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Here Come the Girls: Meet the Female Collectives Disrupting the Creative Scene

The term Girl Power was an emblem of optimism that rang through the 90s, from its conception by American punk rock band Bikini Kill to its global endorsement by the Spice Girls. Since then, it has been successful in promoting the strength and possibilities that can be achieved by womxn, pushing boundaries that were once thought of as concrete. Although now a somewhat over-commercialised phrase, losing the momentum from its humble beginnings, society would not be the same if it had not been for the inspiring femxles that made these changes for us all.

There is no questioning however, that we have a significant way to go to achieve the equality womxn need and deserve. One particular place that this is evident is unfortunately the music scene. In a world that seems to orbit the attention of white male DJs, and still has a serious problem with sexual harassment, navigating your way as a creative womxn has become demoralising and overbearing. It comes as no surprise that there is a dissapointing gender polarity within the industry, with a recent circulating Instagram post making note of this. Femxles make-up a mere 2.6% of music producers, 21.7% of artists and only 12.5% of songwriters [SheIsTheMusic]. Moreover, we mustn't forget the ongoing feud between what seems like all festival bookers and femxle artists, with womxn making up only 19% of festival line-ups in 2018 [Pitchfork]. This amalgamation of frustrating statistics and worrying disparities paints a pretty dreary scene for the aspiring femxle creative.

However, there are womxn out there very determined to turn this around. Babystep caught up with some of the most promising and inspiring femxle collectives that are coming together to make way for the girls. Taking matters into their own hands, they're focusing their efforts on supporting and educating femxle DJs, producers, musicians and more, cultivating the movement of Girl Power in their own way.

Selextorhood - @selextorhood

Selextorhood are a Birmingham-based group of femxle and non-binary DJs and creatives, that are dedicated to developing a community for creative womxn. Through organising workshops, meet-ups and creating a space to converse, Selextorhood's push for gender-equality within the scene is making waves for girls around the country.

We spoke to Josie Japes, the community manager of Selextorhood, about her experience as part of the collective since her arrival last year.

What prompted the start of this collective? How have your experiences as womxn shaped your drive behind this collective? Our founder Holly (aka Holly 1-10) noticed a lack of representation of femxle and non-binary creatives & DJs in Birmingham. Holly is a strong believer in the power of community, so started one herself! It's been great to see so many new members over the first 18 months, it was clear that a collective like this was well and truly overdue in Brum. Holly: The work of SLX is constantly being shaped by experience. As a community, we learn from each other through conversation, discussion and as a brand are open to making mistakes as it means we're able to assess and change important things like who we work with, our identity and who our service is for. By working in this way and using the collective experience we aim to provide an encompassing support network for our members and wider community. What are your hopes for the future of women in music, particularly electronic? We're hopeful that line ups will become more and more gender balanced and that non-binary and femxle DJs will be commonplace. We have also started to have discussions with our members about safer spaces within the nightlife industry, we want dancefloors to be a safe space, as well as behind the decks. Moving forward we hope to engage with venues and promoters, through contractual agreements, to ensure the safety of our members and to see the work we're doing filter into the club / electronic music scene. Your platform focuses heavily on promoting the amazing things that other womxn and female collectives are doing – who are your current favourites and why? Bad Girls Club, which was founded by one of our members - Clara McDermott (Clarabelle), who hops between making big things happen in Brum and Bristol. Block Radio a new radio station based in Coventry ran by Cara Pickering (Momma C), another member who is pushing for more equal representation on the airwaves. Shifting Spheres is a sister collective based in Manchester, run by (alongside other DJs) member Rachael aka Roo, she never stops and is always busy with something new and exciting - including an all femxle and non-binary produced debut release this year. Scarlett O'Malley is someone we really respect, her Youth Club podcast is a real intersectional look at the electronic music scene. Our members make us proud everyday, check them out here - What advice would you give to girls wanting to develop their interests in music? Or even wanting to start or be a part of a collective?

Keep exploring, believe in your unique taste, talent and be true to yourself. It may help to find and connect with others who have similar interest/taste to you, most big cities now have femxle, non-binary or queer collectives that will be ready to welcome you, if not, maybe it is time start your own...! There are many pathways into music, be creative and resourceful, everyone starts somewhere, don't give up, ask questions, reach out to your favourite DJ or brand, try radio! There's enough success to go around.

The TitChat - @thetitchat

The TitChat flew onto the creative scene in Leeds only this year, and have since brought a colourful and warm energy to their work, surrounding the education of feminism and empowerment. Comprised of Sydney and Harriet, the duo are incredibly intelligent and a pleasure to speak to, constantly envisaging new ways to make the discussion of gender and power accessible to all. From radio shows to artwork, political pieces and more, everyone has something to learn from this pair.

To get us started, tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you do!

