Last weekend, Björk was a featured guest at Houston’s Day for Night, a multimedia arts and music festival lynchpinned by Björk Digital, her traveling massive art installation that uses virtual reality to immerse fans in her world. In addition to that, she played not one but two DJ sets on a line-up full of male DJs and electronic musicians, which seems to me like a pretty generous use of her time and labor! Apparently, though, some media attacked her for the basic act of DJing, something they didn’t do to the guys, and so she’s posted an open letter about how that is baldly sexist bullshit.
“!!!! happy winter solstice !!!” she begins, with characteristic charm and enthusiasm. (That’s four exclamation points before, three after.) And then:
last weekend i djd twice at a festival in texas . it was a magical event with some of my favorite musicians djing : aphex twin , arca , oneoh trixpoint never and matmos ... the list is endless !!
most of us played mostly other peoples music and would slide in instrumentals of what weve been working on recently
i am aware of that it is less of a year since i started djing publicly so this is something people are still getting used to and my fans have been incredibly welcoming to me sharing my musical journey and letting me be me . its been so fun and the nerd in me editing together pieces of others peoples songs for weeks , gets to share the different coordinates i feel between some of the most sublime music i know .
but some media could not get their head around that i was not “performing” and “hiding” behind desks . and my male counterparts not . and i think this is sexism . which at the end of this tumultuous year is something im not going to let slide : because we all deserve maximum changes in this revolutionary energy we are currently in the midst of.
While I couldn’t personally find the media report mentioning desks, I did see several reviews that lamented her DJing—which is kinda like the STEM of musicianship—rather than performing her music; specifically, songs from 2015's Vulnicura, her most straightforwardly emotional album. Björk addressed that, too:
women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized : journalists feel there is just something missing ... as if our only lingo is emo ...
i made volta and biophilia conscious of the fact that these were not subjects females usually write about . i felt i had earned it . on the activist volta i sang about pregnant suicide bombers and for the independence of faroe islands and greenland . on the pedagogic biophilia i sang about galaxies and atoms but it wasnt until vulnicura where i shared a heartbreak i got full acceptance from the media . men are allowed to go from subject to subject , do sci fi , period pieces , be slapstick and humorous , be music nerds getting lost in sculpting soundscapes but not women . if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .
So basically, Björk, one of the most inventive pop musicians of our time, has been pushing music forward in a visibly drastic fashion for 39 years, writing albums about freakin’ atoms and putting together art that relies on the cutting edge of technology before anyone else in popular music deigns to try. But dudes are mad if she’s not singing about her breakup. Which, though she is 51 and accomplished enough to be exempt from this kind of bullshit—not exempt from artistic critique, of course, if it’s merited, but definitely exempt from bullshit—it affected her enough this week that she felt she had to speak out. As she notes, she rarely does so, preferring to stay focused primarily on her artistry. Even Björk, though, a grown woman and visionary who is constantly infantilized and otherized because of her spirit and nationality, gets sick of this shit! Kudos to her for snapping on ‘em.
She ends her note:
lets make 2017 the year where we fully make the transformation !!!
!!! the right to variety for all the girls out there !!!