The Gou, the bad and the ugly: what the Peggy Gou furore says about electronic music’s pandemic of misogyny.
Four months ago, I had a rude awakening about the magnitude and virulence of misogyny in electronic music. I knew that women, trans people and non-binary people had always been undervalued in the scene, but I had no idea of just how insidious and widespread the problem was until I witnessed the online response to the death of chronic sexual predator Erick Morillo. Recently charged with rape, he was publicly mourned and celebrated following his passing — even after many victims shared their stories of his abuse, supported by witnesses.
Daniel Wang’s Facebook post this week — describing his elation at the fact that Peggy Gou had moved out of his Berlin apartment building — and the online response to it was a further study in ingrained misogyny. To date, 11,000 people have liked Wang’s laundry list of Gou’s crimes spanning her excessive makeup and perfume, expensive designer clothes and hundreds of pairs of shoes; her alleged ghost producing; kleptomania and mental illness; playing plague raves; planning to donate large sums of money to the club whose part-owner produces her merch; her obsession with Instagram, and lots more. Daniel Wang has 5000 Facebook friends, and 7500 followers on the platform.
By comparison, articles posted over the past four months to Facebook by Mixmag (1.9 million Facebook followers), Resident Advisor (695,000 Facebook followers) and DJ Mag (3.04 million followers) about the decades-spanning sexual assaults by hugely successful DJs Erick Morillo and Derrick May, as told by multiple victims, have received no more than 500 likes each.
The fact that Wang’s post received 22 times as many likes as the sexual assault stories speaks volumes about what people, and mostly men, see as the most pressing threat to our industry. Not the ongoing abuse of thousands of women, but the “unfair” success of one. All this fuss over a successful woman’s diva-like, possibly abusive behaviour, her social media savvy and the fact that maybe she’s not as good a DJ or producer as hundreds of blokes who have been toiling away in the shadows for years. Diddums.
I have mentioned this week that I was under the impression Wang was a decent guy based on my recent communication with him and according to many other people who I believe to be good judges of character. I don’t necessarily think that Wang is a misogynist, but the language in his post certainly is, as well as being ableist, and the fact that he has allowed and even encouraged so much flagrant sexism and misogyny in the responses to his diatribe severely undermines his argument that he is an ally of women.
There seem to be several other accounts supporting the idea that Gou has been unpleasant and even abusive. You would hope that such behaviour would lead to people deciding not to work with her, which would diminish her power in the industry as word of her poor character spread. Her performances at plague raves, especially considering her wealth, and a dodgy planned donation (from Jägermeister, for whom Gou was a brand ambassador, to Sub Club, whose part-owner Usman Khushi was 100% owner of Gou’s merch company) were rightly criticised. But this story is much bigger than Peggy Gou’s bad behaviour, mistreatment of people, or “fake talent”. It’s about the language used in the post, the palpable glee of the mostly male respondents as they sought to tear her down, and the fact that so many of them are chomping at the bit to attack Gou, but won’t say a word about the industry’s worst kept secret, the rampant abuse of womxn.
Wang has sought to defend himself against some of his detractors. But his post, especially the original version before criticism caused him to make some edits, was equally as troubling as Gou’s alleged malfeasance. “I tried my best to be nice to her at first, ignoring the outfits of Escada mixed with Supreme on top of Tommy Hilfiger (anything with a pricey label!!) the bad makeup and overpowering perfume (red alerts for mental illness, hello?),” he wrote. He later said that he was merely painting a picture of her histrionic personality disorder (we’re yet to see a diagnosis from a psychiatrist), but it came across as a petty assault on her appearance, scent and clothes. He shared an anecdote about her alleged theft of Eames chairs while acknowledging that it might be the result of a mental health disorder. He reported that an old friend “says he could tell me who really produced her releases”, going on to say “I haven’t verified that!”, then takes a shot at her DJing via the Berghain booker who supposedly told him, “Peggy Gou was nothing like what we expected. We will certainly never book her again.”
One of her shocking offences while working at a record store in Berlin was “to take pictures of herself among the record bins to upload to Instagram!” Wang was particularly outraged by Gou’s Instagram tributes to the late Mike Huckaby and Andrew Weatherall, in which she was “saying how much they admired HER as a DJ. THAT’S MENTALLY ILL.” First of all, it’s a massive stretch to assign her comments to mental illness, secondly, if you read Gou’s posts, she says many kind things about both men before expressing how much their support meant to her. “Back in 2015, he said he liked my voice and asked me to speak on “My Life With the Wave vol2 ” — this is a privilege that will stay with me forever,” she wrote of Huckaby. Of Weatherall, she said, “He also complimented on one of my mixes that was only few years ago but it meant so much to me and couraged [sic] me to an extent I will never forget that.” I don’t detect any mental illness in those words.
