DISCWOMAN, the Techno-Feminist Revolution, and the State of Women in Dance Music

Techno-feminist collective DISCWOMAN touched down in San Juan last weekend for a stop on their tour, bringing their thumping platform to the island to “showcase the wealth of female-identified DJ talent in the electronic music community.”

At the heart of DISCWOMAN’s mission is inclusiveness: not only by recognizing that the women who go to clubs want to see themselves behind the booth, or by taking on gender gaps in booking, but also in terms of the scope of the sounds you’ll hear at one of their parties. The techno and house-centered first showcase at tropical rave hub Bossa Nova Civic Club in Brooklyn this fall provided a starting point, while the Puerto Rico edition of the circuit reached into the local crates of Payola Isabel, industrial/ambient sounds from Gera and electro breaks from Lady Liquid, with Miami’s Uchi, and Brooklyn’s Umfang, Ana Lola Roman, Volvox, and Fiasco also on the massive bill.

Photo by Luis Nieto Dickens.
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I spoke to Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, one of the organizers of DISCWOMAN, as she prepared for their debut at One Bar. Next, they’ll be taking on Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Kansas, Seattle, Los Angeles, and cities throughout Europe through the rest of the year. There’s no stopping!

How did DISCWOMAN start?
It started as conversation between us about how there are so many awesome female-identified DJ/producer talent around us, and we were like duh lets start a festival to showcase it.

What about the current club climate inspired you to create this platform and make opportunities happen for yourselves?
It, like everything else, is very male-dominated, but a lot of women we’ve spoken to haven’t necessarily had personal stories of people being sexist towards them in the scene. That said there are stories of that happening, but broadly speaking the ratio of men to women who get booked speaks for itself. A lot of the issues lie with who is booking the gigs/festivals. DISCWOMAN came out of taking that into our own hands.

Now taking in the immediate success of the project, did you have a sense that DISCWOMAN would be welcomed so quickly?
Of course we had our reservations but they were few and far between. Honestly a lot of work had really been done; the women we were showcasing in NY had been killin it for a long time so came with their own props. We just pulled it altogether. That being said we’re so grateful it was welcomed so warmly.

What’s the feeling like in the club at a DISCWOMAN event?
Ha! High energy, inclusive, and fucking fun.

How can you see this platform being a tool to cultivate new talent? How can visibility encourage this?
Well our near future plans is for DISCWOMAN [to] do artist representation and become a record label, so through these ventures we hope to definitely encourage more visibility. We’re also big on the educational factor so we wanted to start classes for women to learn how to produce/use CDJs, etc.

Photo by Kelly Kai — with Christine Tran and Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson at Stream Gallery.
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How does taking control of the narrative of female-led club culture help erase stereotypes ie. the underdog status, rival mentality, etc?
The more exposure people get to women killing it in the club the more negative stereotypes are broken down.

How did you connect with the DJs in Puerto Rico?
We have friends who live in PR and they tipped us off to many of the women DJs in PR.

Have Gera / Lady Liquid / any of the other PR-based or rooted DJs shared any stories about their experience coming up in the scene there?
We are yet to discuss this directly, but the evidence of there being so few women DJs in PR speaks volumes about the DJ culture here.

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How do you see this project growing? What’s coming up next?
We want to make opportunities for women to get more exposure. Artist representation, events, panel discussions, etc. We have about an event a month planned for this year mixed in with showcases of women DJs and live hardware sets by women.