SG: I'm Sydney, I am from Manchester and I am one half of TITCHAT. I spend most of my time writing and talking about gender issues as I mould my Fine Art practise into something more reminiscent of a sociology degree.

HH: I’m Harriet, I’m from Wrexham and I’m an artist, clown and intersectional feminist. I will defend the lives of sluts, marginalised races and animals till I die!!! I’m fiercely fat and I aim to make women more comfortable in their bodies by unapologetically taking up physical space in the world.

What prompted the start of this collective? Was it in the works for a while or did it come about organically?

SG: It came about organically back in February of this year, through some really critical conversations that Harriet and I were having about contemporary feminism and how both everything and nothing had changed in the fight for equality. Through that we jokingly said ‘people need to hear this’ and we’ve never looked back!

HH: We wanted to make space for candid discussions that weren’t shrouded in complicated feminist jargon, not everyone has a degree in gender studies and you don’t need to in order to be part of the conversation. We also know a lot of amazing creatives and wanted to create something that they could all be a part of as well.

What do you think is the most amazing thing about being a womxn? Has this impacted how you run your collective?

HH: I think there are copious amounts of beauty within the realm of being a womxn. There is no one mould that represents us all and I think that’s really important for us a TITCHAT. We want anyone to be able to look at what we are putting out there and find their own comfort in it, a call to action if you will. We gas each other up majorly all the time and that’s the energy that’s crucial to TITCHAT we are a celebration of all things womxn

SG: I agree, I think self-identifying women hold a kind of strength that is inherent in the performance of womanhood. This strength, for me, is the best thing about being a woman, it really helps us to go far to push past the stereotypes and boundaries that are placed upon us. I think we can both safely say that our growing community is the thing we are most proud of about our collective.

A lot of your platform is about promoting the amazing work of others - who is catching your eye at the moment?

HH: In terms of badass feminists that majorly inspire me, I’d have to say Mona Eltahawy. Ofunne Azinge is a multidisciplinary artist based in Leeds and her work is super juicy, she’s a queen.

The focal point of your collective is increasing accessibility to feminism and unravelling its location in art, media and culture. What do you think are some of the big feminist issues inherent within these fields today?

SG: I think accessing space within these industries as self-identifying women have always been a struggle. Yes, we are inching closer and closer to getting equal representation within these fields but the fight is not over. White women have been granted the most access to the highest places of all the marginalised groups thus far, the next step is to ensure all marginalised people gain the same access to resources and opportunities as white women. We can't take our eye off the ball because we have been given the security of catching it.

HH: Yes, we are very aware that we are just another couple of white girls dipping their toe into a very over-saturated space of ‘woke white girls’ that’s why we work so closely with as many creatives as possible, we think collaboration and lifting each other up is key to the success. Feminism has served us well for too many years, it needs to move out the god damn way and make room for intersectionality. I feel like if we make enough noise about it we will get there, I’m all about accessible feminism but I don’t care too much for palatable feminism. FUCK the patriarchy.

Has TitChat helped you with your own understanding and development of feminism?

SG: TITCHAT has helped my understanding of the world in so many ways, both personally and 'professionally' - it's still so strange to think of myself as a professional despite being at the forefront of a collective but hey! what would we do without imposter syndrome? Anyway, TITCHAT has broadened my understanding of Feminism in pretty much every way. It's allowed me to fully immerse myself into gender issues both presently and historically. I think its really important for us all to understand the fights that came before us and the sacrifices alongside them. We’re so aware that there’s so much work left to do. I think we both have found a balance between being angry to a point but not shouting over others to make ourselves heard. It’s been tough but we’re learning to take up space and also budge up for everyone else.

What are your first hopes for womxn in the coming years?

SG: When I was thinking about my response to this one, I was umming and arring about wanting more representation for marginalised people but at this point, it's not a hope, it's a necessity. I know we will continue the fight because FGM is still being justified, society is still prosecuting sex workers and not providing safe working conditions for children. These are the tips of the iceberg but in the coming years, I hope we have protected the people who need it most.

HH: I dream of a world where our bodies are not objectified but celebrated, and where we can do whatever the fuck we want and smash the glass ceiling every single day. We must refuse to be pitted against one another and celebrate all our ‘rivals’ in the space because guess what, there’s room for all of us - even my fat ass.

The Beatriarchy - @thebeatriarchy

The Beatriarchy are a brand-new creative pairing, made up of Kitsta and Gracie T from Manchester and Sheffield, respectively. Their collective cultivates a safe, inclusive online community, that aims to support underrepresented groups such as womxn, Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ in the underground electronic music scene. Having only formed back in the summer, they have already collated an amazing group of people that come together and share their love for music in a welcoming space. Both Kitsta and Gracie T are one's to watch, with their own projects pushing the momentum of The Beatriarchy even further forward. Kitsta plays a part in the feminist DJ collective All Hands on Deck, and also features on radio stations all over the country, including Melodic Distraction, Steam Radio and Threads. Gracie T runs Foodhall Community Radio in Sheffield, and is also one of the British South Asian collective, who have had radio appearances on stations such as the BBC Asian Network.

