Female Indian DJs Rapturous After Being Given an Entire Category at INCAs

Best DJ (Female) winner Monica Dogra with friend Shibani Dandekar

In an industry where representation for women is an on-going struggle, you can imagine our boundless joy at discovering that there is an entire category devoted solely to the “best female DJ” at INCA. We were hoping to open with a jibe about their branding philosophy, unfortunately we were beaten to the punch by their self-styled tagline: ‘Brotherhood of the Nights’, which we absolutely did not make up. 

INCA - or the India Nightlife Convention & Awards - just wrapped up its fourth year in Mumbai. The four day event sees event promoters, artists, venue managers and all sorts of nightlife and restaurant industry stakeholders congregate to attend an awards ceremony as well as masterclasses and panels on topics such as diversity and inclusion. Their website states that INCA encapsulates “ways and means towards the creation of a progressive and distinctive nightlife culture in India”. Presumably this has been accomplished by awarding a separate category to female DJs and putting together ‘Sisterhood Soirees’ - a name that we also did not have the joy of making up. 

So far, INCA’s understanding of inclusion seems to consist of hurriedly crafting separated spaces and categories for women in nightlife and letting the men expound upon how much progress has been made. INCA really is doing its best to counter the blatant sexism that is all too common in the music industry in India. A whole category and entire award is certainly more than our lady hands can handle. 

For starters, creating a “best female DJ” category must immediately be lauded for its forward thinking and not at all gendered and exclusionary language. They may call themselves “Brotherhood of the Nights”, but this category covers a lot of ground in showcasing their awareness that women… exist. They may have, by their own admission, been accused of being supremely male-centric, but they have tackled this monster famously by designing one-off events (titled “Sisterhood Soirees”, lest we all forget), to “create awareness that will tell our societies that it is ok for women to work in the nightlife industry.” Meanwhile, the “Brotherhood” rages on unaffected in the primary lane, and all's right with the male-as-norm world again. 

It is really quite amazing and not at all superficial and tokenistic to finally be recognised for our ability to be women and somehow still DJ. I mean, we are happy to be acknowledged at all. After all, why would we bother to fight for integration or normalisation of women in nightlife spaces and roles, when we can have our very own women-only Sisterhood Soiree! (which was in no way conveniently timed to coincide with Women’s Day). 

Instead of working towards making the nightlife industry welcoming and safe for women to engage in, instead of normalising the concept of a DJ who happens to be female, what women really want are obviously gender-defined events created and held up as shiny examples and separate award categories created just for us. To think of female DJs occupying INCA’s regular categories would be straight up scandalous. No, we definitely wouldn’t even be able to compete in the third-best DJ category - which, again, is a real thing we did not make up. Everyone knows when the words ‘Best DJ’ are used in any context, it obviously cannot be referring to a woman. To right this injustice - and we cannot stress this enough - a whole other category has been carved just for us, out of the kindness of their hearts! God, I wish us women would just take a good thing and shut up. 

To cut out the sarcasm, INCA has a long road ahead if it wants to actually make good on its self-proclaimed mission of breaking gender barriers and creating gender-neutral nightlife spaces. DJing has traditionally been a male preserve, and that will not change in a hurry if this clear disdain for understanding how this gender imbalance affects the industry at large is sustained. The blatant hypocrisy of hosting panels and masterclasses that pay lip service to progressive ideals while on the other hand handing out a “best female DJ” award and calling themselves a “brotherhood” isn’t something that women can easily ignore. This is the same kind of mentality that makes us so-called feminists balk at well-meaning compliments such as “Wow, you’re the best female DJ I’ve heard!” and “OMG, you are so talented for a woman!”. It’s ridiculous that we even have to point this out in 2019, yet here we are. 

Anyway, if you need us, please look for us at the once-a-year all woman soiree where you can find us practising our DJ skills in hopes of securing that all-important “best female DJ” award that is totally empowering and not in any way patronising. 

Written by Manaal Oomerbhoy and Uvika Wahi