Nina Kraviz: Why did Feminism go down the drain of a Bubble Bath?

This is one of those rare moments where my off-time interests mix with my academic work.  I have seen some good commentary on the Nina: Bubble-gate but nothing from a point of view that considers systemic sexism, Feminism and male domination.

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Last month Resident Advisor (RA) released a feature on Nina Kraviz- a minimal techno, house DJ who has been emerging on the electronic music scene.

Kraviz is considered to be a very talented DJ [1].  Kraviz is also conventionally attractive with model good-looks.  The electronic music community is attracted to her partly because of her music and partly due to her looks- no doubt. Nobody can know what portion is the former and what portion makes up the latter.

Last month, an interesting debate about gratuitous sexuality in the RA feature had fans and DJs crying many complaints.  Some of the most predominant include one or a combination of these reactions:

1) Kraviz can’t be taken seriously anymore because she was filmed playing with bubbles in a bubble bath

2) Kraviz has an ego- she’s selling sex, not music.

3) RA should be ashamed of themselves for releasing such a gratuitous feature- they only focussed on her looks and not on her music

Regardless on your take of the feature [6] [7], let me be clear: this was neither a sexist feature, a liberatory feature or an overly sexualizing feature if 1) Nina was happy with the result, and 2) Oh wait…there is no number two- because it’s none of your damn business beyond that.

The whole context/point of the feature is to show what a DJ’s life is on the road.  The theme was obviously loneliness.  Nina loves the music, loves the job, but at the end of the day it is a lonely existence.

Now here come the BUTS:

1) But she was in a bubble bath- was that really necessary?

She seemed pretty aware that she was in a bathtub and a filmer and interviewer were right in front of her.  Taking baths is part of her life- they are filming her life.  Deal with it.

2) But there were so many gratuitous skin shots/ she looked practically naked in so many of the shots.

A woman’s clothing, or there lack of, is none of your business.  Newsflash: it’s not about you.  Let women choose the type of clothing they want to wear.

3) But the filmaker surely knew he was sexualizing- what a sexist feature.

Nina is conventionally attractive, there is no denying that.  The feature was not about her music, but her and her lifestyle as a DJ.  Yes, maybe the filmaker took liberty with making the feature sexy; or maybe Nina gave him a lot of opportunity to have herself be portrayed as sexy.  Nina is a sexy woman.  And this does not undermine her skill as a DJ.  Just as I think a LOT of male DJ’s are sexy, and I can certainly sexualize them- but they are sexy because of whatever character traits they portray relative to their personality.  For Nina, it’s the way she speaks poetically; it’s her pouty lips; and she’s got a pretty rockin’ body.  For men, it might be moving with a type of swagger or demonstrating some type of masculinity.  Or maybe they just have a great body too.  Whatever.  The point is talent is sexy.  And any music lover who watches a feature or set will be attracted to someone with talent- regardless if they are conventionally attractive.

4) But a film would never be made like that about a male DJ.  They would focus on his skills.  They would focus on the music.

People are obviously entranced by certain people’s lifestyles.  Nina is a minority woman in a male-dominated industry.  (And not even professionally, but even crowd-wise- these shows are PACKED with men- and specific types of really dudely masculine men- which I am going to cover in a different post, “masculine spaces of techno”).  I would describe the need to PRY into Nina’s life as the ACTUAL sexism that is taking place here.

There is a lot of work done on the ways in which women are exposed and reduced to their bodies while men are rational thinking subjects.  Popular examples of this can be seen by the idea that we talk about women’s menstrual cycle like it blocks a woman’s ability to think or be rational- the popular thinking around this is that women are constantly dealing with the deficits or the ailments of their body, (menstrual cycles; the desire for babies: “the clock is ticking”; pregnancy; menopause etc) and therefore they can never be of sound mind.  You can never trust a woman for a promotion, or full-time work or to think clearly because she is constantly dealing with hormones etc. [2].  A man, on the other hand is reliable and sturdy, non-emotional and steady.  This comes from a logic entrenched in our philosophy and education systems that followed from Descartes’ Cartesian Dualism (and, arguably- the Bible interpretation of Adam and Eve).

