Content Note: Disturbing themes below.
The festival/hippy/psychedelic community is becoming filled with rich techies, take Burner for example. One of the problems of having a community brimming with extremely privileged people possessing a lot of power is that when things go wrong, the community doesn't want to lose their privileges and so doesn't help or really address the issues. This makes people feel able to do as they please. I've just watched The perfect storm: building a crypto-utopia in Puerto Rico and was left feeling incredibly disturbed and angry. These are clear neo-colonial practices that these white neo-hippy technies are imposing on the local communities. Don't get me wrong, I'm kind of joking in a way when I say that I hate hippies. It has become almost comical, a way for me to deal with what I went through in these spaces. In terms of actually being an ecofeminist, i'm still a bit of a hippy. I mean, I talk to plants for gods sake. <3 It doesn't mean when I meet a hippy I dislike them immediately or that I don't have hippy loved ones. This anger comes from a fully-fledged ex hippy. I spent 8 years committed to hippy and psychedelic communities, ones which I have thankfully left due to experiencing a huge amount of trauma there. I can't distinguish what I went though from an experience of someone leaving cult. It was really difficult trying to leave - it was incredibly painful extracting myself.
When I worked in one particular organisation in these communities, my role was working on diversity issues there which, of course, maxed me out. It was very frustrating, as usually I wasn't allowed to do really effective work. There was again this exterior representation of 'feminism', and an external concern with 'equality', but then things going on in these organisations and communities that were unacceptable but weren't addressed. I myself experienced a lot of disturbing things. For example, when I started having a boyfriend, the founder of the organisation demoted me and replaced me with someone they had been having sexual relations with. That is wrong on so many levels. How fucking creepy is that. Being punished for having a boyfriend is sexual harassment by definition, and when I raised these issues, I was gaslight and frozen out of important activities.
When I was growing up, I didn't understand why people were quite anti-hippy. I grew up in Brighton, so being a hippy was second nature to me. What do I mean when I say hippy? I'm mainly refering to a certain mindset, a new age culture which is linked very much to a festival culture. When I started to talk about my difficult experiences, many others where very familiar with the creepy hippy stereotype. This comes from somewhere very real. For example, because of the supposedly 'woke' and, claimed 'new ways' these communities looked at relationships, they are extremely touchy. Hugging everyone you meet all the time and touching lots is an expected standard, and while that can be nice with the right person, I experienced many hugs that where assumed and made me feel uncomfortable. That would linger a bit too long, that made me feel gross and frightened. It has contributed to the situation that I am in now where I am very awkward about touch.
Recently, I went to a psychedelic talk. One of the presenters I could immediately tell was one of these creepy types. He talked about this experience where he tripped and literally became a messiah. After the talk I met with others who all voiced how uncomfortable they felt with him. 'Did you see the flyers that he was giving out?' someone asked me. They were handing out flyers for his tantra lessons *shudders*, which filled me with absolute horror. He didn't mention this in the talk at all, and it felt incredibly sly way to advertise these 'lessons'. I've heard of a lot of bad things happening in these spaces, so I immediately felt alarmed by this. Not that I'm against healthy relationships, but I sincerely doubt - from hearing many stories and from experience - that a necessary level of training will be given to things such as consent and boundaries in order to actually allow healthy relations. Many parties that i went to had areas where it was a 'sex party' which I was never a part of, but I always remember feeling that these spaces didn't feel safe enough or mature enough to be hosting such events. People have to go through a lot of training to be able to host such activities in a way that is healthy for all those who participate. Take the 'Edgy' Slave Market Place for example, how seriously racist and damaging that sex-centric festival activity had.
Once I hosted an event which looked at gender, sexuality and psychedelics. The focus of the event was feminist, yet one of the community members independently tried to host an orgy after my event, using the title of the event to indicate that it was supported by the organisation, and was a part of the event that I was organising. Obviously, I hit the roof about it. The founder of the organisation relinquished all responsibility, so I dealt with this one my own. The founder also changed the picture of the event to two women being sexually engaged, which is totally inappropriate for a FB event page for so many reasons, and this I also was NOT OKAY with. Their reaction to my protest was 'I'm in charge, so what I say goes'. After a lot of work and emotional labour, I got to fix these gross issues. For one, being 'sexually liberated' does not mean shoving sex in everyone's faces at every opportunity. The 60s and 70s sexual movement was riddled with abuse and patriarchy, and it is not something that should be repeated, though I'm afraid that is what is happening. They need to be spaces where people who are asexual or have been sexually traumatised also feel safe. Also it was clear over sexualisation of lesbian activity for the male gaze which is so messed up in itself. I could go on...
I am sick and tired of people using the 'egalitarian', 'one love' 'feminist' guise to excuse their creepy neo-colonial, racist, kyriarchic behaviours and practices. All it seems to be is a concern with getting laid and getting smashed and using this rhetoric as a means to an end. Well, I don't fucking buy it. F U C K O F F. It is also incredibly dangerous, because at least if someone is obviously dangerous, we get to consciously avoid them like the plague. But it is much darker, and I would argue much more harmful, when someone claims one thing on the outside and then their behaviours and the behaviour of their community actually mirrors the opposite. They gain people's trust and loyalty and then betray that. Really disturbing, damaging and oppressive practices. This insidious experience is particularly hard to pin down - especially before the damage is done - and it is easy to gaslight those who have been harmed like I myself experienced. This bullshit uses these guises to assert themselves as 'peacekeepers', as 'doing the right thing', as 'tantric masters' *snorts* or 'healers'. Talk about a white savoir complex! And we know how all that peacekeeping bullshit ended.
I have heard countless stories of being people abused by supposed healers, and in communities that are supposed to be 'enlightened'. So, what can be done about it? These are complex issues, but I'm glad that some work has always been and continues to be done. Well done to all those working to improve things! I've been privileged enough to have written articles on these subjects, and have done work wherever I can even though I have promised myself, because I find this area so re-traumatising, to take care of myself, to walk away from this field. After lots of public outcry against some oppressive behaviors and revelations of sexual violence happening in these communities, in one instance some people got together to create policies that would help make places safer. Even though I had left, I was still doing what I could on this behind the scenes and monitoring what was happenings. Some of the reactions, especially form those most privileged indeities, where absolutely disturbing. I remember one comment saying that instead of having these policies to protect people to actively trigger them instead, as, and I quote them: 'I want to get my teeth into people's problems'. G r o s s . Get away. I don't want your teeth in my issues thank you very much. These policies were rejected by that particular community on the grounds that they were opposing peoples rights. People's rights to do what exactly?! Harass and abuse others? How is that in any way a reasonable reason to reject them? Instead of continuing to fight these issues, me and many others decided to stop putting work into it because if a community wasn't going to bother doing anything to ensure its members are safe and protected, then fuck them.
There is some good news, however. I've worked with groups such as Breaking Convention who published my version of a safer spaces policy that me and another organiser drew up. They hosted their first diversity panel to which I was invited to speak at and they plan on continually doing more on these important subjects. They awarded me a Research Award in 2017 and I spoke about my paper, which was on ecofeminism and psychedelic philosophy, and I was able to talk about these issues in both talks. Many came up to me to tell me how important this was to them, and some also talked about the policy being so important and such a relief to see. I'm not quite sure where to end aside from that I hope that things improve and that these spaces are made to actually reflect what they claim to. As I (unfortunately) have so much to say on this, I might update this post soon with more things I have experienced. If these issues are important to you, please feel free to contact me as I am happy to listen, provide support and/or signpost to other services which may help.