Sherbro Son

We Need Some More Girls in Here

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I think I take for granted living where I live that many of us out here are working towards a new vision for society, but  I realize that there are many people all over trying their hardest to keep things the way they are.  I originally meant the following words for a comment at Birdseed’s Tunedown, but the comment had become too long, so I’ve decided to post it here.  Excuse me Johan for jacking another one of your posts, and excuse me everyone else for any unorganized thoughts.

I think it’s important we take a serious critical look at sexism in reference to the global ghetto technology music thing.  One thing that really excites me personally with all this technology and dissemination of information is the potential (it may be a totally idealized vision) for traditionally suppressed voices to become heard and have influence to help determine their own future.   I think that’s what excites a lot of us, but there is also a danger for all of us to recreate the same systems of oppression that we navigate everyday.  Whose voices are being heard, and who is taste is determining what gets heard?   I think we all have to look at our positions of privilege and evaluate why we are doing what we are doing, and if our actions reinforce neo-colonial structures.  Sexism is definitely a big part of that structure.  There are many ways that sexism manifests itself from a lack of women existing in certain parts of the scene, to the desire to see women as sexual objects, to less straightforward questions like why are a majority of the Africans out at clubs or parties in the diaspora men?

Whether it’s Mad Decent, Generation Bass, Ghetto Bassquake, or any other website, we are a portal.   Our tastes determine whether or not we put stuff on or not, and in a capitalist society, that is a position of power.  Granted these days power is more diffused than in the major label hey day, but the industry is generally still representative of traditional social structures.

I think I would agree that it would be problematic if [the girls posted on Mad Decent] only got promoted because they were attractive, but it is also just as troublesome to assume that they were only promoted because of their looks.  The real problem is the fact that in many instances, men are still the ones in power making the decisions (save for a few, big up Julianne, Ripley, Isa, Anna, Raquel, Asma, Rachel.)  Whether recognition is motivated by sexual desire or criticism motivated by jealousy, a forum where a person’s skills are questioned because of their gender is a flawed one.

I’d like to see these conversations move away from the competitive commodity based society.  The more I’m involved with music professionally the more I see how this kind of gray area capitalism infuses itself into many dealings and interactions, unwritten rules that you learn through experience.  It makes me question the motivation behind some people’s actions.  Why would someone get jealous about a Mad Decent posting?  What advantage does such recognition give you?  What position does it put you in?  I wonder these things especially, because it is the Mad Decent forum from which we get things like Major Lazer and all the controversy that it sparks.  How does power play a role in music business or even aesthetic criticism?

We must look at who is in a position of power in regards to, race, class, access to technology, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and make that our lens when either promoting, writing about, drawing attention to, creating, deriding, listening to, or dancing to global ghetto technological music, in order to really understand what’s going on, why certain things become controversial, and what our role in alleviating or perpetuating certain ills are.  I’ve heard DJ’s say we’re not trying to be PC, and I can understand the desire to not want to have to look over your shoulder with every move you make.  I say fine don’t be politically correct, but please, by all means, in everything you do, be at least socially conscious.  Know who benefits and who is burdened by your actions.

Applying these thoughts to my everyday work with youth, I’m currently in a place where I’m trying to think of ways that I can help people fight the system that oppresses or discriminates against them, but at the same time not get left behind by that system.  I feel like the education system in America is failing many youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, so I come in and work with those youth on technological expression, helping them create their own music, or other digital projects.  Am I really helping these youth, teaching them these technical and artistic skills, if they are failing all of their classes in a society where level of education more and more determines social class?  Also, if they recreate those systems of oppression themselves by expressing misogyny or violence, what benefit or detriment is it to them or what benefit or detriment is it to their peers?  It truly is a constant struggle to balance the right kind of social development in an educational environment.  Global Ghettotechnicians of all races, genders, orientations, and abilities, let’s not fall into the same traps.

