On The Decks: Isobel Moloney

Reading Giegling’s Konstantin express his belief that women are wrongfully over-promoted in electronic music despite men apparently being better DJs, I wish I had felt surprised. But when I’ve had a man say the exact same thing to me, it didn’t come as a shock. I once told a male DJ that I had got my first proper set at a night, and in some kind of jealous fit, the first thing he said was, “it’s so much easier for women to get booked”. It’s exhausting.

Moving to Leeds sparked my interest in dance music almost instantly, but it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to do something about it. House parties are filled with boys playing average house tunes behind a controller, and at clubs all I saw was men behind the decks. It’s undeniable that, although it’s changing, much of electronic music is an inherently male space.

A common misunderstanding from the likes of Seth Troxler is that women and people of colour aren’t represented as well as DJs in electronic music because they’re simply not interested. People who possess more privilege don’t understand what it is like to constantly walk into rooms of people where you’re the only one. Without it even being intentional, it can be a hostile space, and you have to actively work to make that space inclusive: it doesn’t just happen automatically. For me, it took meeting women in the scene and discussing these issues to push myself out of being a bedroom DJ.

In DJ years I’m a toddler, but I’ve already learned so much from fellow female DJs in Leeds. This year, I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone when I set up a radio show on Leeds Student Radio called Grrrl Edit, firstly to find these women, and then celebrate their talent. This has taught me an incredible amount about electronic music culture and being a DJ. I’ve seen a mutually supportive community that women can rely on as they turn away from the more competitive, professional side of DJing which is incredibly male-dominated. The creativity you can find in the groups that have no desire to conform transcends the conventions of mixing that seem so solid and male-oriented. However, we always need to work harder. I regret more than anything letting people like that guy believe that he can make such disheartening assumptions about women without consequence. As The Black Madonna said, “Misogyny is your friends. It’s the person you’ve liked but disagreed with. It’s the joke you didn’t take seriously. It’s right here.”

When the wonderful Cat from feminist collective Slut Drop asked me to play at a night she was putting on with the label Permahigh, my first thought was, “How have I blagged my way into this one?” But I always remember going to a grime night at Hifi, and towards the end of the night this guy strides on with a couple of his mates and just messed around with the faders for an hour. It was a train wreck. So I always pretend I’m that guy, because even after his set a bouncer told him he was awful and he still thought he had nailed it. My plan is just to steal all of that confidence that men seem to be born with for myself.

Isobel Moloney

Image courtesy of Isobel Moloney

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