So back to Nina- there is vicious circle of reducing her to her good-looks and therefore, reducing her talent.  She is considered merely a body to be fawned over rather than a person who uses all parts of her mind, body and spirit to create music.  Look at any response forum to this video and you have people all over the place complaining or commenting about her body- her body on the beach, the way she dances, the way she walks around in first class,  airports and luxury hotels (but still disparages her jetset lifestyle).  People can’t get over her BODY, for better or for worse.

This criticism of women in Techno and EDM music is especially important to deconstruct because it is music that is made for the body- Techno is visceral and meant to make your body move and experience reverberation.  So why do some critics trash the specific ways she uses her body to produce music- as men do, I’m sure, too.  ALL techno DJs need to have a VERY good idea of how bodies and musical elements work together to be successful.  More than many other professions, someone’s body and how they feel the music IS part of their talent and inextricably linked to the logic and creation of the music.

5) But she says she’s lonely all the time- she must be speaking to male fans- that she wants to be in a relationship, have more sex, etc.

How did you read that situation ALL wrong?  And ummm… have you ever heard of rape culture?  Yeah- that attitude just expressed it.  Just because a woman expresses loneliness does not mean she is asking for sex.  The fact that people keep talking about her in relation to the LACK of a male companion is ridiculous and sexist.  When men employ their groupies they are being awesome and taking advantage of the perks of being famous.  But when women do it they are either sluts or needing to complete this deep emotional problem they have because they don’t have a stable man in their life.  That’s BS.  Nina never said anything about needing/wanting a male companion.  In fact, she often speaks of her friends and family in the short feature.  And even if she IS referring to a male companion- so what?  Her identity as a successful and talented DJ does not and should not need to be in tandem with a male significant other.

Analysis:

The fact is that we discredit Nina because she demonstrated a personal life to begin with.  THIS is the systemic sexism and sexual discrimination women, in general, face in the workforce.  Women can only be taken seriously if they are 100% work-oriented and they conceal their personal life.  If women do not demonstrate masculine traits all the time they are understood as emotionally volatile and weak [2].  THIS feature was not the result of, or did not result in, any sexism or sexualization of Nina- the precursor of sexist attitudes towards women in the workforce in general is to blame.

And this does not stop at females or female DJs.  Let us imagine for a moment that a man in the workforce begins to demonstrate feminine qualities- maybe he talks about his personal life, he might cry at work or he might express feelings that can be feminized.  This is often interpreted in two ways:

1) Sissy boy- we can’t take him seriously anymore because he’s not a real man.

2) Oh wow…. he really showed that he has a soft side- I respect him more now.

Ok, the first scenario- it is pretty obvious that this is a problem.  Not only does the masculinity/femininity divide debilitate women in the workforce but it does men as well.  Men have to be “Alpha males” or they can’t be taken seriously as leaders or at the top of their game.  If they show any “weakness”- which would be a femininized trait or action- they will be considered a “sissy” and not be taken seriously.

Secondly- you are now wondering what is wrong with #2- WHY would that be considered bad?  Here we are understanding that men can have emotions too and now he’s showing his sensitive side so I like him more.  Okay, now consider what TYPE of male you would appreciate this from.  Yes, he is probably an ultra masculine male- big dude- has physical muscular presence.  THIS is the TYPE of man that we appreciate “feelings” from.

So, if you are having a problem- let me give you a visual.  DeadMau5 vs DVS1.  DeadMau5 has a “geek presence” and has become famous based on his sheer skill as an electronic producer.  He earned his name as a computer nerd on chat forums and doesn’t shy away from this history.  But he also wears a freaking mousehead [4] and has a pretty scarface-look whenever you DO see his face.  You don’t know much about his personal life and you would consider him to act pretty darn masculine because if he ever waivered into sensitive he would lose some degree of status in the “taking him seriously” department.

