The Womyn on WXYC

By Shilpa Kancharla

WXYC is UNC’s student-run radio station, known for its eclectic range of music and goal of diversifying the community’s music tastes. This semester, I was lucky enough to be hired as a new DJ. I’ve found the womyn in this community to be incredibly supportive, loving, and encouraging, and through these profiles I want to offer a voice to the female side of WXYC.

Name: Viviane Feldman
Year: Junior
Major: Photojournalism
Minors: French & Middle Eastern and Islamic
DJ since Fall 2014

Name: Olivia Branscum
Year: Class of 2015 (Graduated last May)
Majors: Philosophy & Studio Art
DJ since Spring 2012
Name: Kat Kucera
Year: Senior
Major: Women’s and Gender Studies
Minor: Comparative Literature
DJ since Spring 2012
Name: Bridget Walsh
Year: Class of 2015 (Graduated last May)
Major: Journalism (Graphic Design Sequence)
Minors: Studio Art, Music
Music Director and DJ at WXYC
Name: Kaia Marie Findlay
Year: Sophomore
Major: Environmental Studies
DJ since Spring 2015

Shilpa Kancharla: Have you felt as if being a disc jockey is something done mostly by males?

Olivia Branscum: In my opinion, this specific manner of caring about music feels distinctly and unavoidably masculine-oriented. In order for this ideal state of the field to come about, it’s important for individuals to actively demonstrate that ways of loving music–emotional ways,disparate ways, confusing and idiosyncratic and personal ways—ways that are often described as “feminine”—are not only acceptable, but are
indeed vital to the continued health and vibrancy of the DJ community.

Kat Kucera: When I became music director last year I was only the second woman ever to hold the position and the first since the 80s. I don’t think that was a coincidence. There’s a sense that the people with the most encyclopedic knowledge, or the “authorities” on music, so to speak, are mostly men, and therefore the station’s sound has been historically curated by mostly men.

SK: How has DJing for WXYC impacted your womynhood?

Viviane Feldman: I got to develop really close relationships with other womyn-identifying people at the station and we bonded over this collective feeling that we were being underrepresented. I’ve learned that being a womyn is powerful, creative, innovative, yet also feels marginalizing and sometimes disappointing. I’ve seen reviews of girl rock bands from the 90s and I only see men reviewing them saying basically that it’s all shit. I’m reading reviews from these dudes who, to me, have no idea what they’re talking about, or they’re trying to be exclusionary just to be exclusionary. That’s not what music is about. It’s about opening your eyes to other people’s deeper emotions, their expression of life and their thoughts.

Bridget Walsh: Over the four years I’ve been a DJ, I’ve learned that approaching a kind of daunting music community with the mindset that it is impossible to know everyone, you should use the community around you to continue learning and growing. There is no perfect taste, and enthusiasm towards learning is infectious. I’ve learned that from a lot of people in WXYC and I hope that WXYC can continue moving in the direction of being an inclusive, mind-opening experience for the people out there ready to dig in.

Kaia Marie Findlay: [Being a womyn] means being really proud of my gender and all the things that I experience. I think WXYC has some really badass womyn, and they inspire me every day. I am also inspired when I explore the shelves and I run across music by Hazel Dickens and Elizabeth Cotten. I feel that they are important and meaningful to me, and I play them to help other people recognize that as well. Every womyn has a story, and our shelves at the station are chock
full of them.

SK: Do you believe the status quo of the station
represents gender equally?

BW: WXYC has made very noticeable moves to move towards a more equal representation of genders by hiring more womyn DJs, having womyn in management roles, making sure that womyn live DJ our events and parties, and having female artists perform at our events. I came into WXYC when a lot of things started moving in that direction–away from the dominating white male presence and more into a diverse community. Still got loads of work to do, but it’s going in a good direction.

KF: The female DJs I know are so awesome that they totally hold their own. I also think WXYC does a good job of uplifting voices of both genders, so even if womyn are slightly underrepresented
they are not ignored.

SK: How does WXYC promote the celebration of
womynhood and feminism?

BW: [The WXYC Women’s Collective] is a place where womyn can share mixes, music, events, articles, etc. to foster being a womyn in a creative community.

KK: Womyn artists are represented, womyn of color are represented, and we don’t rely on large corporate labels to stock our new music playbox. On the whole, WXYC has made a great effort to push back against the idea of the stuck-up white, hetero, cis, male music snob on all fronts in recent years.

SK: How would you encourage more womyn to get involved with WXYC?

VF: As one of the promotions managers at WXYC, I am really trying to actively give a diverse and welcoming face to our community through social media and photography. I believe WXYC is inclusive, open, and ready to accept all viewpoints about music and the world around music. I want womyn at UNC to know that we at the station need what they have to bring to the table as far as musical taste and perspective on the industry!

KK:KF: I would encourage other females, (or anyone for that matter), if they want to explore. I think DJing is a great way to expand one’s view about music. But DJing doesn’t only include exploring your music tastes—it helps you find your voice.