Festivals From a Feminist Lens

By Hoshahnia Kumaran and Anna Meli, LiveGirl High School Interns

Hosh’s Take: Saturday, June 1st. The start of June, the welcoming of Summer, and the second day of Governors’ Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island in Manhattan. For months, the festival season was the only thing the student body talked about- it was our high school tradition. But, the thought of attending never crossed my mind. I preferred to stay in the comfort of my own home and scroll through my Instagram feed, mindlessly staring at all of the photos of my friends dancing to unreal music sets.

Being a female in this century, I never wanted to place myself in a harmful situation- a situation that I physically paid the price for. I never wanted to place myself in danger.

Last year, I attended Panorama Music Festival at Randall’s Island, and that experience changed my entire outlook on the festival culture: it is only harmful if you perceive it in that fashion. As a powerful soul, you can conquer anything. Society should not impose fear on what you want to do, such as attend a music festival with your friends before the reality of graduation enters your prerogative.

When I realized this, I knew Governors’ Ball was something that I had to be apart of. Surprising my best friend with tickets for her eighteenth birthday, I started to think about what outfits we wanted to wear, what artists we wanted to see live, and the food trucks we wanted to eat at. Half a year later, June 1st was finally here- it was time for the experience of a lifetime.

I had the most incredible time at the festival. Everyone in that community radiated so much liveliness- it was addicting. I wanted to emulate their emotion and feel freedom circulate through my veins. But, I knew I still had to keep my boundaries up. The thing is, as a young, high school female, you have to keep your boundaries up. The truth of it all is that people may want to take advantage of you, and shred your freedom to the means of nonexistence, so you always have to stand your guard and never back down. And with that advice, I conquered Gov’ Ball and had the time of my life.

Here’s my best advice to handling the festival crowd:

  1. Always stay with your friends. Never go anywhere alone. Phone signal is limited as is, so always follow the renowned “buddy system.” Two is better than one, as the classic ‘Boys Like Girls’ song quotes.

  2. When it comes to cups, opt out and use a sealed water bottle or a reusable one (maybe a Hydro Flask, like everyone else at Gov’ Ball) instead. The chances of someone slipping something into your drink is likely anywhere, but at a festival, it is even more likely given the immense quantity of people. Stay safe and close your bottles. Beware of the dangers of the Red Solo cup.

  3. Note where all of the Security Stations are located. These are great outlets for whenever you feel unsafe, worried, or ill. Remind yourself of these locations throughout your festival weekend. If you forget, take a photo of the map as soon as you enter the festival grounds. Better safe than sorry :)

  4. Wear comfortable shoes. Cannot stress this enough. Your shoes will be engulfed in mud within the first two hours. You want to be “doing great,” not trying to scrape mud off of yourself in the sinks by the flight of Porta-Potties. And the walking you will do is intense. In one day, I walked 12.4 miles. Imagine how happy your Fitbit will be if you attended all three days. Unreal.

Governors’ Ball: a fusion of talented artists, showcased musicians, unique food vendors, and unparalleled memories. The reminiscence of that Saturday will forever be encapsulated in my mind. I am a female who attended a music festival. I did not let society charter what decisions I made, because dancing along the festival grounds, with the people who make me happiest, levies more substance to me than the world pushing me away from my freedom.  

Anna’s Take: I love music festivals. There’s something almost ethereal about it, dancing in a crowd of friends and strangers, everyone enveloped by the same song. Governors Ball especially, has this energy to it that’s unlike anywhere else. Whether it’s their, “You’re Doing Great” mantra, or the happy staffers stationed everywhere you look, it’s clear that the makers of Gov Ball want their customers to have an amazing weekend.

This year, I was especially impressed by their commitment to the feminist and gender equality movements. Female empowerment art and merchandise were everywhere, almost begging for spectators to snap a pic and post, spreading the message further. Artists were also spewing their feminist views, with Florence + the Machine asking the audience to donate to the ACLU, and artists like Kacey Musgraves and the 1975 embracing their female audience in song, and speech. Even in the crowd, I observed that female power. Women complimented each other's outfits, and helping each other up after losing their balance in a fast moving crowd. It was definitely a nice contrast to the headlines I’ve been reading these past few months, and I came out of the weekend feeling confident and hopeful.

Although I had a wonderful experience at gov ball, I’m not oblivious to the horror stories that come out of music festivals, especially from the female population. While I’ve never been a victim, or witnessed any type of assault (or anything of the like), I have felt the unknown male wrap his arms around my waste, and the claustrophobic terror of being so tightly enveloped in the crowd, that you can hardly move, let alone breath. It’s not fun, and it definitely makes me question why I save up the $300 every year to attend, but I think the answer really lies in the friends that come with me, who are able to literally reach out their hand and pull me out of those situations. My favorite memory from Gov Ball was on Sunday. I was part of a group of girls, some who I knew and some I had never met before. In a crowd of very violent dancers, we were able to form a barrier around one girl whose skirt had fallen off in the crowd. As she was putting it back on she shouted at the top of her lungs, “GIRL POWER,” and I think that pretty much sums up gov ball for me this year.