220px-Deadmau5_head_on

Joel Zimmerman (before Deadmau5)

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DVS1 (Zak Khutoretzky)

Now how about DVS1?  He is a pretty masculine guy.  He is physically imposing, even when playing music.  He has almost an aggressive look to him- if HE were to confide “feelings” [8] to you, you would find it charming that he can be a human too (and not just this masculine power house of a music playing machine).  DVS1 can do it because he is very masculine to begin with and can maintain the respectability of masculinity even as he lets some feelings through.  Now, if “feelings” became something he regularly did- this would eventually become a problem too. [3]

The whole idea that a masculinzed person is the only person who can be taken seriously in business is how sexism and Male Domination WORK.  BOTH men and women are constrained and oppressed under gender roles- but women moreso than men because their fundamental bodies are considered weak (and men have the benefit of having primary socialization of masculinity).

This quote on RA demonstrates this very discussion of femininity and masculinity:

Posted by Af.Bld.EoD
I DO imagine the same documentary with Skrillex ahah, in the bathtub, calling is Mom in a cab…AHAH

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I’m not too familiar with Skrillex [5] but he seems to straddle that line of working with feminine and masculinized traits that make this comment/joke effective or “funny”.  Skrillex is not a typical physically masculine guy- but he demonstrates masculinity in his “punk” style; and definitely through the aggressiveness of Dub.  This quote becomes funny when you take that unexpected mix of feminized body and masculinized style- Poster-Af.Bid.EoD is playing on Skrillex’s feminized body and expressive ability to converse, and relate it to the bath and the phone call to a mother (as both taking a bath and calling your mom are considered feminine and/or juvenile)- and we also find that funny and unexpected because he is also a pretty heavy punk-Dubstep artist.

(funny enough- Skrillex has a VERY similar content-wise point about loneliness in a 2012 Interview you can watch here.  But I bet nobody is sexualizing THAT the same way they have sexualized Kraviz, see Point 5)

Men use their assets everyday.  Masculinity is prized in the working world, especially within high-earning brackets- and men have the BENEFIT of being socialized as masculine.  Why can’t other people use their assets- whatever they may be- to also construct their success?

Let Nina, or any DJ for that matter, be as feminine or as masculine as they choose- their gender identity should not affect your opinion on their talent.  The fact that people would even argue that they can’t take her seriously now because they saw her taking a bubble bath is sexist … and demeaning to bubble bath lovers.

(This problem brings up a very interesting topic though that I read the other day- About how the electronic genre is much more focussed on watching the DJ as a performer, rather than the parties and the “rave” itself (Avicii in GQ, April 2013).  This is an interesting transition I will talk about in a later post)

Notes:

[1] I am not particularly a fan of Nina’s music, but I don’t really do minimal tech.  This is not in defence of Nina- more in defence of Feminism.

[2] More reasons why I like Hari Kondabolu>>>> Feminist Dick Joke

[3] This is also why I hate Mad Men.  Don Draper is constantly being understood as sexy EVEN THOUGH he beats on women in the show.  Draper also falls apart emotionally on the show- but for some reason women find it even MORE charming that his character now demonstrates vulnerability.  Let me be clear: Women still “respect” him as a man because he plays an incredibly masculine role- and part of his character that BEATS and ABUSES WOMEN is PART of that character that women accept and men celebrate.

[4] And by the way, the mousehead is part of a persona he uses when he is on stage- a Persona that neutralizes his “weak” traits as a nerd and focuses on a different performer-identity

[5] Just really not a fan of more, arguably,… commericialized… electronic music.

