving me more opportunities to see artists live in concert. My favorite artists range from trap producers like Quix to future bass groups like Louis the Child to electro funk artists like GRiZ.

As someone who follows the online electronic music community closely, I’ve observed as well as experienced firsthand the many disadvantages and stereotypes women endure in the industry. And whether intentionally or completely by accident, I manage to shatter some of those stereotypes with the music I listen to and the way I dress and act at shows.

When you first listen to someone like Jauz, Wiwek or Ray Volpe, you don’t picture someone like me out there in the front row headbanging. In general, I suppose you don’t imagine that someone like myself - an average 5’6” Asian female studying journalism and marketing - follows the EDM community closely and reaches out to interview artists like Carribean bass group Bad Royale or UK trap duo Stööki Sound.

Furthermore, if you see me at a concert, I’m not the girl with kandi up to her elbow, wearing some sort of neon getup complete with fur and a tutu. My makeup is smeared, I probably have a jacket tied around my waist, and I’m not swaying my hips side to side seductively with the beat. I’m shrieking at the top of my lungs and flailing around.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing crop tops and booty shorts to a concert, it’s just not what all women do. We don’t all know how to shuffle, and we don’t wear our hair in long braids with glitter sprinkled over our scalp. It’s a thing, I swear.

However I dress and act at a concert, I don’t think of it as feminine or not. It’s just simply my own style. Where I sometimes feel awkward and clunky walking down the street, when I’m at a concert, I couldn’t care less what others think of me or how I look. I embrace the sweat, and I don’t hold back when my favorite song comes on.

Getting into electronic music has liberated me. I feel as though it’s become a part of my identity, a part of me that I can flex and be proud of. I interview people, I make playlists to highlight artists and upcoming events, and I even keep a calendar of upcoming events in Chicago. I’m not just an avid fan, I’m a bit of an authority on Chicago’s EDM scene.

Night clubs in Chicago frequently bring big name DJs and producers to their venues to perform, and to attract more attendees to an event, promoters reach out to prospective people via Facebook and other social media platforms. The deal they try to seal? “Guys half off until midnight, girls free ALL NIGHT!”

I guess it’s something about having lots of women in nice dresses drinking and dancing that makes a night club go from dead to bustling really quick. So one can’t help but wonder if a woman is just perceived as another body to help liven up a venue when we’re out. And while I’m not one to turn down free entry to shows, across the board women still face significant disadvantages when it comes to production, recognition and performances.

For one, there are not nearly enough women producers in the industry. And it seems like the press constantly gives the same handful of women shoutouts - we hear about Anna Lunoe, Mija and Alison Wonderland, but what about CRAY? What about Callie Reiff? The fact of the matter is, the electronic industry is incredibly male-dominated, and females aren’t encouraged and recognized to the extent that men are.

If we’re talking about the most exemplary of music festivals, few rival Ultra in Miami. Out of the nearly 30 headliners of the festival, none were female. And out of the 85 or so DJs who were supporting acts, only three (DJ ANNA, Maya Jane Coles and REZZ) were women. This drastic imbalance is replicated across the industry, indicating a larger structural issue at hand.

In my personal life, I’ve started learning how to mix music, which is rather easy to pick up but difficult to master. But feeling proud to be a woman and not pegged with stereotypes doesn’t require you to devote so much time and effort. And whether that means Zedd and Kaskade or Zeds Dead and Getter, it’s simply about being proud of the music that you enjoy.

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