RA’s documentary on DJ Nina Kraviz – Controversy about a Bubble Bath, Gender Clichés & Double Standards

So there’s this controvery about Nina Kraviz being seen naked in a tub in a interview commissioned by Resident Advisor. It’s all about her using sex to sell. It reminded me of some of the comments in a forum spawned by my article about women in music. So let me chime in with my two cents.

The documentary was commissioned by Resident Advisor and not Nina herself. All the people involved in it were men (see the credits in the YouTube description). So is she really using sex to sell her music or is she just portrayed this way? I’m not familiar with Kraviz’s music although what I heard in the video I liked. Checking her out on the web shows the woman is beautiful and doesn’t mind showing it. So let’s assume she had absolutely no problem ‘flaunting’ her body for this video and take it out of the equation. Let’s even assume she suggested it herself (she didn’t).

So what’s so wrong with this? And why the outcry about her in a tub?

If you’ve seen the video, you know the scene everyone seems so worked up about. Nina’s talking to the camera while taking a bath. A bubble bath, that is. You can’t see her breats or privates. And there’s the beginning with her at the beach in a bikini. I’m sure there are interviews of male DJs or musicians where they’re shown in a jacuzzi and I doubt anyone would say a word about it.

(Semi)-nakedness of women has been used forever to sell products and even men’s music. What else does the average Rap and R’n’B video show? That’s become absolutely common and very few people get worked up about it. On the contrary, it’s a generally accepted business practice. But if a woman shows her beauty and sexiness that’s all of a sudden totally wrong and she gets blamed for it? Sounds like a double standard to me.

Especially when the decision of how to portray her was up to RA or the director of the video and not Nina Kraviz. She was followed around for three days for the video from the party at the beach to the infamous tub. Nina’s posted a response about the whole thing where she talks about RA only wanting certain footage in the video and the a little too apparent focus on her as a woman. On stage the focus is not on her skills, but on her dancing. In slowmo. If anyone’s to blame for rehashing cliche’s it’s Resident Advisor. It’s great they feature a mini documentary about a female DJ, but why not approach it the same way as one about a male DJ?

My article ‘Why Not More Women Make Electronic Music and How This Could Change’ got quite a lot of attention and some commenters (on a forum) countered with things like ‘Well, they can use sex to sell their music’ to make up for any disadvantages women might have in electronic music. Sure, we could, but apparently then there’d be a huge outrage. So working with what we’ve got would also make us the bad guy, pardon me, bad girl. Seemingly even if it wasn’t our choice as in Nina’s case.

Where does that leave us? What do you think about the whole thing?

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5 Responses

  1. First of all Madeleine great blog and site congrats, I suppose on the women in electronic music in general, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delia_Derbyshire was a true innovator. On the Nina Kraviz piece, its what we called in management an EPK and a pretty bad one at that. Full of cliches, your point about the slo-mo dancing was spot on, in fact there was a crazy amount of slo mo in the whole piece. A documentary should be more deep and informative than that. Of course she is selling her image to promote herself, every artist does that.She is a very attractive woman you can’t hide that, and why should she. Controversial hardly.Double standard, absolutely.

    I will say though that if I was advising her I would have made her aware that getting interviewed in the bath could be an issue, if you don’t have editorial control over some thing it can get twisted. As it was there was nothing in it, but as the whole piece was slo-mo and fluffy, it added to a certain perception that the filmmakers , not the artist wanted to portray.

    1. True, the bathtub as an interview location wasn’t very wise on her part. Yet, I think it would have not turned into an issue for a guy. This means that women are required to consider the perception/reaction way more. The way the video was directed and edited it looks more like an ad than a mini documentary.

  2. You see, Madeleine that´s why Nina Kraviz is touring around the world, beeing famous and earning a lot of money supposedly for her music and you or me, as qualified and trained artists in music school willl never get her level of notoriety. What is more surprinsing for me is that clever people are supporting her cause. This is the world upside down, super qualified and talented artists not able to make a living while talentless girls (she cannot beatmatch properly 2 songs, I heard her several times dj-ing and it was horror) who take their clothes off and sleep with the right agents and promoters get along in the industry, which I don´t mind about. What I really mind is that people see them as role models and support this attitude of making it through life.

    1. First of all, making it in music has not that much to do with talent and that isn’t new. If you don’t know how to market yourself and don’t meet the right people, you can be the biggest talent, but you might not make it ever. Sad, but true.

      I haven’t seen Nina DJ, but from videos like this I’d say she knows what she’s doing. And even if she didn’t, there’s plenty of hyped male DJs who are pretty awful at their jobs. Would you accuse them of having slept their way up as well?

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