Hoe__mies Is Berlin’s New, Seriously Woke Party Series & Community Space
Gizem and Lucia aka hoe__mies have created a party series and community space that is centered around women, non-binary, and trans people and primarily caters to an audience of colour. The feel-good space was born out of a feel-terrible moment: an argument Gizem had with the organiser of a party that was branded as being all about female empowerment, but which boasted an exclusively male line-up and a dude-heavy audience.
When Gizem wondered aloud why women weren’t included if it was advertised as being a celebration of womanhood, the organiser retorted “If you don’t like the way I’m doing this, maybe you should do it better!” She did, bringing Lucia on board too — now people book hoe__mies for gigs, parties and they’re getting so much work it’s “become like a part time job.” Colour us intrigued: DADDY met up with Gizem and Lucia to find out more.
How did people react to you starting hoe__mies and how has the platform impacted your lives?
Gizem: I’d say 98% of the reactions were positive. People were really thankful that we created this kind of space and that we think so inclusively. In our description we address genderqueer people and women over and over again so that people actually feel welcome and represented. There were a few sceptical voices, mainly male ones, who didn’t think that we could pull this off or that we could actually DJ — and when we’re playing there’s always someone coming up to you to look over our shoulder to check if we’re doing it right.
Lucia: I’ve got a lot of gay and queer friends who love hiphop but don’t got to the club nights because they don’t like the vibe there. After Gizem told me about her experience I thought that this could be an opportunity to organise an event where everyone feels comfortable and can enjoy the music equally. hoe__mies got big quite quickly and has become like a part time job now. We prepare for gigs, organise parties, and we also have ideas for things we’d like to do in the future… It really had a big impact on our lives and it’s exciting.
What’s the best and what’s the worst thing about being a young woman of colour in Berlin?
Lucia: Being exotified [is frustrating]. People always want to talk about this “exotic” thing but they aren’t interested in me personally. They love to be around you because it’s cool to have Black people at parties. There’s always this expectation people have of me – they expect me to dance in the middle of the dance floor, be loud and entertain everyone, and I’m not that kind of person. On the other hand people really are interested, they want to know what you do and you get more attention than others, can express yourself more and maybe have more of a chance to do what you like.
Gizem: Everywhere we go, we look different from the white norm and I felt that a lot when I was in Mexico studying. Physically I looked like everyone else there and that really was nice. Coming back to Germany, from the moment I arrived at the airport, it was immediately awkward because there was racist stuff happening — not to me but a group of people next to me — and I thought that this wouldn’t have happened in Mexico. What’s really nice about being a woman of colour is that you have so many sources to develop your personality from. I have so many influences from my family and my “culture” and I think that these different experiences shape us and makes us more sensitive.
Gizem, you’re writing a thesis on the German hiphop scene – what’s your insight so far?
Gizem: So far I’ve interviewed three women who have had an impact on different aspects of the hiphop scene: a producer, a DJ and a rapper. Some of them are really hopeful and positive about the scene becoming more inclusive but others are reproducing the patterns that keep women out. I think internalised sexism is a real problem that needs to be addressed and worked on. There’s a lot happening at the moment. There are people like SXTN or Haiyti who just seem to be having fun doing what they do and people really like that. Especially SXTN who are using terms that are offensive, the same terms men are using, but suddenly when women use them it becomes a problem and people are outraged and I think that’s why people are talking a lot about these two women. I think that they also have a degree of privilege because they are attractive. That’s a game changer in a way. Women are always measured by how they look, and it helps to look good. You might have a better chance of succeeding in that business.
Lucia: At the same time you’ll be reduced to your looks and people won’t take you seriously and will use this as an excuse as to why you are successful. It might help your chances, but you’ll also have to deal with other problems.
Gizem: Yeah, you always have to prove yourself, also in the DJ scene, which can be quite exhausting.
And what stereotypes do you have to deal with in the city’s creative scene?
