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OPINION: Music Festivals Should Be About The Music, Not Fending Off Creeps

16 February 2018 | 10:46 am | Tia Gostelow

"We want them to be welcoming events, where everyone has a good time and above all, feels comfortable and safe."

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Tia Gostelow is an Australian singer and songwriter, who took out the triple j Unearthed Indigenous Initiative in 2016. Gostelow is also an ambassador for Our Watch's youth campaign, The Line, a resource for young people concerning consent, sex, relationships and respect. Here, Gostelow shares her thoughts on what can be done to make music festivals a safe space for everyone.


Keep your hands and feet to yourself. Music festivals should be about the music, not fending off dirty creeps.

I love music festivals. I love the complete sense of freedom and the celebration of all things music. Discovering new artists on the outside stages and packing in like sardines to catch a glimpse of your favourites, is what it's all about. The infrequent showers, hanging with mates, and questionable fashion choices, also deserve a special mention. It’s a unique experience that’s unlike any other.

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While this may seem like a far-fetched pill to swallow, victim-blaming attitudes are unfortunately common and are used downplay and ignore sexual assault.

What I don’t love is the shady side of festivals. The one that we’ve recently seen hit the headlines in a big way. I’m talking, of course, about the sexual assault and rape problem. Just last month, a man was charged with a sex offence at Victoria’s Rainbow Serpent Festival and there were five alleged sexual assaults, including one rape allegation, at last year’s Falls Festival in Tassie.

While it’s great that movements like #MeToo and Camp Cope’s #ItTakesOne campaign have made it easier for women and girls to report sexual assault at music festivals, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. There are still so many disturbing cases that go unreported. In a lot of instances, the victim feels as though because they were drinking alcohol or had taken illicit substances, that they should keep their story of sexual harassment under wraps. While this may seem like a far-fetched pill to swallow, victim-blaming attitudes are unfortunately common and are used downplay and ignore sexual assault.

While this may seem like a far-fetched pill to swallow, victim-blaming attitudes are unfortunately common and are used downplay and ignore sexual assault.

Recent research conducted by national youth campaign, The Line, revealed that this attitude was also echoed by 15 percent of 12 to 20 year olds surveyed, who believed that if a girl is drunk or affected by drugs, that she is at least partly responsible for unwanted sex. Excuse me, what?! Since when does having a few – or even getting hammered – "ask for" or cause assault? I call bullshit on that.

The onus lies with a small sub-section of creepy douchebros who have declared ‘open season’ on girls and women just trying to enjoy themselves. In my experience, instead of music festivals being a safe space to let go and have a good time, girls and women feel they have to adjust their behaviour to try and avoid some gross dude pushing, touching or otherwise creeping on them.

I can confidently say that most of the festival-goers, musicians and organisers (both guys and girls), that I know, want to stamp out this kind of behaviour. As a collective, we love music festivals with every fibre of our being and we don’t want their future under threat or deemed too dangerous to attend, because of the actions of a few. We want them to be welcoming events, where everyone has a good time and above all, feels comfortable and safe.

What we do know from the research, is that sexual assault, and violence against women more broadly, is most likely to occur when gender inequality is present. So if female artists continue to be ridiculously outnumbered by men in festival line-ups, receive considerably less industry accolades than their male peers, or are shunned from the executive and board jobs in Australia's top music broadcasting bodies, then the problem will persist. It is the culture that says women are 'less than' that really is the root of this issue.

It is the culture that says women are ‘less than’ that really is the root of this issue.

So, how can we tackle this? And what can we do to stop the bad seeds in the music-loving network from acting like absolute #dicks? Well, the answer is simple and it's one that I learnt on my first day of primary school. Be ever-cautious and 'keep your hands and feet to yourself'.

Creepy dudes are NOT entitled to ‘cop a feel’ because a girl has had a few and is dancing in front of them in the mosh pit. That is sexual assault and no amount of 'she was drunk' or 'she shouldn’t put herself in that situation' or 'what did she expect being in a mosh full of blokes?' – can excuse the inexcusable.

We also need to speak up and intervene when we when witness the makings of sexual assault and abuse. If you feel comfortable to, call it out, if not, report the situation to a security guard. We should all take a 'zero dickhead policy' into every festival — and gig — we go to. Music festivals are for everyone. Let's keep it that way.