Dead Prez – We Need A Revolution

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15 comments

  1. jg

    you should check out sick girls
    myspace.com/sickgirlsplayit

    we use the weapon of parody to work it.
    we live and breathe ghettotech, and we use a lot of the super misogynist songs – to turn them aorund. its the context that shapes the content. and what is better then to turn hate speech upside down?
    there´s too many men in here. we need some more ladies- thats for granted we also need this whole shit to be more queer more radical we need more otherness, everything, everywhere. especially on blogs like mad decent, where only guys post. and take a look around – the whole music industry is dominated by men. ghettotech won´t make no difference. but we´re taking a stance

    • Thanks JG, I’m all for re-contextualizing, and content of the music is an example of something that we definitely shouldn’t keep out of the conversation. I’ve done this kind of thing myself with images of African culture, and enjoyed other people’s versions of it as well. I like engagement with content on a personal level from one’s own perspective, even if the content is against one’s own person. See DJ Rizzla’s great blog for an example of what I’m talking about. That’s why I think we don’t have to be politically correct, but we still should be socially aware.

      You’re in Berlin right? Next time I slide through, we’ll have to link up!

  2. “Jacking”? Dude, see it as the equivalent of one of your tracks being remixed by one of your musical heroes. ♥♥♥♥♥

    Excellent summary of what it all comes down to.

  3. dj umb

    Hey nice piece Boima.

    The whole Mad Decent thing ……….gender was one of the things used as a plausible reason for trying to understand the justification for the post

    In my case the criticisms were motivated by expectations of high standards and maintaining those standards that you expect to obtain from such a vital and unique music source in this scene.

    I, for one, am NEVER motivated to criticize because of jealousy or gender but more so because of something else that I feel is important.

    It’s plain to see from the criticisms leveled in that post, that the main thrust of the unhappiness emanated from the staleness of the tracks used in that particular mix.

    A lot of those tracks were done to death in a batch of Tropical mixes almost 6 months ago. I even did one called Carnivalesque almost 4 months ago and peeps like Solo and Harvard Bass had already done similar things 3 months prior to mine.

    This kind of standard is piss poor for a Mad Decent post. Cause one normally expects fresh and relatively unique material in the mixes they post.

    Had such a mix graced Gen Bass, not a peep would have been said cause we’ll post most things regardless of gender or quality or even sometimes freshness. If we like it or rate it or if we feel the person needs a break…whether the person can mix or not, we’ll post it.

    But “I” (not everybody else at the blog) usually draw a line where the material is overused or in every other mix you see when a particular genre is flava of the month!

    Mad Decent have exactly the same right to post what they want to post too but this post seemed completely out of character and out of keep with their usual standards which begged the Q’ why was it posted and a lot of assumptions were drawn as a consequence:

    1, Cause they rated it…maybe if you’re not that familiar with this scene but if you have your ear to the ground in this scene, then I think highly unlikely
    2. Cause they’re hot girls….maybe
    3.Cause the girls have helped promo Mad Dec in their own country and deserved such a break…maybe
    4. Cause they wanted to give them a lucky break…maybe
    5. cause they owed them a favour..maybe
    6. They thought it was fresh…maybe but highly unlikely

    Whatever the reason, only they know but I think had a guy sent in that mix, it would not have been posted.

    Does that matter, in the greater scheme of things no…not really…and maybe some people including me overreacted and perhaps we should have considered in the grand scheme of things does it matter…NO….not in the grand scheme …….it’s only a bloody mix, they have not committed a crime!

    Perhaps it should have been tackled better or the simple question asked to MD..

    why was it posted?

    But I think, if your passionate about music and high standards and you wish to see them maintained from one particular and vital source, when all else in blogosphere around you is posting almost the same things on a daily basis, it’s important to try to send that message. No matter how anal you might turn out looking in the end.

    Especially in the case of Mad Decent, as they are in a very high position of power in the blogosphere world compared to you and I who are left to pick up the scraps most of the time unless we’re very fortunate.

    We don’t have a label backing our blog that is respected world-wide and at the forefront of the dance music that we love so much. So the standard is raised for blogs like Mad Decent and I for one do not want them falling into the same trap as most other blogs where most things are re-posts or perhaps stale. They should not need to do that given the powerful position they occupy and the copious amount of original material they probably get sent.

    It was all about standards and a feeling that standards had dropped or were dropping if “Mother Hen” or the “King” of Ghettotech (Mad Decent) is starting to post mixes with material on it that was done to death almost 5 months ago…

    Are men not allowed to be critical of such things when it involves women?

