Since 1999, thousands of people have flocked to a remote valley in Southern California every year in search of music, desert, and the timeless cool of Festival. It has become quite the maiden voyage for some young women—a journey and an event that has far deeper significance than any other weekend party or camping trip.
Naturally, humans crave peak experiences, heightened awareness, and spiritual expression: music festivals are historically a motherland for this. Woodstock, Burning Man, and Coachella are a part of our American vocabulary. We have visited these cultural events to find ourselves and these peak escapades, and to some extent, we have. But not all of these festivals were created equal. And this year in particular, a lot of Coachella critics are calling the once-loved festival superficial.
The reasons people are critiquing Coachella are innumerable. You can hate on the exorbitant ticket prices, the commercial feel, the drug usage, or the culturally insensitive headdresses. However, we’re not here to knock the bikinis and short shorts many Coachella kill-joys have been slandering. The issue isn’t that you’re wearing a crop top, it’s that Coachella culture tells you that you have to—that you need to look a certain way, and that certain standards need to be met if you want to fit in. We’re talking about the "Coachella Diet," work out plans, and myriads of products sold to festival attendees with the goal of attaining Coachella "perfection." (H&M, Sephora, and American Express are some companies that both sponsor the music festival and advertise special Coachella products and deals.)
The festival has evolved into an event that puts expectations on women’s physical bodies and appearances. We love some of the musicians who’ve played so far this year (Azeaila Banks, St. Vincent, Kiesza, Alabama Shakes, and Florence and the Machine), and we've seen some earth moving shows at Coachella before (we're talking Bjork and Radiohead). But how do we make sense of a music festival that increasingly makes physical appearance more important than the music?
Here's a photographic look at Coachella in the past 12 years—where do you think we're headed?
Images Via, TheDailyTruffle, ApeCulture, Coachella.com, Buzzfeed
Bee Gray is a creative writer and essayist living in Oakland, California. She loves studying contemporary culture, media, and human behavior. She thinks life is art, she thinks women are art, she surrounds herself in goddesses, she can't stop talking. Follow her on Instagram @beesuschrist.