Women of Techno: Advocates for Diversity and Empowerment
By: Manuela Jaramillo
Orlando FL, Sunday July 25th – When the clock hit Midnight, the Orlando crowd was eager to welcome UK-born-Germany-based DJ and producer BEC. The powerful and bright techno genius brought a night filled with Berlin spirited high drums and bass, captivating the crowd with a dark and spellbinding set. A night filled with magnetic sounds that could almost hypnotize, proving that as BEC states, high energy techno heals, and I could not agree more.
Every weekend, there is an incredible repertoire of female dance music titans performing behind the decks all over the country. It is no secret that the level of quality DJ’s in the techno scene is first-class, with a huge portion being led by incredibly talented women. However, it was not always this way. Despite the fact that women have been an active part of the dance music industry for years, representation and visibility was once clouded by ignorance. Ignorance that women are no strangers to in a number of industries, with the electronic music scene as no exception. From house and techno U.S roots in the 80’s to only a few years back, the lack of opportunity amongst labels, agencies and even colleagues spoke volumes. Women had a much harder time receiving the recognition they always deserved in comparison to their male counterparts. This created a clear gap not only socially, but financially as well, highlighting an imbalance among pay-rates between genders, an issue that continues to persist today. Financial differences are not the only issue that carries on in present times. Even with the steps taken to further and empower the voice of women all over the industry, there is still a lack of respect and appreciation that demonstrates that a challenge continues to be at hand.
It is important to highlight that even though the work needed to create an equal space is far from done, advancement must be recognized, celebrated, and most importantly pushed forward to keep the momentum going. The work done by each and every single woman who has delighted the scene with their own recipe of powerful talent, strength and most importantly music, leaves a mark that continues to grow.
To highlight a few women who have fought for recognition, representation and equality, the efforts of Jennifer Witcher also known as DJ Minx are a fantastic place to start. She is one of the many influential DJs at the heart of Detroit’s techno roots. The efforts of DJ Minx started in the 90’s, with the main goal to uplift Detroit’s musicians. Minx launched the Women of Wax label and collective in 1996, followed by Women On Wax, and Women On Wax Bangin’ Ass Music labels in 2001. All of this to create a space for female D.J.s in the Metro Detroit area. As a result she has become a role model and inspiration for women in generations to come. DJ Minx was recognized as one of the “20 Women Who Shaped the History of Dance Music” by Mixmag, and “One of the best house music DJs of all time” by TimeOut New York in 2018. In the spirits of inclusivity and equality, DJ Minx recently came out as lesbian in June 2nd, 2021. She announced this to the world through an Instagram post celebrating her many roles as an unique “DJ, producer, momma, partner, (and) lesbian, friend.” Minx certainly is a woman who falls right into the definition of a powerhouse.
Several other female D.J.s have created their own labels pushing inclusivity and diversity. British DJ and producer Paula Temple officially launched her label Noise Manifesto in 2015, a project destined to focus 50% of all label efforts on putting out work launched by women and queer artists. Temple’s work certainly blurs the bridge seen amongst several music labels who lack inclusivity. Alongside artists like Temple, there is a long list of women who run their own production houses, representing not only themselves but opening doors for several other artists. To name a few brilliant artists we can admire the work of: Amelie Lens with her label Exhale, Monika Kruse and the iconic Terminal M label, Charlotte De Witte and KNTXT, Nicole Moudaber and MOOD Records/In The MOOD Radio, and Peggy Gou and Gudu Records. These are only a few of the vast amount of incredible female powerhouses leaving their mark in the house and techno scene history.
Not only DJ’s have had an amplified voice in this matter. Rave producer, promoter, and activist Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson has done a lot throughout her career to break the divide and empower women and queer artists. In 2014, alongside Christine McCharen and Emma Burgess-Olson (DJ Umfang), Hutchinson founded the all-women and non-binary DJ collective Discwoman. This project began promoting only women events, and turned into a worldwide all-women and non-binary booking agency. Discwoman has also become a gateway of advocacy for inclusivity for women and queer, along with a platform for empowerment and diversity rooted in the New York clubbing scene and transcending globally.
These are just a few examples highlighting the work done to amplify the always existent female presence in the house and techno scene to create a space where women voices, talent, work and music matter equally.
Thanks to the efforts of all of those who fight for a more inclusive and equal scene, world renowned media platforms have made a switch to become more fluid. Powerful platforms such as Resident Advisor have taken steps to minimize the homogeneous composition of renowned pieces such as the World’s Top 100 D.J.s, based on the lack of diversity and representation it entailed. Other platforms such as Spotify, one of the most influential music platforms today, have done changes as well. Thanks to the efforts of DJ Yaeji, Spotify has launched a playlist called “Women of Techno” highlighting the incredible women artists “on and off the stage.” A link to the playlist will be featured below.
The ultimate goal is creating a space where divisions are blurred, equality and diversity are celebrated and representation and recognition are not an ask, but a reality. While there is still a huge amount of work and efforts needed to reach that goal, we can all do more by staying informed, knowing and recognizing the history, and supporting and empowering women in the scene. Bigger agencies can continue to promote change by diversifying festival line-ups, record labels and every aspect of the techno industry, from mixing, to performing and managing.
We long for a day where the conversation is not about gender difference. It is not about women in techno, but only about artists in techno.