    I think part of the danger is that people are ready to dive into assumptions without any proper analysis or a simple q’..like…

    Why did you post that mix?

    OR

    Why are you objecting to that post, and what are your main motivations for doing so, could you tell me please!

    Assumptions are very easy to make, almost anybody can make them BUT they’re also a very dangerous thing……….. and I think in this case we might have all been guilty of that…

    Finally, I agree more and more women need to be involved in this scene..

    I at my end have done some things to assist in this by getting people Like Zuzuka involved in our blog, and encouraging and supporting other bloggers like Cooliado and Heart In Migration!

    So, man it’s not a woman’s hate thing at my end..fo’ sure!

  4. dj umb

    AFTER THOUGHT

    As an after thought you could quite rightfully bloody question…:

    What authority does he (me) have to expect such standards, he’s not even involved in the blog and no more than an insignificant player on the scene.

    Or Who the hell does he think he is by expecting such standards…

    lol…

  5. Thanks Boima for raising this some more.

    Obviously, one major point is that regardless of “what really happened” around whatever Mad Decent kerfluffle people are talking about, the WAY you talk about the kerfluffle can itself be sexist, and make the whole vibe more sexist. It’s easy to be sexist, because our whole society (and subcultures) are sexist, and because capitalism thrives on commodification of women;s bodies through sexism, so our livelihoods and the logic of interacting in many ways is sexist before we even start. So yeah, examining that and working against it goes beyond helping out a particular woman (although supporting good artists who are neglected is always a good thing).

    For example, as Johan pointed out in the post this is a jump-off from, certain kinds of things almost never get said as criticisms (or compliments) of male djs. Whether or not those things are true (whatever that means) is beside the point. The point is, saying those things make the vibe shittier for a lot of people, and helps recreate a male-centered scene. And is also pretty boring, but hey, we’re talking about forum and blog posts, of which 99% are boring anyway.

    Anyway don’t be derailed on whether one critique or another is more true (yawn)- what I liked about this post is that it isn’t yet another “where are all the chicks” post – it seems like you (Boima) are already clear about some ways that women are discouraged from participating as equals, and that it’s not all on the women to change that. Sexism is a male problem.

  6. dj umb

    ["The WAY you talk about the kerfluffle can itself be sexist, and make the whole vibe more sexist".]

    Perhaps that was the case and you probably are spot on.

    ["So yeah, examining that and working against it (sexism) goes beyond helping out a particular woman (although supporting good artists who are neglected is always a good thing)".]

    I was not trying to say by helping women or 1 woman; it made me or anybody else less sexist. Boima said we need more women in the scene and so I said I agree and here’s what I’ve tried to do to at my end.

    It was not said as a means to get me off the hook; in fact I don’t want get off the hook.

    If I’ve been sexist, that’s it I’ve been sexist. I can’t undo that can I by saying oh look here’s what I do to prove to you I’m not sexist. I probably am subconsciously sexist to a moderate degree, but I don’t deliberately try to be so…we’re all flawed, nobody’ perfect.

    ["The point is, saying those things make the vibe shittier for a lot of people, and helps recreate a male-centered scene".]

    So let’s accept it and not criticize it to enable women to enter into the scene? If we criticize it, it’s sexist and makes the vibe shittier.

    I find that a tad patronizing. Women can stand on their own two feet and have the skills, talent, intelligence and aggression to do so too. I’d rather be called sexist and make the vibe shittier if things don’t stand up to the expected standards, rather than accept them for patronizing reasons.

    ["And is also pretty boring, but hey, we're talking about forum and blog posts, of which 99% are boring anyway".]

    Suppose the 1% that is not boring is probably those of your friends, but hey, everybody is entitled to their own opinion and tastes.

    ["Anyway don't be derailed on whether one critique or another is more true (yawn)-"]

    Too true, for me it’s not a q of who is right or wrong here or about winning an argument. Sexism does exist and is ripe in the scene but what are people going to do about tackling it. We can all spout off until the cows come home…

    Where is the action?

    How are you going to “engage” with the sexists in the scene or draw it to their attention in a way in which is likely to have most impact and a winning chance of success?

    By pointing the finger or publicly shaming them might not work as they might take that as a compliment. So how is it to be done?

