When I first got into dance music, I remember the concepts of acceptance and inclusiveness being at the forefront of rave culture. Did we lose that or was it just a romantic myth?
Well, it was never inclusive for women. You even listen to all of the records that have lyrics that address this explicitly, a record like "Can You Feel It" for example: You may be black, you may be white / You may be jew or gentile. There's no You may be man, you may be woman. It's a wonderful record, but there was never an explicit call that I can recall. Even the roles that women played in dance music were always relegated to this inferior status, even though the reality of it is they weren’t inferior. There were always less women DJs, virtually none. There were some. I can only remember in certain areas a maximum of four or five major women DJs who were active. For a long time you had periods where it was Heather Heart or Baby Anne or DJ Rap or whoever. There was never a massive number of women who were active.
Now there's a huge number. But in general, dance music has always done a fine job of talking the talk but not walking the walk. You can say that dance music is inclusive but there are whole festivals in 2017 that only have men on their line-ups. That is completely crazy. You don't even have to be some great progressive to look at that and realise that doesn't make sense. To me, these ideas should not be controversial. They're not even particularly progressive. Just the math is weird. Dance music has always had the potential to at least welcome these philosophical ideas but dance music is an area where women have faced many challenges that men do not face. At a social level, dance music has always harboured some dangers for women, like the rest of the world does. These are dangers unique to women, and that goes double for trans women and non-binary folks.
Then there's the economic gap, which is a huge issue. Past what any of us are being paid for a show, just the sheer absence of women in line-ups has been inarguably lopsided. When you can have a whole festival with no women, or one, two, even five out of a hundred people - and this was considered normal. So I'd say with these ideas there is a utopia built into the ideology of dance music. Has that been reflected in the historical truth of these cultures? No. And let's not forget it would be wrong to talk about these gaps and not say that they're magnified by race, class and particular gender expressions. So if you think there’s a gap for a woman like me, tell me about what the gap is like for a black trans woman. It's a whole different ball game. While we get in the club and music is music, money is not money.
So it's with those things in mind that we are particularly mindful in this project of the way those forces come together. I don't think you need to intellectualise this and make it about some great theory of intersectionalism—although all of that applies here—you can simply just think about the humanity of people and the disproportionate challenges they face and say "Let's work together and fix it". Like I say, you don't have to have any great, sophisticated political point of view to understand that this is an issue and that we want to be cognisant and address it by setting some specific goals.
Specifically, what are those targets?
We want to double the number of women, female-identifying and non-binary headliners. That array of folks, we want to double their numbers in dance music. That is a succinct and reachable goal, but someone has to set it. You don't get to the moon by accident. You decide that you're going to the moon, you point the rocket there and eventually you get there. Until we make a conscious effort to bridge this gap, until we point our ship in the direction of our intention, it's never going to get there. This problem did not arise naturally and it will not resolve naturally.