I’ve developed a deep love for a lot of things since I started college two years ago- hula hooping, waking up early, drinking coffee- but attending music festivals often finds itself at the top of my list. In my eyes, there is nothing more beautiful than a group of people coming together to celebrate music, creativity and community. And what could be more cosmic than dancing to a beautiful song under the moon and the stars with hundreds of people? This is the part where my mom calls me a “comeflor” (literal translation: flower-eater), but I really do think it’s a powerful experience.
During my time going to festivals, however, I have noticed that there’s something significant missing from a lot of lineups: a fair number of women and nonbinary artists on the bill, especially women of color. (Just to give you an example, out of more than 60 bands set to perform at this year’s Suwannee Hulaween, less than 15 acts include women, and the number of women of color artists can be counted on one hand.)
This is an issue that extends far beyond the realm of music festivals and deep into the roots of American society, which makes it a difficult thing to think about when you’re trying to have a good time. But when we’re lacking the voices of women and nonbinary folks at major festivals, we’re excluding them from the dialogue that takes place at these gatherings and ultimately degrading the experience as a whole. Some will argue that the message is more important than the sender, but different senders bring different messages and we should open our ears to all of them.
When lineups feature a more diverse range of artists, festivals will foster an environment that’s inclusive of everyone. This is when things will really get buzzing with ideas, art, and activism. The more accessible music festivals become, the closer they will get to realizing peace, love and unity and transforming the world we live in.
So where do we start? It’s essential that we encourage and commemorate female and woc artists. Listen to their music, go to their shows, share it with your friends. Support festivals that give a space to queer people, poc and people with disabilities, such as Hoechella and JORTSFEST in the Southeast. Put on your own festival! Above all, keep the conversation going. We cannot move forward if we’re not looking out for where we can improve.