A petition calling on music festivals to make a firm stand against sexual assault and harassment has gathered more than 25,000 signatures as of Monday, April 30. The campaign follows Teen Vogue writer Vera Papisova’s report from last month's Coachella Musical Festival, in which she detailed that 54 women she interviewed at the festival reported they had been sexually harassed.
The petition, hosted by Care2, is calling on the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco and the Governor’s Ball in New York to firmly state that all forms of sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated, while praising Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and Riot Fest for implementing anti-harassment policies.
“This is nothing new,” says Rebecca Gerber, senior director of engagement at Care2. “I think it’s a new conversation that has been lovely to see through the #metoo activism that’s happened in the U.S. and around the world. But any woman could tell you that, if you go to a festival or concerts, there are issues like sexual misconduct, harassment and assault that happen.
“This doesn’t have to be part of the female experience around going to a concert,” she says. “We have just as much right as anyone else to be able to see the bands we like without feeling threatened or assaulted.”
Coachella promoter Goldenvoice did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Care2 has a network of 45 million people. Members can start petitions on the site about any issue, including protecting the environment, standing up to the gun lobby, and gender equality and women’s rights.
Gerber says every festival needs to implement a zero-tolerance policy, making it clear to male attendees in particular that unwanted touching and harassment won’t be tolerated. Riot Fest, Pitchfork and Lollapalooza have clearly marked tents where women can go to report sexual assault and harassment. The complaints, she says, are taken seriously.
“It’s really clear from this report that, whether you see them or not, these instances are happening to the women that attend,” Gerber says.
In her April 18 story on Coachella, Papisova reported that not only did she interview women who had been harassed but also she herself was groped.
“[T]his year’s Coachella experience was also full of moments I never saw on Instagram: being repeatedly violated by strangers. In the three days I was at Coachella, I only spent a total of 10 hours at the actual festival, where I watched numerous performances and interviewed festivalgoers about their experience with sexual assault and harassment for Teen Vogue. During the 10 hours I was reporting on this story, I was groped 22 times,” Papisova wrote.
Gerber says she's reaching out to everyone possible to sign the petition. At the same time, there’s a lot more that can be done.
“I think it’s really important that people know this happens even if you don’t see it,” Gerber says. “If you hear from a woman that someone said a comment, that she felt threatened, that someone did some unwanted touching, to believe that that was offensive. Don’t brush that off. Make sure that she feels safe. Men can’t attend these festivals and pretend this doesn’t happen anymore. It’s very clear that it does, so they really need to take an active role in preventing this.”
The issue of sexual assault at festivals is part of a bigger conversation about gender inequality in the music industry, and Care2 has been involved with other campaigns to raise awareness.
“We work with activists who run a group called Mute R. Kelly,” Gerber says. “Why does the music industry tolerate R. Kelly, why is R. Kelly still winning awards and having concerts, when there are so many allegations against him about sexual assault and horrible misconduct? We’ve done petitions around Kesha, Free Kesha, and why she was not able to work while under contract.
“The music industry hasn’t really had this reckoning yet, where they’re looking at themselves to make sure they’re protecting female artists and female fans.”
Ultimately, this is a conversation that is long overdue, and it took some brave women to bring the issue to light.
“It happens to men, too,” Gerber says, “but this is something that happens every day and it’s taken a lot of brave women to come out and talk about this. It’s surprising that this conversation is only happening now, but it’s so great that it’s happening now. I can’t think of a more important thing for us to be talking about.”