Everyone who’s anyone has heard of the spectacular music festival known as Coachella. It’s so many partygoers dream to make an appearance even if it is for one day. To be submerged in the music, the celebrities, the fashion—what’s not to love about Coachella? With all the sweaty bodies rubbing up against each other, you might hesitate to question the nature of your sudden discomfort: did that guy just grab your butt? Or was it an accident? Is rape culture a real thing?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines rape culture as: A society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse. Sexual assault is romanticized in movies, on television, and in music. Specifically, women are far more often affected by a sexual assault from men, but we should remember that sexual assault happens to everyone. According to the Guardian sexual assault against women has increased rapidly since 2012. It’s an odd paradox. How is it that, in a world apparently advancing by its more prevalent protests and women’s marches against sexual assault still be moving backward in a woman’s fundamental right to consent to be touched?
Strangely, Coachella—a festival that oozes of woodstock-styled peace, love, and music— is a breeding ground for sexual assault and rape. Around 126,000 people attend Coachella. Vera Papisova, a writer for Teen Vogue went to Coachella for a total of 10 hours and was groped 22 times. While covering the festival, she interviewed 54 women and all of them confirmed that they had been somehow assaulted in a sexual manner at Coachella. A survey found shocking research that 90% of festival goers become victims of some sort of nonconsensual and uncomfortable assault. There seems to be a common trait in all of the stories that men think it’s ok to touch women any way they desire because the atmosphere, the festive clothing, and the general party vibe “invite this” (in their minds).
Yes… the old adage: Men think that women wearing revealing clothing or costuming that somehow enhance their expression of sexuality are “asking for it,” no matter how many times we tell them no. At the risk of being overly precise, I will remind you of something very basic in 2018: Just because I’m showing a little cleavage doesn’t mean I want you to grab my breasts. It simply means that I’m in a comfort zone where, as with a bathing suit on the beach, I feel like showing a bit more skin. That is all it means. A quote from Vera’s piece comes from a 16-year-old girl, someone still in high school: “Just the way people touch you when you’re walking through a crowd […] It’s scary. You can’t trust the random people around you to help you. And with those bigger men, it’s much harder and it’s scarier to say something to them because they might get angry and violent.” I find it so sad and scary that someone in our school, wanting to attend one of the world’s premier music festivals, could be the one saying this. She could be your friend, your sister, someone’s daughter. This is not the kind of world I want to grow up in and not the kind of world in which I want to raise my children.
Women, as a whole, can do right now by pushing the issue and helping to protect themselves. Even though we live in Singapore—an extremely, almost surreally safe place— we still must not let our guard down when clubbing, when attending Laneway, or even when walking home at night. Here are a few simple reminders to keep yourself safe:
- Don’t have your face buried in your phone, be aware of your surroundings
- Do have your phone in your hand when walking alone, just in case
- When going out, always stay in a group. If you get separated, have a specific place to meet if that happens
- Be aware of cars slowing down next to you, change direction if you feel unsafe and get to the closest crowd or public, peopled area. It will take them a bit to turn around and they will not follow into public spaces.
- If you feel like someone is following you put ur house keys in between your knuckles. You have a weapon
- Put flip flops in your purse if you’re planning on wearing heels just in case you need to run; yes, it’s better to run in flip-flops than heels.
- Avoid dark, uncrowded alleyways and streets.
- If you are attacked, don’t use strength. Your goal is to launch a quick defense and get away: attack the eyes, ears, nose, and groin. Hit with your elbow; it’s hard and can inflict more pain than you think.
- In an attack, bring as much attention to yourself as possible by screaming and thrashing. You’ll be scared, but this is no time to be meek and quiet.
And finally, realize that these common sense tactics are not just for those cinema-scene lone pursuit moments. I use Coachella in this article merely to point out that, where rape culture exists, it does so in broad daylight, in large crowds, and under the watchful eyes of bystanders that can be of little help if you call no attention to your plight. The best reaction to sexual assault is action. Let’s put a stop to this.