How EDM Insurgents Discwoman Are Taking on Gender Discrimination

Emma Burgess-Olson, founding member of the all-female dance-music collective Discwoman, sometimes DJ’s wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Amplify Each Other.” And that’s exactly what she and her co-founders Frankie Hutchinson and Christine McCharen-Tran are doing in the world of EDM, addressing a notoriously male-dominated scene and its “stale sexist bookings” by creating a production and promotion outlet for women and gender-non-conforming producers.

“I think electronic music culture has become a hedonistic monster,” says Burgess-Olson, who performs as Umfang. “But it has always had political roots and I feel very connected to that aspect. It’s really about humanity and having concern for others’ basic needs being met.”

Discwoman first blossomed in the summer of 2014. The three met in Brooklyn’s LGBTQ nightlife scene, where McCharen-Tran and Burgess-Olson threw dance parties with names like Technofeminism and Witches of Bushwick. They all came of age in the club, they say: Hutchinson tenderly recalls taking ecstasy for the first time at SE1 in London, while McCharen-Tran explored lesbian nightlife in Brooklyn, and Burgess-Olson put down roots in Kansas City’s warehouse party scene. What they all had in common, they found, was a passion to replicate that sense of welcome for many more young women and queer people. “Constantly finding ways to make space for each other and our community is something that’s really important,” says McCharen-Tran.

Brooklyn’s Bossa Nova Civic Club became Discwoman’s spiritual home. In September 2014 they first hosted their own festival there, offering 12 female DJs the chance the flaunt their skills. Since then, Discwoman have launched dozens of similar events from New York to Berlin to Mexico City, as well as a management wing that has grown to include nine audacious artists from around the world. The group often redistributes proceeds between artists and organizations local to each event, such as New York’s Lower East Side Girls Club and Detroit’s Ruth Ellis Center for LGBTQ youth. “We try to siphon as much money as we can back into our community efforts and supporting those we believe in,” says Burgess-Olson.