Sexual harassment in nightlife
Another pivotal moment in Underplayed is the scene with Slovenian producer and DJ Nightwave. She’s invited to play Boiler Room in London, recognizing what a huge career opportunity it is. She tears up when she’s introduced to the decks but it all starts to go wrong from there. Through clips of the live stream, she looks visibly frustrated as she multi-tasks controlling a rowdy crowd with her own set, even being groped at one point during her performance.
It didn’t stop that night, however. Horrifying comments online were posted after her set tearing her apart. She pushed away music which brought her so much joy and purpose and also brought her harassment and abuse.
Boiler Room took the threats and harassment seriously, and began moderating online comments and buffing up club safety. Why this wasn’t always a standard practice paints a larger picture of harassment and assault in nightlife settings. But, it’s a step in the right direction.
Small solutions are there, but the big ones are missing
While Underplayed is an important depiction starting to unravel underrepresentation and sexism in electronic music, the solutions provided aren’t big-picture. There are undoubtedly complex problems without clear-cut solutions.
Champion the women who use their platform to elevate other female and marginalized voices, but the takeaway should absolutely not be saddling responsibility to change on women in the industry. Alison Wonderland incorporates creating an all-women live instrumental band into her shows, REZZ nurtures an online community of fans who inspire each other to start producing, and Tygapaw created a music space specifically for queer people of color to connect. These are all worthy examples of celebrating, but should not be expected solution.
The biggest shortcoming of the documentary is placing the onus of cultural change on the backs of the people who have been harmed by it. While there’s definite validity to encourage more women to keep learning and holding space in the dance music community, there’s a much greater responsibility on men and allies to include others’ voices.
Widespread cultural change does not occur in a vacuum, not overnight, and not unless there is buy-in from every level of consumers to executives. Men and allies must listen first, which is a great strength of the storytelling in Underplayed. But let’s go forward from here and encourage the bigger solutions from the ground floor up instead of relying on women to keep breaking glass ceilings.
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