Music by VICE

Here's What Men at Electric Forest Had to Say About the Festival's Female-Only Campground

"Personally, I think it's everyone's Forest."

by Rebecca Krauss
Jul 5 2016, 7:45pm

All photos by Rebecca Krauss

This year at Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan, the festival was host to a new initiative called Her Forest dedicated to the "connection, inspiration, and comfort" of female and female-identifying guests. Women who took part in the program had the opportunity to participate in a female-only campground, a panel featuring female leaders in creativity, and "women's circles"—spiritual gatherings that foster connections between participants. According to some of the participants that we spoke to, the project was a welcome one, fostering bonding experiences between campers as well as a heightened feeling of safety.

Still, some of the festival's attendees—both male and female—told us they believed that the Her Forest program contributed to an unwanted gender divide, something that contradicts the festival's typically inclusive spirit. Wanting to hear the opposite sex's opinion, we decided to talk to a handful of first-time and veteran male campers, and get their thoughts on Her Forest, as well as festival safety in general.

Connor, 23

Years Attending Electric Forest: 1

THUMP: To start, what do you know about Her Forest?

From what I know, it's supposed to be a safe space for girls coming to Electric Forest—it's an all female campground where you don't really have to worry about the potential dangers that come with going to a festival by yourself or with a small group.

If there was a His Forest, is that something you'd participate in?
Probably not. Personally, I think it's everyone's Forest. Everyone should be respectful and nice and inclusive to each other, regardless of what additional measures they throw in.

Do you think safety is an issue at Electric Forest?
I would have thought so before I went, just because of the sheer size of it. When you're in a giant forest in the dark, regardless of how careful you are, accidents always happen. Compared to other festivals that I've been to, I saw a fewer amount of problems than I usually do. It seems like everyone takes care of each other really well and there's a good community of people there, including the police and medical staff.

Dexter, 24

Years Attending Electric Forest: 1

Do you think that the initiative might segregate certain populations within the festival?
I personally think it does segregate the festival. They haven't done it for the past 6 years, so I don't get why they've decided to do it now. It just seems kind of sexist to choose one gender over the other.

Do you think they should be offering a His Forest option?
Since they made a Her Forest, they might as well have made a His Forest to keep it fair. But I don't really think they should make either.

What are the benefits of a campsite that includes both genders?
It brings everybody together. For someone who might be intimidated by the opposite sex, it might help them to shake that. And it's not just males and females at Electric Forest. There's transgender people and all types of sexualities. I think that's what makes this forest so special.

Daniel, 22

Years Attending Electric Forest: 2

When you first heard about Her Forest, what assumptions did you make?
I didn't think it was a good idea, kind of gimmicky, but I feel like it could be necessary for some people.

Do you think having an initiative like this is beneficial or does it further separate festival-goers?
I don't think it separates the festival at all. I think a lot of women really wanted to join, and if it allows women to feel more comfortable, then it's a good thing.

Andrew, 24

Years Attending Electric Forest: 5

Do you think safety is a big issue at Electric Forest?
At festivals, yes. At Electric Forest, it's perceived as an environment where it's less likely that something bad is going to happen, just because of the community there. But it's still a good thing to have a safety net.

What do you think is the biggest difference between an all-women and a mixed gender campground?
I think the topics of conversation might be really different, it might be really gossipy or focus more on gender issues—topics that women are more concerned about.

Would you ever camp at an all-men's campground?
Sure. I think it brings together a sense of brotherhood, just like Her Forest achieves a sense of sisterhood and community. I don't think it segregates, it just helps to create comfort amongst people of similar genders.

Do you think a His Forest should have been offered?
I do, yes. For sure.

Chris, 26

Years Attending Electric Forest: 2

Did you have any interest in checking out any of the Her Forest activities at the festival this year?
I didn't check it out, but not because of a lack of interest, it just wasn't a priority. Other things happened that preoccupied my time.

If there was a His Forest, would you participate?
No. I want to camp with all my friends and without any barriers. For me, the whole point of going to Forest is to meet new people and rekindle friendships. I'm coming here to spend time with people, not get away from them.

Do you think women's issues and safety is prevalent at Electric Forest?
Clearly I'm speaking from a male point-of-view, but truthfully I don't think it's an issue at Forest. Forest is one of those places where nudity doesn't equal sexuality. You can show some nipple, you can be naked, whatever. You might get some looks, but it's really just a gender-free place.

Eddie, 27

Years Attending Electric Forest: 2

When you first heard about Her Forest, what did you think it was going to be like?
I thought it was going to be a couple of hippies in a peace circle. I was surprised to hear that they didn't allow men to join the first women's circle of the weekend. I think that they realized that was a mistake, and the second day, they let people know that everyone could join.

It was always their plan to invite men to the the second women's circle of the weekend, actually. Does that change your perception at all?
I think it might have been poorly communicated. When you told me that you went with your boyfriend and they wouldn't let him in because he's a guy, to me, that seems like it defeats the purpose. If they're trying to encourage equality, empowerment, and get some dialogue going, then they should be letting everyone in.

Should they add a His Forest next year?
I don't think that there's a market for it. If there's reason for a man to feel unsafe in the regular campground then fine, but I'm just not sure that it's something that would be needed.

Rebecca Krauss is on Twitter.

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