What prompted the start of this collective? Was it in the works for a while or did it come about organically?

It began with Gracie being mansplained one too many times on white male-dominated tune share groups. We got chatting and agreed that a lot of the online facebook communities were gatekept and biased towards straight white males. We decided it was time to level the playing field and shine a light on those underrepresented voices, and so we started our own tuneshare group on facebook, The Beatriarchy. It has now grown into an online community with a production support group and we’ve just launched our mix and interview series on Foodhall Radio and Soundcloud.

What do you think is the most amazing thing about being a womxn? Has this impacted how you run your collective?

Collective power - all womxn experience oppression to varying degrees and we believe it’s important to harness that anger and frustration for good. Single voices, even if they shout, can be easily drowned out, which stresses the importance of collective power. The Beatriarchy has transformed into an amazing space which fundamentally underpins this, creating a safe space for people to promote themselves, whilst connecting them to like-minded individuals. We’ve seen so many positive connections come from this including new radio residencies, guest mixes, creative development and even debut EP releases!

What do you think are some of the most important conversations to be had regarding womxn in music currently?

We believe that the first step towards inclusivity in the music community is starting these important conversations in the first place and making sure that the people that are underrepresented in the scene are able to be heard. Our new interview and mix series, The Beatriarchy Presents... aims to not only promote the creative work of underrepresented artists in the scene through the mixes, but to provide them with an opportunity and platform to talk about their creative processes and the barriers that they have encountered in their music careers. Check out the first episode on Soundcloud now and we have our second instalment coming later this month. The issue in our scene is that underrepresented groups are not getting the exposure they deserve or appropriate payment for the work that they are doing. It is time that big event promoters and venues are held accountable for their actions and are being actively anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic.

What are your hopes for the future of womxn in music, particularly electronic?

We hope that more womxn become empowered to pursue their journeys in electronic music and feel comfortable and supported enough to take risks and push boundaries. We want to see more womxn doing sick things in the scene, and getting paid for their work. It is imperative that we see big organisations thinking about who is representing their brand and what measures they can take to combat inequality in the scene. We should be seeing at least 50/50 gender and ethnic minority representation and this should not be tokenistic - these talented people should be paid appropriately. This is something to hold all promoters and venues accountable to, especially post pandemic.

NotBadForAGirl - @notbadforagirlmcr

Manchester-based collective NotBadForAGirl are all about having fun, playing music and doing their bit for womxn whilst they're at it. The past few years have seen them span across genres, playing everything from DnB to ambient, and have been hugely successful in obtaining 8 monthly radio residences, including Reform Radio, Vandelay Radio, Subtle FM and Steam Radio, as well as multiple sell-out events. "We started out a year and a half ago as almost strangers, and have managed to form this amorphous and ever-changing network of support that has provided us all with the confidence and strength we need to really thrive in the industry. I think we all feel really lucky" explained Martha, founder of NBFG.

Not Bad For A Girl is an amazing name! Tell us a bit about how that came about and what prompted the start of this collective.

I (Martha) had been working in the music industry for about 3 years, and generally found myself partnering with men, booking men, and hiring men as freelancers. I think it got to a point where the lack of representation just really bugged me, because I knew from first-hand experience and my social circles that there were so many hugely talented womxn out there doing their thing. It was obvious that there was something going really wrong somewhere along the line. I think the industry has a big communication issue between those in power and those who are just starting out.

People book or commission the people they know, and if there’s no-one to give womxn a leg-up and a starting point, or some experience, then it’s incredibly hard for us to break through ourselves. So I started Not Bad For A Girl as a platform for womxn to gain experience, and it’s snowballed since then - largely due to the talent and drive of the members!

The name is a bit of a f*ck you to everyone who has ever underestimated us based on our gender, or undermined our talent because we don’t ‘look like DJs’. I also think it’s a bit of a dare - I think it’s a challenge to look past the gender that we present as, and see our us for our ability instead.

What do you think is the most amazing thing about being a womxn? Has this impacted how you run your collective?

A lot of people have a problem with the term ‘womxn DJ’. I think the general consensus is that being labeled like that is exclusionary and comes dangerously close to segregating gender in the way that the sports world does - women v. women and men v. men. I agree that labels are problematic, and firmly believe that in the music industry, it should be people v. people - where do gender fluid people even fit into the binary of the sporting world?

That said, I want to reclaim ‘womxn DJ’. I think that we’re DJs first, and we will always be DJs first, but that we also identify strongly with the womxn community, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

We’re lucky in Manchester to be surrounded by so many amazing womxn creatives. The collective rests on four basic principles; respect, trust, parity and kindness. I think each of those principles have been matched by the womxn we’ve worked with over the past year and a half. It’s a great scene to be involved in.

