What It's Really Like To Be A Female DJ
WORDS: DJ Lindsey as told to mater mea
VISUALS: Sadé Joseph Clacken
DJ Lindsey tells mater mea about the double-standard-filled reality of being a woman in the male-dominated music industry.
Lindsey Caldwell (a.k.a. DJ Lindsey) has seen a lot change in New York’s nightlife and in the professional DJing world. She’s been spinning for packed clubs since the early aughts, before the wave of DJs more interested in computer mixing than record digging and party attendees more interested in Instagram than dancing. But one thing hasn’t changed: the different set of standards present for male and female DJs. In her own words, Caldwell shares an aspect of the DJing world you don’t normally hear about.
DJing is a boys’ club. If you look at a lot of girl DJs, [they] really put their sexuality out there. Guy DJs do NOT have to do that—[they] can wear whatever they want and they usually wear jeans and a T-shirt. I gotta wear heels, I gotta get my hair done. There was a time when I was getting my makeup done before gigs. I’m buying my regular wardrobe and then clothes to wear out—and you can’t keep wearing the same outfits. That's not what I’m about.
All those guys were my peers: We would go see other DJs and we would all [be dressed] the same. Then certain [female] DJs [who] were dressed a certain way started popping up, and they were getting attention for what they were wearing. I [thought], “I guess if I don’t play this game, I’m going to continue to fall behind.”
Male DJs will get booked for festivals—[they’ll] get booked to be so-and-so’s DJ on tour—and the girls get fashion gigs, which I’m completely happy [with] because I love working in that industry. But I don’t get [music] industry gigs that often, unless it’s through a personal contact: somebody who knows I’m capable of blending two records together and I know about music. A lot of times I’ll see that some guy that they booked probably doesn’t even know how to DJ, but they chose that guy because he’s a guy.
Men come up and just straight up touch the mixer while I’m DJing. Are you kidding me? You would never come up and touch anything near the turntables or the mixer while a dude was DJing, but because I’m a girl, you feel like you can come and correct my levels? Get out of here!
It’s going to be an interesting challenge for me to figure out exactly how to be a mom and how to have this career. I’m interested in this new chapter; I’m interested to see where this takes me, because I loved what I did. But now it’s time to switch gears a little bit. There are no female [international DJ] Paul Oakenfolds. I’m not going to be that, but I feel like enough of my peers that are younger than me can see that you don’t have to quit doing what we do [to be a mom].
Read our interview with DJ Lindsey to learn more about her motherhood and career journey.
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