I spent all of my 20s in somewhat of an identity crisis over my femininity. I longed to embrace my love for sparkly dresses and nails, but something stopped me from allowing that side of myself to come out as I wanted to be seen as an equal to all of my peers. Instead, I opted for the latest pair of trainers and a baggy, oversized label tee.
I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends at a festival that ended up being a turning point for me, in that I now do not look to be seen as an equal to men, or to anyone for that matter. This friend turned to me and said:
“I’ve just realised what it is with you Rebecca.”
“What’s that?” I replied.
“You are one of us, one of the lads. That’s what it is, it’s just clicked.”
This was meant as a compliment, and at the time, I really took it as one. I left the conversation thinking, “I’ve really managed to do it, this is great. I am equal to my male peers.”
Upon thinking more and more about this conversation and what it means, it has come to disgruntle me slightly. Why should I be happy that I am equal to men? Why did a man telling me this make me feel some kind of achievement? Why would he even feel the need to say this to me? Why did my ingrained opinion of self rest so strongly upon my male peers’ opinions of me?
I always felt that when a male peer complimented me on a mix or gig, that it really meant something. But if a female did the same thing, I felt that the compliment somehow meant less: and that is absolutely obscene. Where did that come from? Why was this attitude embedded into my subconscious?
Sadly, during my 12 years in the industry, I have encountered many incidents like that conversation. So many times people will come up to the turntables and say,
“Oh wow, you’re playing vinyl, you are really mixing!” They wait at the decks for you to make mistakes, and when you don’t, they get bored and move on.
At first, I thought I was imagining this whole thing, that it must all be in my own head, in my own reality, so I refused to believe it for many years. But more recently, I opened up about some of my experiences to other female DJs, promoters and musicians, and they all also experienced the same thing. The past few years has seen a huge rise in the media shedding light on these issues, and clubs have started to book more equally. Things are getting better. But there is still a slight tokenist mentality with line-ups that are equal female-to-male. Take the jazz world for example: the ratio of male musicians to female is even worse than in the electronic music world. It’s actually quite shocking, and this must be coming from generations and generations of young females not being encouraged, and talents not being nurtured.
I use this only as an example because it stands for so much relevant to this issue. I moved to the south-west of France to a tiny village in which most of the population were over seventy years old. Views were very old fashioned, and it felt much like time had just stood still for fifty years. My partner at the time was also in the industry and one evening, one of the ladies in the village announced in front of all of the neighbours that I was in fact also a DJ, and that “I worked too” . All of the village friends replied with genuine shock and delight at the fact that the woman in the couple actually worked. Now, if these attitudes exist still, in places more remote than the big cities, then it just shows that we aren’t so far away from the attitudes of the past after all.
To finish on something positive, I am so grateful for all of the amazing people I have been lucky enough to have met over the years in the industry. We are all brought together by one thing: a common love for music, and that really is beautiful.
For me, I simply cannot describe the way that some music makes me feel. It is like a completely cleansing experience and the emotion that it derives from within our core can allow us to feel however we want to feel. Whether this is good or otherwise, we just allow ourselves to feel emotions that we may not feel in our daily lives and this is a beautiful thing. And I really do appreciate and respect musicians and producers for allowing us to be able to do that. When I hear a piece of music that I really feel, it can almost put me into a meditative state and I can allow myself to purely focus on what that piece of music is saying, whether it is classical, jazz, soul or techno. The emotion is still the same.
Music really is a privilege and I can honestly say that deep within my heart I am totally grateful for every piece of amazing music that I have been lucky enough to have been able to hear. I thank every musician, composer, maestro and producer for every piece of music whether it has been noticed or unnoticed and wake up every day happy to be able to just take the time to just listen and appreciate music.
Music is music. Talent is talent. Irrelevant of sex, race, religion, age or back round
Images courtesy of Rebecca Vasmant
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