Worse than Wang’s post itself is the outcry that it has provoked, with men (and women, but overwhelmingly men) weighing in on this “talentless Instagram-whore.” Wang has allowed for many of their posts to be published on his own Facebook page, maximising the opportunity for them to be read and shared (he actually said, “Please feel free to share, to screenshot...” in his original post and tagged many industry people to ensure they would read about and hopefully circulate the stories of Gou’s evils).
Vakula, one of the scene’s most notorious misogynists, shared his own experiences with Gou, opening with the line, “I had a close relationship with her as I f… her two time so I agree with every word you say,” going on to attack her “fake” DJing, etc. Wang responds, “Whoooa!!! Thanks for this…”. In the comments, Wang recommends that people watch a section of a video interview with Vakula where he slanders Gou, and likes a comment that praises Vakula for telling “the truth about her behaviour and marketing approach…but at the time, everyone (excepted me, real artists and smart ppl) were unfairly spitting on his [Vakula’s] face…” Other comments liked by Wang refer to Gou as “this bint” and “irrelevant bitch”, and he likes another comment that reads, “Hahaha, psychos are always ‘funny’ somehow (and hateful of course) !”
When one commenter said of Wang, “personally, I hope he keeps this energy and exposes some abusers”, referring to sexual predators, Wang says, “Yes, I have read about and spoken with women who were assaulted by Derrick May. But I have no personal contact or experience with him, so I support the victims, but I cannot speak for them. Based on what I’ve heard, I would guess that he is a true predator. I feel as disgusted by the predators as you are…let justice be served! :)” And yet, when news surfaced about Morillo and May and their many victims, Wang felt no such compulsion to share his disgust on his Facebook or Instagram profile.
I found Wang’s post hard to reconcile with my (admittedly limited) experience with him and the positive things that so many ostensibly good people say about him, and it might be true that his experience with Gou “pushed him to the edge”. But to maintain and revel in the onslaught of vitriol directed at Gou, much of which targets everything but her alleged abuse, is extremely problematic.
So too the responses of other artists I respect, including Detroit-born techno producer and DJ Alan Oldham, someone I was delighted to interview earlier this year. I’ve been bothered by his reaction to the Derrick May allegations, ranging from silence to support (he’s a long-time friend of May), and the comments that he supported on Wang’s post were deeply disturbing. He laughed at a guy who said, “I’d still hit that” of Gou, and at another guy who said, “Classic millennial bitch.” I admired both Wang and Oldham as DJs and producers until this week. Now, as with so many men in the scene who have revealed ugly sides of their character this year, I just feel disappointed in them.
Some of the points Wang raised in his post are valid — I’m no fan of superficiality either, and it’s a shame that there are many DJs far more talented and hard-working than the ones making all the millions, who have the Instagram followers to match. I agree with the sentiments of his closing paragraph: “And I hope that, in 2021 and beyond, we treasure real music-lovers and dancers who do it for all the right reasons — for sheer joy, spirit, community… and not for the money, the cocaine, the attention, and spitting on your neighbors and all the people in the nightlife business who built this crazy thing up from dreams and ideals in the first place.”
But Wang’s claims that he has nothing to be jealous of don’t quite ring true. Gou probably made more money in one year than he did in twenty years of touring. He’s certainly respected as an artist, but he has never received a fraction of Gou’s fame and fortune. Is that unfair? Maybe. But what Wang has incited makes him no better than what he’s accusing Gou of. His post, and the response to it, has simply reminded us yet again of how rampant misogyny is in our scene.
To clarify for those having fits: I am not absolving Gou of any guilt or responsibility if she has in fact been abusive and I do not think that anyone should get away with abusing others, irrespective of their gender. People who may have been abused by Gou have my sympathy and deserve support. But Wang calling out Gou’s alleged abusive behaviour was not the problematic part of his post. It was the misogynistic and ableist language contained within, the misogynistic responses to the post that Wang sometimes encouraged, and the general reaction to the post versus the reaction to sexual assault stories. If everyone’s so outraged about Gou allegedly abusing people, where was that same energy when stories emerged about the DJ serial rapists and sexual assaulters? There is a plague of them. This was always my main point of contention.