Gizem: People often say things like “They only let you play because you’re pretty”. I like to play hard stuff sometimes, like real gansta trap shit and people will be like “Oh, she actually plays that, she listens to that? That’s kinda rough for her…”. They will be surprised about that. Lucia has experienced that a lot in her acting career…
Lucia: Yeah I had a lot of requests like “Can you act with a French accent?”. I’ve been offered roles where I should play a refugee coming from Africa who stole something and then got sent back and I thought that it’s such a racist cliché. I stopped acting because I was so tired of all these requests that are always about race. People tried to explain it by saying things like “we can’t put you in that role because then we have to explain why you’re Black and in Germany and why you speak fluent German” – something that isn’t seen as normal in Germany. I think it’s a little bit different in the music scene but still there’s this focus on the US and UK and I find it a bit sad that we don’t try to create our own thing. We aren’t English speakers and it’s weird when German people sing these lyrics. I think we should focus more on who we are and what we have instead of trying to be something else.
Gizem: One thing I’d like to add is that women are getting paid a lot less for DJ jobs. I always see that in comparison to my boyfriend who also DJs. I see the offers he gets — he tells people how much he wants and everyone’s OK with that but when I make demands I always get the response that it’s negotiable.
Lucia: The other thing is that as a woman, you always do the opening or the end, you never get the main spot. There are so many events in Berlin, like fashion shows, PR events or even at McFit, where there are always the same DJs playing. And I always wonder why they don’t ask women to play.
Is that why you decided to turn hoe__mies into a community platform rather than a party series?
Lucia: We started to function as a label because people started asking us if we’ve got female DJs they can book. We’re sort of like a connecting point and we’d like to extend that.
Gizem: We thought a lot about the name and it took us a while to find it. I think what’s so great about the name is that it takes away something from people who shame certain lifestyles and transforms this into something positive. I remember from school that it was the worst to be called a slut or a ho and I think it angers the people who we take the term away from, who are mainly cis men. Some people were upset that we called ourselves that and we were like: Why not? What’s the big deal about it?
Who inspired you to start hoe__mies? Anyone you want to give a shout-out to?
Gizem: There’s a London-based collective called Pxssy Palace who we took inspiration from when we came up with the T&Cs of our party. They’re great and they know and support us.
A person that had a really big influence on me was Nelly, a classmate from Mexico who wrote about the hiphop scene there. My whole approach that I’m taking with my thesis is inspired by her. Leila, one of my closest friends and a colleague at i,Slam, was really supportive too. And then there’s Anne Wizorek who I did #ausnahmslos with – she was the first person to interview us because she wanted to give us a platform
Lucia: My friends from the queer scene have really influenced me. Transgender people, for example, who fight to be accepted every day. When someone is making a change or transformation, that always inspires me. Or the gay scene, especially women. Often guys don’t accept it when a woman says she’s gay. These people who always prove others wrong inspire me.
What’s next? – both for hoe__mies and yourselves?
Lucia: I was always into music and really appreciate that Gizem got me back into it through hoe__mies. I want to focus more on that and become a better DJ because I want to be good at things I’m representing. For hoe__mies we want to become bigger, support artists and live performances because there are female artists who want to perform and we’d like to give them a stage – also from other fields. We want to support and represent everyone and be a platform for talented female artists.
Gizem: It’s important for us to be more than a party. We want hoe__mies to be a community of people with shared interests and shared identities. We want to help gain access to a certain field or a certain scene these people would be excluded from. We made that clear from the start that we want to cooperate with different kinds of artists and support them. We’d also like to start workshops where people learn how to spin and pass that knowledge on. I had the privilege to study something that got me really far personally and career-wise and that’s also an idea that we have: to create a learning space – but that’s still a long way off. We’d like the next party to be an open air thing because it’s nice to do that in summer — so if someone reads this and has ideas for a location, please let us know!
One last question: When people in a creative context answer the question why there aren’t more PoC involved in art shows etc with “We couldn’t find any?” – what do you think of that statement?
Lucia: It’s laziness! You can do your homework, just sit down.
Gizem: Exactly. If we can find all these female rappers, others can find them too.
This interview has been edited and abridged.