September 05 2017

Working Women: On Their Own Terms

New York-Le Bain
Ashlyn, Nina, Kristin and Tanya tell the story of their NYC collective, Working Women, before they take over Le Bain and celebrate the release of Wut Magazine on Friday, September 8th.

LE BAIN: The four of you are DJs and selectors under different aliases (Ashlyn, Voices, Nina, and Nicely). Ashlyn is also a Wut Magazine co-founder. Can you tell us what lead to you uniting under the Working Women banner?
KRISTIN: One night about a year ago, we got together at my place to play records. I don't think any of us put on a song until two hours into the hangout, most of which we spent sharing feelings and insecurities about the DJ status quo. It was the first time I had really dug into the insecurities I felt around DJing: being a woman, technique, knowledge acquisition and maintenance, etc. It was like group therapy.


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"We started getting together regularly to mix and download our feelings... It became an important space and time for support, practice, and experimentation." –Nina
TANYA: At first, the Working Women banner was a reason for us to open up feminine practice spaces for/with one another, but it got extra fun once we realized how by merging we had more power and incentive to play and throw parties, to do something essential with dormant creative ideas.
ASHLYN: I spent a good portion of my early twenties frustrated in Vancouver, BC surrounded by a bunch of close-minded dudes. When I moved to New York, I prayed to find a family, women who I knew also had a fire burning inside to change and build together, through love of community and transcendence of music, understanding it is for everyone. It was so natural, the abundant love of music and respect, expression, support.

"At our best, we try to accentuate the parts of DJing that men DJs call out, such as uncertainty." –Tanya
You say Working Women is "a project rooted in elaboration, uncertainty, and persistence.” What do you mean?
KRISTIN: We often use this line as our bio, but really these are more like Working Women principles than descriptors. It makes sense to all of us to describe what we do in these terms instead of your standard music tropes of genre, talent, or identity.

TANYA: Each one of us is on her own path to eradicate the internalized patriarchal expectations that run deep in the DJ business—getting heady about gear, beat-matching, dropping and not always blending, buying rare records, talking about rare records... We simultaneously strive to reframe and meet these expectations—on our own terms—while also flaunting the moments we don’t do what men think good DJs do. Sometimes one of us will get sucked into the vortex of man-DJ ideals, which is why it’s important we have each other to keep us from holding ourselves to them. We play a good party and we are skilled DJs, but we also hope people notice that we’re raw and uncertain, too.
KRISTIN: Then there's the work we do as Working Women off the dance floor. That's usually where the real work begins. I've always been more fond of the gaps in knowledge, rather than knowledge itself, because it is within these gaps that knowledge accrues. This is what we know we need to work on; these gaps are our "work spaces." This is also a space of experimentation, where we can push back against set norms and rules and find out what actually works for us.
The Standard
How would you describe your DJ performance?
KRISTIN: We are a small DJ collective, and at every Working Women gig, we play together. Not like one hour here, one hour there–we go back-to-back the entire time. Sure, maybe there's nights where we'll each do a few in a row, but each night every set is a completely shared experience. And that takes a lot of the ego and individual "accomplishment" feeling out of it, which I say to compare more to the men I've witnessed DJing rather than in comparison to other woman-identified DJ collectives. 

ASHLYN: There’s a lot unsaid in music, socially and artistically. Through coming together, we are interested in exploring and discussing the nuance and dedication it takes to distill positivity, the point of it all, the true intent behind why we do what we do.

We’ll be celebrating the release of Wut Magazine. What’s your favorite thing about the magazine?
KRISTIN: What's not to love? Wut has it all: extremely delicious design, smart as hell writing, a broad coverage of topics, and two editors with a wild amount of integrity, wit, and magical power. Oh, and can't forget their killer mix series, too. [Laughs.]

NINA: Wut is a super intuitive, intelligent publication, in design, content and vision. Attentive and intentional.

ASHLYN: Wut and Working Women carry the same ethos which is to remain open and accessible, to express radical and thoughtful ideas to better the world.


On Friday, September 8th, Le Bain presents Working Women
Celebrating the release of Wut Magazine
The Standard, High Line | 10pm 

All photos by Neil Aline