[6] Don’t worry about Nina- she seems to be doing fine:

“Guys, are you serious”?” Aren’t you not bored about this 10 times dead topic about females in the industry, the idea that any boy can do what ever he wants and it’s all fine and girl needs to behave?Behave like not even put make up because “oh my god, she can’t be taken seriously if she is pretty and feminine-means if she is her self” Since when, guys? Please don’t put me in your marketing box. I don’t even have a manager. I refused them all. I do what I wanna do. And actually I am the most well behaved dj ever. Who doesn’t take any drugs(and I’ve been djing for 10 years now) who is professional and true to her self. Who never played a single record to please anybody. And stop with this snobism really. Its old fashioned. Even though I was in a fight with RA because they didn’t want to remove some episodes after following me for 3 days non-stop I found it a bit too focused on me as a female. They wanted no talks about acid techno, dance mania and all that they wanted it because they knew it would create a little mess. Of course. Finally the removed a lot but even after that the innocent and in my opinion lovely shoot in the bath makes you mad. So funny.This video is about dj on the road. And djs take baths sometimes. The party in Bulgaria was on the beach. So you wanted me to be on the beach in winter cloths? Just not to be miss understood? Since when wearing a swimming suit on the beach is too much? Ha? And the last thing. In the video I said “being a female in the industry is not easy sometimes because all relationship turn into distant relationship”. For many people I am just too real. But if you think I am gonna change because you don’t feel it or because you are full of cliches and sexism. You think you can control people and tell them what they should be. No, sorry it doesn’t work this way with me. I am producing, exploring, digging for records since ages, sharing music with people -all by my self. I have my right to be who I am and you can like it or not. I love my job and I am just too real for some of you. You think there must be a mistake. There must be something wrong. But no there is isnt’. You can’t control artist and their creativity. Sexism and all similar bullshit must die. And the first step to it is to let artists be who they are regardless of their gender, skin color, sexual orientation ect.. People cliches are for those who have less crafty brains. I hope one day you will find your self on the other side of the road. God bless you all.”

[7] It should be said many people enjoyed the RA feature and respect her even more now.

[8] When I put quotes around “feelings” I mean feminized feelings.  Often men have feelings, people have feelings- everyone has feelings- but there are some types of feelings and ways of expressing feelings that are deemed more feminine.

17 responses to “Nina Kraviz: Why did Feminism go down the drain of a Bubble Bath?

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  6. thanks for writing this blog, and to all the others for all the insightful replies. I’m currently writing a paper on gender representation through the media and am zoning in on this video of Nina Kraviz as my theme. The points raised here have been extremely useful to shape a dialectical argument. Would it be okay if I referenced this blog as well as the replied given?

    • Of course! I am quite interested in reading the final product. I’m doing academic stuff too with gender and music. Would love to start a conversation. I will email you with my email address- if you don’t mind fwd’ing the final product- I’d love to read it.

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  8. The trouble with liberal feminism is that it either willfully ignores or fails to problematize the commodification of female image/ body & the way popular culture caters to the heterosexual male gaze. This is not to undermine the fact that the male image/ body & sexuality has its share from the pressures of the very same dynamic today. All the same, this ‘Sex & the City’ feminism is too busy with stale, resentful rants of “comfortable with my body & sexuality, hear me roar”, it is just incapable of providing any solid criticism of the current culture of over-sexualization and voyeurism. Calling a person/ perspective ‘sexist’ for pointing out the curiously overt use of female sexuality in a given context, is no different than calling a person/ perspective ‘racist’ for noticing the racist undertones in a given remark. Very same logical fallacy.

