Disco and the White Man

I DJ disco music.
 
I receive criticism for this choice because most people associate disco with “frivolous” femininity and “silly” gayness. Of course, those are the exact reasons I enjoy it, because I enjoy feminine and queer things.
 
When I DJed with other collaborators, those who were white men were uncomfortable labeling our events as “disco” and preferred “soul”. You won’t walk into many record stores and find a Disco section. What you *will* find is a Soul section, where the disco and funk will be hidden.
 
The white male DJs were, to a man, unable to stop talking about Northern Soul and Blue-Eyed Soul. I.e. soul/R&B music filtered through whiteness.
 
A photo of gender non-conforming disco artist Sylvester.

Sylvester

My setlists included lots of Black artists, especially those who are women, femme, trans and queer. I was told by these white men that my music wasn’t “serious” enough, and that advertisement that referenced these artists would give potential attendees “the wrong idea”.
 
What idea might that be?
 
Blue-eyed soul was serious enough for them.
 
Fast-forward 5-8 years. Cultural tastes have inevitably shifted. The warm, glittery synthetic beats of gay disco are again en vogue. One of these white men has the audacity to invite me to a dance night he is hosting. Prominently displayed in his online advertisement is a Black woman who is popular among enthusiasts of gay disco. He is writing about his sudden love for this music with the confident authority of someone who grew up listening to it. An authority I now know is “the confidence of a mediocre white man”. I remember the time he confided that he would never be able to truly believe that women were anything other than “other”. I remember the casual racist jokes that peppered his conversation. I remember his disdain for this same music when *I* played it.
 
I unfriended.
 
I now focus my DJ collaborations on mentoring and building up talent among women, POC, trans people, and queers.
 
I still DJ disco music.

Conversations

Goblin

I’m ramping up for Halloween, and this video is simply the awesomest thing I have seen in a long, long time. This is Goblin performing the theme to Profondo Rosso live on Italian TV at some point in the 70s. It doesn’t get cooler than this.

Liking Indie Music Does Not Make You A Good Person

A recent Guardian article repeats the misperception that somehow indie music and its fans are more progressive and less sexist than other genres of music.

I am here to tell you, not so. Lived experience and whatnot.

Or, for the sake of a fun example in the empirical world, read this article about how there are more review writers named Mark than women at famed indie music review site Pitchfork. Or this one about the, ahem, “special” language that male Pitchfork reviewers use when discussing female artists.

Hipster Kitty Loves Pitchfork

Via Her $5 Radio.

Gender Ambiguities in Electro Music

This is something I wrote back in 2003, and recently unearthed on an ancient website. It’s very college-essay-y but I wanted to rebroadcast it anyway. SO WHAT.

“By disrupting stereotypical codes of gender and sexuality through a parody of artifice and masquerade that challenges patriarchy, these artists remind us that music can function as a key vehicle in deconstructing fixed notions of gendered identity in everyday life.” –Stan Hawkins

“It’s avant-garde, it’s honest, it’s taking chances and most of all it’s original.” –Tiga

A post-modern stage on which every possible Western conception of gender confusion and ambiguity is flaunted: this is Electro. The music genre of electro (originally extant ~1978-89), a term I will use that also includes its younger sibling electroclash (~1998-present), is home to gender-meaningful displays, interpretations, and interactions in nearly its every aspect. There is enough material to analyze from a gender perspective to write at great length, and so I have narrowed my peripherals to concentrate on a unique aspect of electro: its proclivity towards and acceptance of androgyny. Gender ambiguities of all varieties have been accepted since its birth, and continue in the resurgence of electro-styled music at the turn of the twenty-first century. My examination of electro music will point out signs of androgyny and gender confusion and search for possible explanations. However, examples of androgyny in lyric and dress are as prolific as the possible causes that originated them.
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Man in Black

Can we all reflect on how awesome this song is?

Written by Johnny Cash in 1971.

Lyrics:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.