Femme DJ Workshop: ‘Not about being a girl, it’s about being equal’

Tuesday 03rd, January 2017 / 15:15
By Jonathan Crane

The Femme DJ Workshop offers judgment-free tutorials on all the skills you need to be a DJ.
Photo: Jesse Maurice

CALGARY — On January 7th Calgary DJ Jodie Overland will launch the Femme DJ Workshop, a community-based class centred around teaching women to DJ.

Although anyone is invited to attend, the workshop has been designed to address the needs of women by creating a safe space that fosters learning.

“When I learned to DJ it was kind of through a guy, and you kind of feel awkward, and if you mess up a lot you feel like you’re being judged,” says Overland. “But I feel like if you’re in a room with a girl and she’s just showing you the basics, you’ll actually pick up on it faster, and almost be less scared of it.”

“You’re just more willing to put yourself out there, because it’s hard as a girl sometimes.”

According to Overland, women who DJ often face a higher level of scrutiny than their male counterparts.

“If you didn’t learn in a safer space, you probably would feel pretty discouraged,” says Overland. “If you were singled out all the time for your gender, you’d probably feel pretty discouraged, if every single time it was about being a girl, you’d probably feel discouraged.”

Women are one of the only groups who experience tokenism within DJ culture, with many being confined to the stock character type of “girl DJ.”

“I’m a huge supporter of equality,” says Overland. “So for me, I want to be booked next to a guy, I want to be booked next to a girl, but the second you make a party an ‘All-girls’ party, that’s when you demean me, and that’s when you make it about gender and not about the music.”

Avoiding this label of the token “girl DJ” is something Overland hopes to instill in others through the workshop by fostering a strong sense of identity, equality, and community.

“The workshop is trying to get women together to learn openly and to be comfortable, but also to not just be women,” says Overland. “To actually foster their musical knowledge, to foster their musical talent, but also be comfortable in where they’re learning, and to create some sort of network.”

“It’s not just about being a girl, it’s about being a musician, so if we can all establish some sort of network and go out and be equal to everyone else, that’s what I want to create.

“It’s not about being a girl, it’s about being equal”

To this aim, Overland has commissioned some of the most prominent women from Calgary’s dance music underground to assist with teaching. Together they hope to not only promote the learning of technical abilities, but also the navigation of the obstacles they’ve faced in their own careers.

“Like, what would you want to be told when you first started DJing, what would you want to hear when you first started, what would motivate you or make it easier for you,” says Overland.

The format for the workshop will be hands-on, with various workstation set up offering demonstrations and coaching on a different medium of DJing. Participants are encouraged to bring their own vinyl records, or their own music on a USB stick.

This endeavour marks the first of its kind for Overland, who’s spent the last half-decade playing house and techno music at virtually every club in the city. Over the past year she’s also transitioned into promoting with “Techno Anonymous,” a series of clandestine parties designed to emulate the warehouse rave scene in cities like London and Berlin.

Femme DJ Workshop takes place on January 7th at The New Gallery at 208 Centre St S.E.

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