It’s 2017, I feel like we shouldn’t have to be talking about this again, but festival season is approaching. Line-ups are being announced and again there’s an astonishing lack of women on the bills. This is not a new thing: lack of representation has been a huge issue, and fans and journalists alike have been calling out festival organizers, especially in the last couple of years. We would think by now they got the message, right? I know.
In January, UK festival Reading & Leeds began announcing their line up. In the first announcement, there was only one woman on the list of 11 performers. That’s on the other side of the Atlantic, though; what about North America?
On Wednesday, both Lollapalooza and Warped Tour announced their line ups. The latter is taking 90 bands on the road; 14 are made up of women and 3 of them are playing the main stages. However little in number they are, these acts might be the most interesting ones on the whole tour. I’ll explain below.
Reading and Leeds: Back at it again with sexism
On January 20th, the first batch of performers for Reading & Leeds festival were announced and included headliners such as Muse and Kasabian. 20 acts, 57 male and 1 female: Against The Current’s singer Chrissy Costanza. Here’s a visual that shows a startling reality.
Were people happy? Of course not. Reading & Leeds organizers were called out, stories were written on the lack of representation, hell broke loose on social media. Alternative Press interviewed Chrissy about the situation and, of course, she agreed it was infuriating to say the least, but she also brought a different perspective to the discussion: fans need to support female artists and bands first so that promoters know what to look for. She referred to a poll about the Reading & Leeds line up that asked who people wanted to see on the festival. All they got were male bands (and obvious choices such as Paramore and PVRIS). Chrissy’s point is that we have to directly show organizers we are into female acts so that they can be aware of who to book.
It’s an interesting point of view, which leads me to ask… isn’t pointing out the lack of female representation directly showing promoters we want more diversity in festivals? Is media doing enough to forward the talk on representation? How much influence do fans actually have on line ups? I can’t actually answer all of these questions, but there’s definitely enough to think about there.
Can these women save this year’s Warped Tour?
March 22nd brought us the Warped Tour line up announcement. It may be only me, but it feels like this is the least exciting group of acts this tour has ever had—I can’t honestly remember the last time when I went through the list and couldn’t find one band that made me want to go. (To be fair, it might mean I am getting old, but remember how amazing last year was?)
Earlier this year, Kevin Lyman & co. had already given fans the Warped Rewind at Sea cruise, which is happening in the fall. 14 bands and 2 special guests are confirmed, and the only woman is Babs from Emo Nite. There are still more acts to be announced, though.
All things considered, there wasn’t much hope for women at Warped Tour this year–I mean, do female musicians want to go on a tour who supports anti-choice organizations and gives a platform for pedophiles?
Despite all that, Warped’s line up has 16 acts made up of females or with females in them. This constitutes 17.7% of the 90 performers. Three of these acts are on the Journeys’ main stages: New Years Day, Jule Vera, and Save Ferris.
Since I am complaining about this situation, I believe it’s fair to say that apart from the bands playing the main stages, I did not know many of the female acts on Warped Tour this year. Maybe they are not the style I’m into, maybe they weren’t on my radar, or maybe I simply ignored them.
I wasn’t excited about any of the “male bands” (should we start saying male bands like we do girl bands?) I knew, so I went out to check the “female bands”. I opened all of their Facebook pages, as well as searched their songs on Spotify. One of the first bands I came across was War On Women. They followed the Warped announcement with the following post:
War On Women has accepted an offer to play Vans Warped Tour this summer. This might be surprising for some, and I understand why. We are “anti-” a lot of things that Warped Tour seems neutral on, or even worse, “pro-”. While in the past it might have been on a smaller scale, we have always been fully comfortable forcing our way into potentially hostile environments to share our intersectional feminist messages with folks who might not hear it otherwise. We take that challenge on because we are very privileged people in most ways, and we always hope that if we’ve opened a few people up to the things we value, they might be more likely to find out about bands like G.L.O.S.S., Downtown Boys, and La Armada. We won’t be checking our activism at the door this summer, and we are so excited to share our safer spaces project with you in the coming days. Stay tuned.
You can check out the full statement here.
It made me wonder: are women going to use this platform to promote change? Warped Tour is a show where a lot of people, especially young people, go to check out acts they don’t already know. The festival goers are so immersed into the music and the scene that what happens affects them. People find their new favorite bands on Warped Tour. If they’re moving through stages and catch War on Women talking about the issues they care about, is it likely they’ll catch the message?
I sure hope so. The people in this scene have had enough of important voices not taking sides. Kids have had enough of not feeling safe in what was supposed to be their safe space. Maybe attending this year’s Warped Tour is less about singing along to the same songs by the same bands all over again; maybe it is about hearing more important messages. Maybe it’s not about the number of women, but what they can say.
What do you think needs to be done for the festival scene to progress forward?
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