HARD Summer’s 2017 trailer is causing a whole lot of controversy

The annual HARD Summer trailer is a tradition that runs seven years deep.

To promote each year’s line-up, the crew at North America’s coolest festival brand round up their A-list artists and put them to work on a hilarious, OTT scripted video that pokes fun at the world of dance music and superstar DJs. It’s the video series that gave us Spoon Ü, for which we are forever grateful.

Usually, HARD Summer’s trailers are a bit of harmless fun (and an opportunity for Dillon Francis to show off his acting chops) — but the 2017 effort, which arrived today, isn’t receiving a unanimously positive response.

Why? Well, the  trailer takes on the thorny and very real issue of women’s representation in dance music, with a premise that goes something like this: HARD head Gary Richards phones up an agent and asks him to find some female acts for this year’s festival bill. So he straps some fake boobs onto DJ Snake, What So Not, Claude VonStroke, Party Favor and Kayzo, and a series of satiric jokes about how women in music are perceived ensue.

So what’s the problem?

It’s clear that HARD’s intentions with the trailer were pure — Gary Richards is a outspoken ally for women in music (something few dance promoters can claim) and 2017’s HARD bill is full of awesome female acts.

The female director of the video, Agata Alexander, went to lengths to pre-empt any backlash and explain her vision: “This is my attempt to trick [festival bros] into thinking feminism is cool,” she told Nest HQ.

“I’m trying to mind-fuck them, they see their bro DJ Snake put on boobs and they’re laughing but not realising what it is they’re liking. Maybe someday later down the line they’ll get that their idol is telling them to support women – it’s inception.”

But for all those good intentions, many feel that the meaning got lost in a mess of bad boob jokes. Artists like The Black Madonna and Jubilee have called the clip self-congratulating, many have described it as a tone deaf attempt at feminism and others have pointed out its transphobic undertones.

And for a clip that aims to advance the standing of women in dance music, remarkably few feature in the video — Anna Lunoe has a speaking role, while the likes of Uffie and Kittens cameo at the end. As Dani Deahl at Nylon points out, women were only on screen for a grand total of 38 seconds, or 8 percent of the total length of the video.

So where does that leave us? Honestly, I don’t know. I like HARD. I like their videos. I know the guys in this clip are some of the good ones, and I know the intent was to create something subversive. But watching it also makes me feel the way dance music does far too often: that women have to go along with jokes that make us feel small and uncomfortable to be included, and that we should be grateful for the crumbs we’re thrown.

Anna Lunoe said it best in her statement about the clip, which was included in a press release from HARD today. “Talking about being a woman in the electronic space in any capacity is tricky, multifaceted, tiresome and after so many years I just prefer to avoid the topic and get on with the job.” It is tiresome, and I’m sick of explaining why.

Katie Cunningham is the Editor of inthemix. She is on Twitter