As I mentioned in my recent blog post, I volunteered at Envision Festival and had the most incredible time there. However, there was one incident which stood out from the rest of the weekend, and while it was over in less than 30 seconds and was relatively minor, it has been playing on my mind. It was so completely alien to the vibe and atmosphere of the rest of the event that I think I am having trouble balancing the two in my mind.
I was kneeling by a stage, braiding the hair of two fantastic twelve year old girls who were veterans of Burning Man (yes, I was unbelievably jealous). A middle-aged guy approached, and asked if I’d mind posing for a photo. As I was dressed up to the nines, with blue braids, glitter all over my face and neon body paint on, of course I agreed. I stood up and smiled, and he motioned for me to turn around. A little creepy, but eh, whatever. He snapped a shot, and I turned back to the girls. He stepped forwards to give me a hug. As I stepped towards him, he reached around and pinched my bum. I stepped backwards, with some kind of what-the-fuck-just-happened look on my face, and he smiled and tried to pull me in for a hug. The last time this happened, I backhanded the guy across the face, but being at such a chill festival and caught quite off guard by the whole thing, I just laughed and said ‘I don’t think so, dude.’
Like I said, a 30 second encounter. What surprised me so much I think was how calculated it was to approach a girl for a photo with the sole intention of trying to cop a feel. The other thing that made me wonder was why this person was at Envision in the first place (I later saw him at a workshop on incorporating spirituality into your daily life and just thought- really?)
The tone of the rest of the event was so amazing and respectful- at our first volunteer meeting we had a whole talk on consent and boundaries, and multiple people asked me if I was ok with them giving me a hug which I really appreciated. I don’t consider this to be a huge assault on myself, but it was a huge step over what I was comfortable with and was expecting and the guy obviously knew that his behaviour was totally unacceptable.
I’m writing this blog post because I told this story to my friend Austin, and he asked me how many other people I had told.
‘Probably 4 or 5’ I said.
’You need to tell it a hundred times’ he told me. ‘People need to hear about these kinds of things happening.’
So here I am, telling this story once over for hundreds of you to read. Not because it’s some earth-shattering or life-changing event, but because this kind of constant disrespect and belittling of women is just a symptom of our society’s problems and goes a long way towards holding myself and other girls back. Maybe one small step at a time we can do something about it.