Surprising no one, music festivals are disproportionately dude-heavy again this year.

Every summer, Lollapalooza brings some of the biggest names in music to Chicago for four days of fun.

On March 21, the festival announced its 2018 lineup, highlighting acts like The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, and dozens of other bands. Almost immediately, people noticed a trend: The headliners were almost entirely made up of guys.

Just 13 of the 85 bands showcased on the festival's announcement tweet were fronted by women. The big name headliners are totally worth the price of admission and are worthy of that sort of top billing. It's just a little frustrating to see some of the country's largest music festivals (like Lollapalooza and Tennessee's Bonnaroo) skip out on booking women in prominent slots.


In recent years, people have become more vocal about underrepresentation at festivals. And yes, it matters.

According to Nielsen Music, 32 million people attended at least one music festival in 2014, with those numbers pretty evenly split between men and women. California's Coachella — which, to its credit, does include acts like Beyoncé, SZA, St. Vincent, HAIM, and Cardi B in prominent spots in the lineup — has struggled to shake its "Brochella" stereotype.

When the 2018 Bonnaroo lineup was released, writer Trish Bendix commented that it was "such a bummer to see so few women on the lineup," and she was right — less than one in five Bonnaroo artists included women. Tegan and Sara, who have performed at the festival in the past, replied, calling for "a movement within the fan world and the press" to challenge gendered imbalances.

Writing at Into, Bendix slammed the imbalance, saying that it contributes to a culture where a festival can become "a very unfriendly place for women and LGBTQs to be as participants or attendees."

Are music festivals "unfriendly places" for women and LGBTQ people? They certainly can be, and some are fighting to change it.

The issue isn't the performers or the bookers, but the crowds. In a May 2017 Los Angeles Times article, music promoter Sara St. Hilaire discussed the time she was harassed at Bonnaroo, saying that a man followed her through the crowd, groping her.

"One time a guy even lifted up my shirt in the crowd," she said. "There's a sense of community and 'we're all in this together' that gets misconstrued at festivals. I remember being younger and not understanding that kind of thing as sexual assault. Society raises everyone to think 'boys will be boys' and it gets excused."

The full Lollapalooza poster.

You may be wondering what this has to do with who gets booked — and that's totally understandable.

The answer lies in a festival culture that promotes a free-for-all with a dangerously loose interpretation of consent.

The Pitchfork Music Festival, also based in Chicago, listed a "zero-tolerance harassment policy" on its 2017 festival website: "The Festival believes everyone should feel safe during the event and works to ensure this. We will help maintain this by not tolerating harmful behaviors, which may include non-consensual touching or verbal harassment. If a participant chooses to break these policies they may be removed from the fest." Lollapalooza's website contains a "Safety" page with a copy of its own harassment policy.

While these are good, important steps towards improving festival culture, change can't truly happen until the most visible women there — the performers — are treated as more than a mere afterthought.

A photo from Lollapalooza 2006. Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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