I love Lollapalooza. I love it so much that this weekend will be my fifth year attending the largest outdoor music festival in Chicago. I’ve been every summer since I first moved to the Windy City. It is because of my love for the festival that I must ask, “Lollapalooza, do you have a woman problem?”
TimeOut Chicago put up a couple interactive infographics this week showing various attributes about the Lollapalooza lineup over time. The one that stood out the most for me was the infographic showing the number of bands fronted by women compared to the number fronted by men. Of the 128 bands playing at Lollapalooza this year, a mere 28 of them feature a woman. That’s just about one in five bands at Lolla.
2014 is not an aberration. In fact, this is one of the best years Lolla has ever had in terms of representing women. Last year’s lineup featured only 23 bands led by a woman. The only year since 2008 that had more woman-led bands than this year was 2011 when 30 of the 128 bands featured a woman. Even more egregiously, of the six bands headlining Lollapalooza this year not one of them is led by a woman. The highest ranked woman on the line-up is Lorde, playing in the 6:45pm timeslot on Friday of the festival.
Is it really that much to ask to see more women on stage at Lollapalooza? It’s not like there are a dearth of women making fantastic music, so seeing so few of them at Lollapalooza makes me wonder whether Lolla really values the music of lady-led bands. It sends the message that women in music are an exception and less esteemed than their male counterparts.
Lollapalooza should take note because other festivals have also had problems with their acts appealing to female festival-goers. This week the Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, OH dropped headliner R. Kelly after protests over R. Kelly’s history of sexually assaulting minors. One group who was protesting the festival even started a rival festival called FeMMeFest, which focuses on creating a female-friendly festival featuring local bands and raising money for the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Assault.
I also question the absence of a clear anti-harassment policy at Lollapalooza. Anti-harassment policies are becoming standard for conferences and events on non-music topics, so why doesn’t one exist for a festival where thousands of people are mingling along with alcohol and a general lack of clothes? What are Lollapalooza’s rules about touching or harassing someone without his or her consent? Who do I report an incident to if I’m groped during a show? Lollapalooza doesn’t seem to have any policy dealing with these types of issues. There are plenty of stories of sexual assault and druggings at music festivals so it seems negligent to not have a policy in place.
I want to go to Lollapalooza and see more women on stage. I want to know that when I’m in the audience at a show I won’t be groped or otherwise inappropriately touched and that I have a place to report an incident if it happens. Lollapalooza is one of the biggest music festivals in the U.S. and should be setting the example in reaching out to women. It starts with making an effort to include more bands led by women and a clear anti-harassment policy.
All photos by Jamie Bernstein.