Having returned from working at Roskilde Festival last week it is clear that culture has a part to play in the way that we respect gender.

Females squatting and urinating at the festival is as common as men using trees and fences and no one bats an eyelid as the equality and respectfulness of this race is second to none when it comes to ensuring that our human right to go unmolested in all aspects of daily life take centre stage.

Is the festival totally free from challenges and issues? No, but then could a festival ever be?

The delights of the nude running race around the site; that has taken place for many years and is still participated in by both genders, is seen as fun and not something that provides the chance for voyeurs to view from afar behind the cover of a carefully placed newspaper (whether in front of their eyes or on their laps.

Now go back to last December at the European Health & Safety Group seminar where a number of Dutch festival goers aged 14-16 were interviewed about their preferences. There were festival representatives from across Europe present.

It was clear from the answers to the questions given, that those promoting and developing festivals had little idea of how to cater for this audience as it differed remarkably from the 20-45 year olds that they were used to dealing with, from their social media preferences to the music that they listened to.

But the really telling question came right as the end. A festival organiser from Germany asked ‘If there was one thing that you hate at festivals what would it be?’ The resounding answer was ‘Being molested by older drunken men that ought to know better’. A damning indictment of the way we treat females of all ages at such events.

Whilst working at another event recently, when any female tried to crowd surf, their clothes were unceremoniously ripped from them and they ended up almost nude on top of the audience to be handed over the barrier to the security personnel.

When interviewed, one of the girls stated that this was intolerable as they were groped, squeezed and generally abused.

Such behaviour has been part and parcel of our festivals for many years and seems to show no signs of abating.

One of those interviewed at another festival said that, ‘if women are going to crowd surf they have to put up with the consequences’. An interesting but invalid point. It echoes the point from one drunken observer that, ‘if you are going to wear next to nothing and drink pints at festivals, then getting raped is inevitable.’

The really perplexing element in such comments is the loss of respect for the female gender, the lack of acceptance of difference and the inability of people to create a culture of safety, respect and tolerance.

The molesting of people in the crowd at New Years Eve in Germany showed how part of a culture believed that this was the norm and that if women were going to be present, then what did they expect.

Given the way that women are objectivised at festivals rather than just left to get on with having fun and enjoying themselves, it is no wonder that there will be a Swedish women’s only festival.

Isn’t it time that males started to respect diversity, difference and the female points of view which might not be focused on getting totally pissed and touching up a few unsuspecting women but on the music, friends, fun and just generally having a great time, with no need to worry about the actions of a few stupid and ignorant idiots.


Professor Chris Kemp is CEO of Mind over Matter Consultancy and works with world leaders in their fields running Extreme Corporate Away Days for leaders and managers, as well as Executive Education and Team Development programmes.

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