    The “conveyance” of stamping that out is of the most crucial importance, otherwise you’re in danger of creating even more sexists than existed before or deepening their existing sexist beliefs.

    ["…..you (Boima) are already clear about some ways that women are discouraged from participating as equals, and that it's not all on the women to change that. Sexism is a male problem".]

    Sexism might be a male problem but I believe the onus is on both men and women to change that and not just men. In fact I think women themselves might have a greater chance of succeeding in changing it but of course they might also require the co-operation and assistance of men (like Boima).

    Maybe they will also require the co-operation and assistance of those that have been reached or are close to being reached as converted non-sexists or of those who might consciously try harder not to be sexist (“perhaps”, like me). By saying this, it does not mean that I might not put my foot into the sexism trap again in the future!

  7. boima

    Thanks Ripley for the comments. I was waitin’ for your take!

    Mr. Umb, I just want to clarify that the title of the post was a reference to the Boy Better Know funky house tune, Too Many Men. Perhaps it was a lazy reference (it was in my head when I was writing) to a song that doesn’t really have anything to do with my point. In fact I didn’t post the song because it is pretty sexist itself (but I think it could be flipped by someone with the right political voice.) This was not a call to just put more women in the scene, it was a call to question what roles different groups of people are playing in the scene.

    I was writing from a personal perspective because I feel like the same issues come up when talking about race or ethnicity. If I were to make this more personal I would ask: How are images of black people used to promote white artists? How is African culture used? What stereotypes of Black people or Africans are created or reinforced? What African or Black artists are in the scene making power moves or decisions at the top. Is there equal representation at all levels of the industry or are certain ethnicities or races relegated to certain positions? (i.e. in Hip Hop’s major label hey day, white executives, black rappers.) I think most of us are aware of these problems and their histories, but I think most people don’t understand the roles they themselves play in the reinforcement of the system of oppression.

    I think I’ve read that you’re of Moroccan ancestry (is that right?) Can you ask the same questions with Arabic or Andalusian music? If you can start to answer these questions, you may begin to see my point. It’s about commodification. I’m not trying to label any individual sexist or racist or anything. I’m not even really that concerned about racists or sexists. They are what they are, and I’m mostly likely not going to change them. While I try to not actively discriminate against anyone, I still recognize that I am a man, and that is a position of privilege, and I should be aware of that when dealing with others. What I’m trying to do is point out, I guess for the “scenes” benefit, what the power structure looks like.

    Check this out.

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “insert oppressed group here” (Marxist?) critique of capitalism, because it tends to just lump everyone together. I like to think that all of our struggles are unique. But what I’m trying to say is that it’s time for some solidarity (on the part of folks like me and you) and awareness by the people in positions of power.

    Lastly, I’ll repeat a point I made earlier. Technology and the communication mode that is the Internet is a major tool in this struggle. So let’s use it to change things, and not use it to recreate a world in which many of us are left out.

  8. dj umb

    Hey thanks for that Boima,

    It’s been put very elegantly and constructively, which I appreciate a lot.

    BTW, I’m not Moroccan but you’re not the first person who has mistakenly thought that..hahahha. I am often mistaken for being Moroccan or Middle Eastern because of my fascination with North African and Arabic music and of course my many personal connections with North Africa and the Middle East and also because of some of my commercial releases too. I am in fact British born and bred but my motherland is Kashmir.

    I like what you have to say and the way you put it across. It is more amenable to me, as a person who readily admits he requires some educating on some of these issues, as opposed to the negative way it can sometimes be put across by others.

    I mean you’re even giving me links here to educate myself further on some of these issues, which is in my view the right way in which to get that message across to people.

    I’ll be honest with you, I love music for what it is and I am passionate about it, perhaps in a very naive way. Consequently, I have never really thought about looking behind it, at the power structures in any deep, meaningful or analytical way and neither have I given many of these issues much thought or research. I’ve been too wrapped up in enjoying the music and have never really felt the urge to question the commodification of it but you might have just helped to change that :-)

    Indeed I have questioned in my own mind the same issues with regard to Middle Eastern music and in particular the actual Belly Dance/Raqs Sharqi, itself. How it has suddenly in the past 5 years transformed itself from something which began as a Cabaret type of Middle Eastern dance with Middle Eastern music into something completely different, almost completely stripped of it’s Middle Eastern heritage to make it more palatable to the west. Perhaps I will look into much deeper one day soon and write a post about it somewhere.

