The Feminine Manifesto of Festival Fashion: Slut Shaming within Australian Festival Culture

Words by Emily Fuller

Three women walk into a festival. One is dressed in a T-shirt, one in a bikini top, and the other fashioning an impressive set of glitter boobs. What’s the punch line? Well, I’m not really sure – they’re all just women to me – but I’m certain that someone would be bound to utilise their crude sense of humour to formulate something sexually degrading.

Outfit and slut shaming is something that infiltrates and dictates an alarmingly large portion of the Australian festival culture. Mouths agape, hushed whispers, completely unwarranted sexual advances – these are just a few of the reactions women fall victim to in such environments. We are made to feel like nothing but a mere science experiment, forced under a microscope for intense scrutiny and speculation. Not just by men, but by other members of our supposed sisterhood. Moreover, this carries through to mainstream media. Last year, Lismore’s The Northern Star published an article expressing with great disappointment how Splendour In The Grass fashions “leave little to the imagination” – interestingly enough, this was written and titled by a male (shock-horror). Mind you, this newspaper is hardly the sole offender of such shaming, as our social media is often plastered by articles of “The Hottest Girls of Coachella” or “The Dos and Don’ts of Festival Fashion”.

However, these people who maintain such judgement fail to recognize that, for men and women alike, fashion is a creative form of self-expression, and just as an artist’s style grows and adapts over the course of many years, so does our sense of personal style and self-expression. It is a universal right for both women and men to wear whatever we desire and to own our sexuality through fashion. These forms of outfit or slut shaming cultivate and materialize as sexual objectification which leads to a multiplicity of toxic consequences, particularly for women. Primarily, it can create certain expectations that women feel obligated to fulfil through dress – we are unconsciously manipulated to consider if what we wear might evoke invitation for unwanted sexual attention. Don’t be fooled ladies and gentlemen; this in fact is just another practice of victim blaming and further endorses rape culture.

I cannot help but ponder about where this form of shaming originates. Who has the moral authority to pass classified judgement regarding the clothing or lack thereof that a woman is fashioning? To answer this simplistically; absolutely no one holds such power or discretion. Nudity empowers some, just in the same vain that modesty empowers some. Different things – in this particular case it’s clothing – empower different women, and it is not our place to tell them which one is more acceptable or morally upstanding.

So, here is my final statement – call it a feminine manifesto if you will. Ladies, be loud and proud. Be colourful and vivacious. Exhibit boldness and bare your skin without shame. Express your sense of self through the artistic means of fashion. And above all, celebrate all variations of women and their choice of attire rather than contributing to the toxicity of shaming and objectification – we are all on the same team of womankind after all.

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