The recent comments made by Konstantin about women in the music industry proved shocking to everyone and led to a polarisation of opinion about how to comprehend his beliefs. However, did the response from the electronic music community go too far and betray the core values of inclusion and equality that the scene upholds?
The emergence of Konstantin’s comments in Groove Magazine last month catalysed an inflammatory response from across the electronic music scene. Not being one to tell Chinese Whispers, the article can be seen here:
I must firstly outline that this is a fairly black and white issue, and there needs not to be much of a debate that his comments are pretty damn sexist. There’s not much wriggle room to explain away his statement that women are “usually worse at DJing” than men and his championing of the patriarchal nature of the DJing world. His comments drew the ire of feminist icons throughout the music scene such as the Discwoman collective and The Black Madonna, as well as a huge amount of people who abhor the prevalence of sexism in this world, myself included.
Comparisons were instantly made between his comments and those of Ten Walls, who was instantly purged from the electronic music scene when he commented that gay people were “another breed”, and to this day has rightly remained absent from lineups across the world; even being removed from a Circoloco lineup last year due to an uproar on social media about his presence.
However, there was something about the universal response to Konstantin’s comments that made me somewhat uncomfortable, and is something that I’m going to attempt to dissect. Firstly, people instantly held Giegling – the label of which he is the co-founder and manager – wholly accountable for his personal comments. The instant reaction was to forever condemn Giegling as a label and to never buy nor play any of their records ever again. This anger was displayed most symbolically by the destruction of a Giegling record by Optimo, as posted on their Twitter:
Am I the only one who thinks that this is a dangerous precedent? To hold the rest of the collective accountable for an individual’s remarks and beliefs is similar to labeling someone as a racist because their uncle makes some pretty outrageous comments every Christmas. The venom and totality of people’s sudden cornering of the label was scarily reminiscent of an aggressive mob mentality, and simply ascribed blame to the wrong people. The artists and label’s subsequent attempt to separate themselves from Konstantin’s comments fell upon deaf ears by those who were blinded by rage at his comments. To those people, the fact that they were part of the same label as Konstantin meant that they were complicit in his views and therefore were just as bad as him. In short, the response basically turned into a witch-hunt.
With this mindset, does this mean that Giegling records are now banned from nightclubs? Would I get a look of horror and a gasp of “You can’t play that!!” if I pull out the new Kettenkarussell LP to play? This scorched earth tactic of revenge is largely unfair and disproportionate when considering the wrongs committed by the label as a whole. This is not representative of the scene’s ethics as it is excessively vilifying those who are unfortunately associated with certain people, and it suppresses the freedom of the dancefloor through the censorship of certain songs.
I must clarify that I don’t disagree with the motives of these people, but rather their conduct. I believe that this conduct has originated from the idea that liberal ideology sees itself as having moral superiority over opinions because of its intrinsic belief that its Utopian, progressive ideas are the only way for society to function and flourish. This is not a bad thing, and are beliefs that I hold close to my heart. However, the conduct in enforcing these beliefs has been particularly disappointing, both in this example and in society as a whole.
Instead of engaging in discussion to convert those who disagree and rationalising for the sake of debate, liberals are prone to lazily resorting to label degrading insults upon those they disagree with. Social media has desensitised us to the power of words, and as such hyperbolic insults are thrown around so easily that the simplest opposition is met with the harshest language (perhaps the best example is those who label Trump supporters as evil sexist racist fascist xenophobes… which I know for a fact you would’ve seen somewhere). However, insults still sting people. No one wants to be called a sexist or a racist, especially so if you’re not a sexist and you’re merely attempting to engage with the issue in order to prompt discussion.
On the comments section of Mixmag and Resident Advisor, people were mercilessly vilified for trying to go beyond simply dismissing Konstantin’s comments as morally repugnant in order to try to understand and rectify them. Having studied history at uni, I know that in order to try to understand and evaluate something, you must somewhat remove your subjectivity and approach it from an objective standpoint. This is not sympathising, but rather trying to grapple with the issue analytically. I was therefore mortified by the condemnations of those who were attempting this, who were reduced to being called sexist pigs and complicit in the white male oppressive patriarchal structure. How is debate supposed to thrive in those conditions? It enforces a unitary mind-set that doesn’t allow any other views or ideas to be debated.