    Off on a tangent, I just wondered how does all the Tiki Tech stuff and criticism about the romantic use of the word “Ghetto” sit with you on a personal level given that your other blog Ghetto Bassquake seems to be one of its chief targets?

    Finally, I’m happy we are having this conversation because already it is begging me to consider things more carefully next time. It is also prompting me to look back at and question some of my actions/words, whilst not consciously or deliberately intended to be damaging, in fact might have had that sad consequence.

  9. Right on DJ Umb.

    As far as the word ghetto… to not make this too long I’ll just say that it’s something that I have tried to define in relation to my experiences. I did an introductory post kind of laying out my own definition of the name Ghetto Bassquake, and proceeded from there to try and keep my posts in line with that definition.

    It is probably indicative tho, that I keep this blog going, which I feel is more reflective of my own voice. Ghetto Bassquake was originally the vision of DJ Vamanos in London, but I’m just happy that he reached out to allow me to contribute to his vision. Homie steez, you know?

    I don’t feel personally attacked by Birdseed in any way, and give him props for his Tiki-tech criticism. I’ve had the pleasure to meet him face to face when I was in Sweden this summer and we have gone back in and forth over issues in the past, and I’m sure we will continue to do so going ahead, but that’s all part of this dialogue.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to join the conversation!

  10. dj umb

    Hey thanks for clarifying that re: Ghetto and Tiki Tech.

    Just want to clarify also that I was not trying to single out Birdseed for any particular criticism, in fact, he has some extremely worthy and original things to say, which again have made me question a lot of things. Originally, I felt he was way off the mark with some of the things he was saying but he might not be as far off the mark as I originally thought.

    “Sometimes”, I think his assumptions are arrived at incorrectly or put forward in a clumsy way but “exactly the same thing” could be said about me …lol…

    But anyway, peace and a big up.

  11. Dj Umb,

    I think your question about “where is the action?” is the important one. But one of the things I was trying to say is that talking is sometimes action. I’m not talking about apologies or promises, I agree with you there. But creating a hostile environment is action. That’s what I meant by creating a shitty vibe.

    I don’t really understand what you were saying about “so let’s accept it and not criticize it.” I think pointing out sexist language is very important. We all use it – like you said, we all have grown up embedded in sexist societies (in their own ways) and it’s hard to untangle. So I don’t think I was disagreeing with you there.

    I’m not absolving women of responsibility for helping make the world a better place. But the nature of sexism is that women are made weaker in relation to men for certain battles. That’s a direct consequence of sexism – it’s not patronizing to recognize that. So an example: when a woman points out something is sexist, it’s a common for people to say she is taking it “too personally.” It’s not common for that to happen to a man. Sexism is what creates the environment that puts women at a disadvantage in being heard.

    Anyway I think conversations like this are action too. I’m glad Boima raised it!

  12. I was just in the middle of writing a (really cringey) blog post about Chief Boima and then I saw this discussion and had to pipe in.

    I have to say, I totes agree with Ripley, if any one group of society are being discriminated against its not their job to try to shout to have their voices heard its the group doing the discriminations job to change. Having to shout over oppression and discrimination is not the job description of a dj/musician/creative thinker. We should just be able to do our thing and have it put out there based purely on talent a; privilege it appears only male Dj’s get to enjoy. You don’t know the amount of people who when they see me with my people (Murkage Cartel) think i’m just a groupie/hypewoman/someones girlfriend and I’m always like no, I’m a DJ. I almost never stand near the Dj booth with my chums after/before my set cause people always think I’m one of those Slutbags who hangs around waiting to sleep with one of the Dj’s (Not to say you might not still want to call me a slut but I just don’t want it to be based on my proximity to the Dj booth).

    On a seperate but related point Women seem to have to be attractive first and then people are like ok let me hear what you got. I don’t think any of the girls we see in the mainstream would be promoted if they weren’t attractive. Thats why their all attractive, duh. Can you imagine a female mad decent artist that you don’t totes wanna sleep with. I resent having to walk around like a peice of hot ass to get my talent rated or recognised but alas, I’m a member of society, I play the game to get ahead.

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