Charlie Tee: “Everyone involved in dance music has a responsibility to support women” - Features - Mixmag

Charlie Tee: “Everyone involved in dance music has a responsibility to support women”

More needs to be done to make dance music a safer and more diverse space, says DJ and broadcaster Charlie Tee

  • Words: Charlie Tee | Photo: Hana Makovcova
  • 19 March 2021

I know I’m not alone in saying I’ve felt a plethora of unnerving emotions take hold of me following the heartbreaking events of the past fortnight. In the wake of the murder of the Sarah Everard, the distressing conversation topics it has raised, and the callous response from some areas of the public and state, the UK has felt like the epicentre of controversy, inequality and injustice.

It’s very difficult to put into words how I felt reading the many, many accounts of harassment this weekend. Courageous women from all walks of life took to socials sharing their own harrowing experiences. Among them were women who I hold in the highest regard like Annie Mac and The Blessed Madonna. Women who are so well respected within the dance music scene, whose honesty about such experiences should have no bearing on their high rank status. Yet they still felt the need to keep it to themselves until now — why?

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I, like so many others I’m sure, found myself triggered, emotionally drained and enraged all at the same time, trawling through these stories in surplus. These emotions were further amplified by the rebuttal hashtag #NotAllMen, which started to circulate and featured (mainly) men being instantly dismissive, defensive and harmfully ignorant. A friend shared with me that she was followed home as recently as two weeks ago. A story she hadn’t told her boyfriend until Sarah’s disappearance for fear of ‘worrying him’. He too retaliated with ‘not all men’ to the stories trending on socials. That is, until she started to tell him of the many other times she’d experienced something similar and how much of a deflection that statement was from the more important issue. It outlined to me how important is for all of us to speak up, and then the important part: really listen to one another. Imagine how the outcome from all this might look if these individuals put the same time and energy into supporting women and educating one another with practical solutions, I wondered.

So how does this all relate to dance music? This was same knee jerk reaction we’d seen when the exposé on Erick Morillo was published last year. A flurry of comments (again, mainly men) were populating socials in response to the worrying amount of sexual harassment testimonies being shared. The vast majority of which were wilfully ignorant, as when challenged in the comments, many had reacted without even reading the article, or listening to the experiences of the individuals involved. This then sparked a MeToo style movement #ForTheMusic, a campaign led by techno DJ Rebekah aimed at creating a safe space for anyone else who had been harassed to come forward and share their stories anonymously in a bid to cleanse the scene. There are some exceptional men backing this, but once again, they are outweighed immeasurably by women and non-binary artists supporting the movement.

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Why in such a vibrant scene, filled with progressive creatives and forward thinkers is this happening? Yes, there are signs that dance music is taking steps towards being a safer and more accepting place for women, slowly. But I can’t help feel like once again, women within the scene are being left to do most of the work. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible male allies within the scene, like Funk Butcher, Steven Braines (He.She.They), ABSOLUTE. and A.M.C to name a few that I’ve seen speaking out this week, but it’s not enough. What’s even more confusing is that it’s happened the same week we celebrated IWD (International Women’s Day) and Mother’s Day. A week where I’ve seen so many artists sharing pictures of their mums, grandmas, sisters, wives and girlfriends. A lovely sentiment of course, but I can’t help but feel this means nothing if we don’t apply these same feelings and emotions to those we care for into improving conditions for all women. Those usually so active on their platforms have now fallen deafeningly silent towards the recent events. Performative allyship and jumping on the bandwagon is no good if you only stand up for all inequalities when it suits you. And that goes for speaking up for the rights of people who are Black, POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and anyone suffering from the conditions of an unequal society.

This pandemic has allowed us to pause and re-evaluate lots of discrepancies within the scene and find pragmatic solutions. There are so many incredible collectives working towards equality like EQ50 and House of Hifi, to name a couple. Labels have started mentoring schemes like Toolroom’s WeAreListening and Hospital Records' Women in D&B mentorship scheme for example. These are so integral to the scene's culture, as not only do they aid female representation which encourages more women to get involved, but with more women in offices, back stages, clubs, and so on, they become safer.

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However, it’s no longer just up to the decision makers, this is where you come in... We’re all chomping at the bit, after being given the green light for spaces to open back up again this year. So what better this opportunity to reclaim these as the diverse, love filled spaces we want them to be? Gestures that may seem small to you will collectively invite change and become the norm. This can be anything from calling out someone behaving inappropriately online, supporting women with important stories and listening to them, stop allowing your dodgy mate to make jokes about sexual assault, it’s not funny, ever. Don’t touch people on dancefloors without their permission, actively make sure you’re buying tickets to events with diverse line-ups. Take a longer taxi ride home and drop a friend off who’s too proud to ask for money but can’t afford their cab fare home and faces walking somewhere dangerous. Consciously being aware of these things will turn them into a normalised behaviour. We’ve seen how quickly change can be indicted and spread while the world stands still and for the first time, so has the industry. We have an amazing opportunity to cultivate change, let’s not waste it.

Charlie Tee is a DJ, broadcaster and Kiss FM resident, follow her on Twitter

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