Sexism in the music industry is nothing new, especially when it comes to women navigating the electronic music scene. Like with any other genre, female creators are often taken less seriously than their male counterparts – and this is especially prevalent in dance music; where women are treated as though they have less skill. The misogyny directed toward female creators is prevalent and obvious; with men not being held accountable for their actions, booked for festivals and shows despite their evident toxicity. While there are safe spaces for creators who are not cisgender, heterosexual men; the fact that specific “safe spaces” have to be created in the first place, is rather telling of the music industry’s attitude toward women.
With nothing happening in a vacuum, this is a direct reflection of a deeply problematic societal structure. I say this in response to perhaps one of the most blatant, unapologetic and arrogant displays of sexism I stumbled across today; with a male DJ perhaps personifying these issues within the industry. With that being said, let’s talk about Ukrainian DJ Vakula: real name Mikhaylo Vityk. With the earlier release of an album titled “Per Aspera Ad Astra” with highly controversial artwork that just recently came into the spotlight, the DJ announced he would be changing the album artwork due to the backlash. Below is the original artwork used:
The artwork depicts prominent female DJs Peggy Gou, Nina Kraviz, The Black Madonna and Nastia (who brought the artwork to the public’s attention via Instagram) donning the helm of a giant penis-shaped ‘spaceship’ – which, without comment makes a statement in itself (it must be noted that none of the women gave any sort of consent to this portrayal). However, combined with Vakula’s statements, this whole debacle gets so much worse.
The artwork is captioned:
“I dedicated this project to my beloved women, where we tried to portray the most beautiful dick that those girls on the cover could ever meet…“
If that isn’t enough to make one’s stomach churn, the alias used for the album Rocco Siffredi is a reference to an Italian ‘hardcore’ porn star. In a statement to Resident Advisor, Marea Stamper (The Black Madonna) responded:
“Framing a group of successful women in dance music along with imagery of a porn star famous for brutalising women and performing simulated rape and forced sexual contact on your album cover without notifying us or asking for consent is wrong in so many ways that I can’t list them all. No one needs this. We’re all just trying to do our jobs as best we can. We are wives and mothers and creators and label owners.
This is absolute bullshit, but it is the most extreme end of the kind of toxic, misogynist culture that women have to deal with every day. Vakula can go fuck himself along with anyone in this industry, man or woman, who thinks this is OK or funny. It’s not a joke. It’s a tacit threat and a warning shot that women shouldn’t get too successful in dance music.”
Nastia also responded to Vakula’s EP artwork on Instagram:
With a further response from Peggy Gou:
In response to their statements and Resident Advisors coverage of the story, Vakula released another statement on Facebook.
With an evidently disingenuous apology, a line that stood out to me particularly states:
“I have no problems with women in my environment.“
The entitlement and blatant sexism present in just this one sentence is staggering. The environment in which he speaks does not belong to him. Is the bar so low that a male DJ needs to make it clear that he “doesn’t have a problem with women”?
Words only gain meaning when actions back them up, and with evident contradictions in Vakula’s attitude toward women and an obvious irritation due to being called out for bigotry; the actions that back up his words, only show evidence of deeply rooted misogyny and male entitlement.
Words by: Jenna Dreisenstock
Image Credit: Aldo Parades | The Black Madonna