Sex Sells

Sex Sells
By Nadia Says, originally published in Fourculture Magazine

This is nothing new. Say you are an old bunch of men who studied marketing in the 70s and you sell cars and washing powder…I won’t waste much time debating how out of order your sexist campaigns are and how belittling they are for women and your clientele. I’ll just wait for your breed to die off and let the next mixed-gender generation of marketers take over with hopefully better ethics, better taste and a better opinion of the people you sell stuff to.

However, if you are a young-ish, creative-ish bunch of people selling art and culture to a wannabe evolved and open-minded community, i.e. techno and house music festival-goers, who are so proud not to be as presumably dumb as EDM festival-goers, but you still abuse the female form to sell stuff that actually have nothing to do with a female subject or when the money is not going to the women you exploit in the campaign, we’re going to have a problem.

What wound me up? Here are three examples that recently popped up in my Twitter newsfeed.

Big Festival, 10% fem musicians on stage

Villette Sonique, 15% fem musicians on stage

Weather Festival, 10% fem musicians on stage

So we have two festivals using a not very covered female form without a face (note that the first woman may not have received any compensation for showing off parts of her anatomy, but the presumably male photographer probably has), and a video of a woman, again not overly covered, dancing (as we know that’s what women are best at, along with singing, in the electronic music scene). Don’t even get me started on the cultural appropriation for that last video…double shame on the Weather Festival communication team.

As we can see from these three examples, but also from your basic music event/festival crowd pictures where pretty young women are over-represented (random example from a Coachella Facebook photo album), women are used as decorative sexual objects. If a festival had 40 to 50% female and gender-diverse folks on the lineup, I could maybe understand why a half naked woman makes sense on the promo poster, but these festivals are mostly organised by men with men (for men – this is another subject, how cis men feel safer going to a big festival than people of other genders).

These three festivals in question include racialised and queer musicians with 10 to 15% women in their lineup, is that by chance or as tokenism? Who knows. What we do know is at least two of these festivals are well-respected and used as references in the French “intelligent” dance music / IDM scene. Their marketers act as pimps, the bookers as sexist sheep, and the male acts not requesting more females on the bill are their silent accomplices – and these festivals are just examples in an ocean of similar events.

Change comes from marginalised musicians speaking up, but also from cis-male bookers and promoters breaking this sexist abusive/dismissive bro circle. Female and gender-diverse bookers and promoters should be able to make a stand without being afraid for their own jobs and cis-male headliners can demand more diversity in lineups. Finally, change comes from the public demanding gender, sexual orientation and ethnic diversity in lineups… a chance to discover talents besides DJ Mag’s top 100, better ethics, respect and support for all of us with a dancing foot in the industry of music.

Surely if women are good enough to be on the poster, they are good enough to be on stage.