People justify this rationale as freedom of speech, but this is not freedom of speech. Freedom of speech allows one to voice their opinions, and to conversely be openly criticised for their opinions. Freedom of speech does not entail shutting down intolerant opinions because you disagree with them. That is censorship. Freedom of speech encourages debate and rationalisation for the purposes of discussion. There has been absolutely no debate about this. Critics have simply gone “we are right and if you disagree then you’re a chauvinistic pig and fuck you.” This approach only breeds resentment and the cementation of beliefs.
For the record, I myself am a liberal and absolutely condemn all of the things that Konstantin, Ten Walls and dickheads like Donald Trump have said. However, I also recognise that the moral absolutism in the liberal mindset is detrimental to its overall objectives. How effective was it for Hilary Clinton to declare all those who supported Trump as “deplorables”? Likewise, there was little attempt from anyone to attempt to empathise with Konstantin’s views and try to understand his reasoning, and thus try to educate others about why it is wrong. Anyone who did and attempted to instigate a debate was instantly shut down. This was best exemplified by Seth Troxler, who although said some knobhead things like “women and people of color kind of just like urban music more”, tried to put forward some alternative ideas for the sake of debate and as a result was shut down.
It is no longer good enough for this to keep happening. Donald Trump is in the White House and got there through consolidating and exploiting an insecure, threatened white male base. Konstantin’s views are reflective of this same vulnerable base, and more must be done in order to effectively combat it. Shouting down those you don’t agree with is clearly not working, and people must start to challenge and question beliefs rather than simply opposing them.
Imagine how much better it would’ve been for everyone if the themes of Konstantin’s opinions were openly discussed and exposed as flawed? For example, it is clear that he is ignorant to the fact that female DJs somewhat sexualising their profession by being filmed in a bikini and a bathtub is symptomatic of the patriarchal scene in general. This is not a tactic of women flaunting their sexuality in order to cut corners as a substitute for talent, but instead exposes the problem that for some women this is the only way to break the glass ceiling of DJ superstardom. Furthermore, he may feel that it is unfair that women are put on lineups for the sake of it, but couldn’t this breed a discussion that it is wrong to put females on a lineup purely to fulfil a quota, and that they should be there on their own merit? The presence of quotas fundamentally means that inequality exists, and the number of kickass female DJs (Tama Sumo, Lakuti, Lena Willikens, Jane Fitz, Helena Hauff, Shanti Celeste, Steffi, Virginia, Courtesy, Honey Dijon, Nastia, Dr Rubenstein, Margaret Dygas, Izabel, Rebekah, Magda, Sassy J, Laurel Halo, Nina Kraviz, Rrose, Volvox, Ellen Allien, DJ Sprinkles, The Black Madonna, Avalon Emerson, Haai, Peggy Gou, Tini, Heidi, Cassy, Jennifer Cardini, Umfang to name a few) means that there is no longer any excuse to not have female DJs on lineups anymore. This way of dealing with the situation takes the pressure off of Konstantin and instead forces promoters to go beyond simply disagreeing with Konstantin’s shitty views and to put their money where their mouth is by booking more female DJs.
As for punishing Konstantin, maybe a better way than to excommunicate him is to deliver some frontier justice and strive to put him on all-female lineups just to piss him off. Silencing him will only breed resentment from him and those who are sympathetic to his views, and does nothing to deal with solving the root causes of the problem.
This is of course a tough and contentious topic to talk about, especially as a white male who of course cannot begin to imagine how hard it is for women to constantly deal with this shit. I also want to stress that this is not a snowflake rant and that people have an absolute right to be outraged by Konstantin’s comments. However, I am a firm believer that in order to provoke positive change to his detestable mindset, the conduct in approaching it must change. What happens when an even milder opposition to the scene’s core values occurs? Will they face the same condemnation and excommunication that Konstantin has? This is a very real possibility, as I couldn’t bear to imagine the hate that a DJ would receive if he publicly endorsed the Conservative Party in the recent election. Considering how many big DJs endorsed Labour and didn’t receive any criticism, does this show a trend where people in the scene can only be associated with certain political parties? This is a very real problem that needs addressing now before it gets out of hand.
Our scene is no doubt one of positivity; that champions the diversity of gender, sexuality and culture and is generally very accepting and tolerant. However, the growing intolerance to people who don’t replicate the same beliefs and the vilification of those who oppose these beliefs is scarily close to demanding ideological conformity on dancefloors. How far away are we from excluding those who disagree with us on other controversial social issues such as abortion or gender realignment? If this practice carries on unchecked, we will become dangerously close to losing the ability to celebrate our scene as being inclusive. The Konstantin issue has therefore served as a warning shot to reveal that we must do more to successfully address the issues that divide us.