    To keep it short: 1) Nina Kraviz is an intelligent woman awfully aware of her charms as well as of her rather limited skills to DJ properly, ergo she doesn’t hesitate using what she has, i.e. her looks & her connections, for a career in electronic music. 2) Male or female, DJs with far better & noticeably sharper skills get 10 times the heat that Nina Kraviz gets, for doing 1 tenth of the mistakes that Nina Kraviz does on a regular ‘work’ night. 3) The RA feature shows how invested & absorbed Nina Kraviz ‘the DJ’ is, in her own feminine persona & sexuality, than she is in her musical abilities. 4) The bathtub scene stood out as the epitome of all that which some other DJs and producers took as an opportunity for irony & sarcasm. The world is a funny place; if you deny yourself of the humor you deserve, others will give it to you. 5) It’s not Maceo Plex, Seth Troxler or critiques of Nina Kraviz’s self management that are being sexist here. It’s been Nina Kraviz herself. All along.

    For a proper DJ who doesn’t feel the need to manage her career by presenting herself as an eye candy 24/7, check out Magda. Or Mistress Barbara… Or Monika Kruse… Or Anja Schneider… Or Ellen Allien… Or Cassy… The list of talented female DJs with style, appeal AND CONTENT is long.

    • Thank for your comment- I’m a little confused, however, on what you are saying. It is clear you don’t respect Nina as a DJ and you find her to be very self-aware of her image as a sexually attractive figure. I’m a little lost on what you mean by: “5) It’s not Maceo Plex, Seth Troxler or critiques of Nina Kraviz’s self management that are being sexist here. It’s been Nina Kraviz herself. All along.”

      Can you clarify?

  9. 1. I thought the reactions from Maceo Plex and the like were stupid. As a gay man, watching that interview in the bathtub – I didn’t find Nina to be acting seductive or sexual, I just saw an attractive young European gal who has no inhibitions about her body. And that’s because I was analysing and thinking with my head. These straight dudes shitting on her were thinking with their dicks, and what happens when you talk while thinking with your dick? Fuckery.

    2. While I enjoy Nina’s sets somewhat due to her exquisite track selections – her dj skills aren’t that good. She knows how to mix in key, but she can’t beatmatch or transition tracks that well…. like… at all.

    3. Truth of the matter is – yes there is sexism IN GENERAL in this world, and in the EDM world. But the Techno/Minimal culture niche I think is less sexist than the other EDM sub-genres. The Techno/Minimal world has SO MANY and MORE TO COME in female talent. Nicole Moudaber, tINI, Cassy, Ida Engberg, Magda, Monika Kruse, Anja Schneider, Maya Jane Coles etc. and there are MANY more coming!

    • Thank you for your comment. I think we should be careful however to say that just because it isn’t as bad as in other genres that it is okay… As in just because the degree of absolute poverty isn’t AS bad as other countries it doesn’t mean that our relative poverty here isn’t something we shouldn’t worry about.
      I’m not really saying anything about her talent. It is clear that she has very mixed reviews on whether or not people enjoy her skills or criticize there lackof.
      I’m more concerned with HOW she is being criticized amongst others that are potentially equally talent/ed/less – if people want to criticize her skills they are more than welcome to. If they want to criticize her skills by/through criticizing her femininity or sexuality…well then I take issue with that.

  10. Who are you,Nina’s sister?with this kind of feminism,we will get back to dark age.kraviz only transmits the message that you should bang with everybody to be a famous artist,isn’t this the OPPOSITE of feminism?

  11. “Kraviz is considered to be a very talented DJ” – No she is not, she is a really bad dj that cannot beatmatch properly
    “The feature was not about her music, but her and her lifestyle as a DJ. ” – so she could take that shot while taking a dump right? I mean djs do take a dump and piss now and then while touring? ….what a weak argument

    This is exactly the problem, women being allowed to sell sex instead of music and anyone throwing a critic them is a sexist…you are not a feminist, you are a joke!
    There is a lot of female quality good producers and DJs that never, lemme repeat that, NEVER used any sort of sexuality (or as you call it sensuality) and they still today get credit for their work and they will never have to take off their clothes to show their talent…deal with it!
    Nobody said that steve aoki throwing cakes or deadmou5e using a mask is a good thing!? Everyone that uses gimmicks instead of music is a joke as well as girls with no talent so they need to show a little bit of nudity

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