How Female DJs In Singapore Are Fighting Sexism With Their Beats
Successful female DJs in Singapore have managed to break the glass ceiling and are proving their mettle through their incredible work.
Sexist stereotyping is not a new phenomenon. We are all guilty of judging people and tasking them on the basis of their gender and looks. But female DJs in Singapore are breaking the glass ceiling.
They are showing the world just exactly how to break away from all these labels. They are proving that talent has nothing to do with gender. They are drawing large crowds to nightclubs across The Lion City and headlining international events.
In 2016, Singapore DJ academy The Big House produced a web series called Drop the Beat. Here, six female DJs participated for a chance to win $20,000 management contract and $5,000 in prizes. The show started off with host MC Sonorus introducing himself and explaining why it was created.
“As you all know, female DJs are receiving a lot of heat from the industry. Why? Because they think you are not good enough than your male counterparts. It’s as simple as that,” Sonorous reportedly said.
While the show received mixed reactions from the audience, with some agreeing that it achieved its purpose of empowering female DJs, others thought it did the opposite.
It did, however, bring to light the underlying issues that female DJs face in Singapore. Aside from being perceived as inferior in skill to their male counterparts, female DJs have to break free from the vanity mould they are placed in. They are lauded more for their appearance than their work.
In a 2016 interview with culture news platform Popspoken, DJ EJ Missy recounted an incident when a fashion company expressed interest in hiring her for an event since her tunes matched well with their vibe.
The company later backed out, citing that her “plain image” didn’t fit the brand. With her cropped haircut, EJ Missy looked different from the stereotypical female DJs that at the time were usually booked for fashion shows. These DJs usually started their career as models or are part-time models while spinning.
Two years later, another Singapore female DJ expressed the same sentiment in an interview with South China Morning Post.
DJ Red (real name Jasmine Nera) reiterated adding, “I wish gender didn’t matter, but it does. For a fair number of my female peers, people look at their attractiveness first, then their popularity, then finally their music.”
Nera recalls that when she started, some partygoers and other DJs would accuse her of just playing a mixtape. This is what prompted her to prove them wrong by honing her skills and mastering other techniques, such as scratching.
Aside from honing their skills behind the decks, some female DJs in Singapore are exploring different ways to try to close the gender gap.
In 2013, Singapore DJ A/K/A (real name Amanda Ang), started an all-girl event collective called ATTAGIRL! The collective's aim is to provide a platform for female creatives to explore their art and establish connections within a community that's by women, for women.
The collective is run by five female DJs from Singapore and Malaysia. Together, they've produced various events that celebrated female artists from a variety of genres, ages, and labels across the region.
Ang sees ATTAGIRL! as a chance to empower women by boosting their confidence, which she says is crucial to survive in this cut-throat industry.
Singaporean producer and musician sofklo (real name Soffi Peters) shares the same thoughts.
She sees the collective as a chance to encourage female artists to start, or even continue doing what they do. That's because it provides them with the encouragement that they rarely receive when they’re in the industry.
She sees the collective as a platform where girls can showcase their work, without any fear of discrimination.
In the same interview with SCMP, EJ Missy shares that her strategy is to remove the concept of gender in the gap altogether. She chooses to see it more as a skill, rather than a gender, gap.
“I don’t see myself as a female in a male-dominated world. I only see myself either as someone less or more experienced than another, or having different musical tastes than another,” she says. “I’m glad that most of the time it’s the music that I play that gets the attention, not me,” she told the daily.
While the gender gap in the industry still exists, local female DJs remain optimistic.
Longtime musician and DJ Ginette Chittick acknowledges that there has been a big improvement since she started out in the 90s. At the time she’d often get catcalled by the audience. Not anymore.
She also believes that the country itself offers much for artists, regardless of their gender, to thrive.
“Singapore is fortunate to have more avenues and vehicles for female DJs to perform than many other countries – we hold more festivals, events and product launches as Singapore is more of a fashion and nightclub hub," she told the daily.
Ang agrees with this, as she’s seen the numbers of female DJs in Singapore increase through the years.
With this rise in the number of female DJs and with organisations like ATTAGIRL! promoting female talent across the region, things are looking up for female DJs across Southeast Asia.