How has lockdown affected your plans as a collective? What did you do in this time to stay inspired?

I think we adapted quite well to the restrictions of COVID-19. Our first birthday was in March, and while we couldn’t do our original plans due to lockdown, we ended up running a 4 day online festival, with over 60 very varied acts - from music, to yoga and even photoshop classes. We’re also focussing a lot on merch, as well as honing our production skills!

Radio has been a saving grace, as many of us have the equipment to keep producing our shows outside of the studio. Staying creative has been really key for our mental health.

What are your hopes for the future of womxn in music, particularly electronic?

Equal rights, equal pay, justice, parity of esteem and MORE PARTIES.

What advice would you give to girls wanting to develop their interests/talent in music? Or even wanting to start/be a part of a collective?

Firstly, I would say just go for it. Jump in and make a start - it doesn’t matter if that’s just downloading Ableton, borrowing your friends decks, or watching a Youtube tutorial, the first step is always the hardest. Once you’ve done that you’ll pick up momentum as you go! Reach out to other womxn in the scene (our DM’s are always open!), send your mixes or your tracks around relentlessly, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the people around you. Get stuck in!

MorePussy3mpire - @mp3mpire

MorePussy3mpire, aka MP3, are a three-piece London-based music collective that want to pave the way for a more inclusive and safer club scene for womxn. After a successful string of music events, workshops and radio shows, they're planning an even bigger return to the club scene next year. Watch this space!

Tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you do!

So, we’re MP3, More Pussy 3mpire, and we’re a music collective from London. There’s 3 of us - Dinyel, Goochie Vix and Daebak. We had our first event in 2018 and decided to keep going with the collective by running workshops and radio shows, and curating more events, even branching our events to Sheffield since Shane (Daebak) moved there for uni! Our first event in Sheffield was in February (pre-Rona lockdown times) with Gigi FM and Lockhart so we got pretty lucky with squeezing it in. It was nice being able to branch out with our events in a new city, and we had so much fun! It’s been a bit of a pause since then with MP3, but we’re hoping to get back and running once the clubs open again (fingers crossed!)

What prompted the start of this collective? Was it in the works for a while or did it come about organically?

One day Shane popped up in May asking if we wanted to have an event around June of 2018. Funnily she was on her way to the open day for uni in Sheffield. Obviously, this didn’t come out of nowhere. We were all pretty committed to going to club nights in London like ETS, Super Kitchen, Boko Boko, Night Slugs and Pxssy Palace and we had all started DJing together earlier that year. So, we thought, yeah, why not throw our own parties? It’ll be fun! And it was, but from observing the music scene, it was obvious that it was very male-dominated, and women were getting a different treatment from doing the same thing men were doing. Like when we first started doing events, we’d get people questioning the line-up for being all women. And it’s just like… Where’s that same energy for parties with questioning all-male line ups?

Anyway, seeing the extent of this once throwing our first event really encouraged us to move forward with the collective and create these spaces where women can take the centre stage, showcase their talent and more importantly, have fun! We started planning more music events, workshops and radio shows, meeting so many amazing women along the way. We’ve been so lucky with having a supportive network of people around us and I think that’s what the collective is really about.

Your tune selection is extremely diverse! How would you, if at all, define your sound?

You said it. Diverse. The three of us have slightly different tastes even though what we play often over laps. Broadly speaking, it’s electronic dance/ club music, and it ranges from hard drum to ghetto tech to more experimental club. We’re big fans of labels like ETS and Tobago Tracks, and artists like Anz, Nara, Shygirl, Coucou Chloe, Aisha Devi, Fauzia, Solid Blake, Akito, NKC... Honestly, the list goes on.

What are your hopes for the future of women in music, particularly electronic?

The main thing that we wanted to do with MP3 is to give women a platform to show their talents. It is almost guaranteed that on any YouTube video or whatever of a female dj set there will be so many comments by random guys on their looks, skill or offering their ‘advice’ that you would rarely, if ever, come across on a man’s set. There has been a shift to more diverse line-ups on a smaller, more local level which is great but this still hasn’t really got into the mainstream on those bigger line ups such as festivals and larger club nights. Even when women do make these line ups it seems to almost be as if the promoters have ticked the box of diversity and nothing more which isn’t enough. Hopefully soon women on line ups will become the norm!

The final, more general thing that would be great to see across all kinds of nightlife (and just in society in general) is safer spaces for people belonging to marginalised groups where they can enjoy themselves without risk of violence, abuse and harassment. We want our events to be safe for everyone to just to go out and enjoy themselves with their mates and be able to come to any of us for any help they need.

Thank you to all the amazing womxn involved, make sure to go check them out and keep the support going!


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