Sep 02 2014
The 2014 Burning Man festival wrapped up yesterday, ending an 8-day annual gathering of 66,000 people in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, including right wing anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, former progressive Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman. Launched in 1986 in San Francisco, Burning Man now boasts a year-round set of activities with the noble mission of what organizers call “Radical Self-reliance.” Its official mission statement states that Burning Man is “radically inclusive, and its meaning is potentially accessible to anyone.”
In a nutshell, a temporary city is set up on an ancient lake bed in the desert, known as “the Playa.” Gigantic art sculptures dot the landscape, attendees don elaborate costumes, or, in many cases nothing at all, and there are parties. Lots of parties. Once the festival is over, the encampment is dismantled, leaving behind nothing.
It sounds idyllic. And for many it is. But, and you know this was coming – there is a dark underbelly. A young woman from Wyoming died last Thursday at the festival after falling under a large vehicle. There have been reports of sexual assault – in particular a 19 year old woman in 2012 who was drugged, strangled, and raped, and faced an organization ill-equipped to handle the situation.
People of color have documented among the white-dominated attendees, a widespread sense of cultural appropriation of music and dress. Police presence is widespread, further alienating people of color. Also present is the same sort of pressure for women to disrobe that is usually evident at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and that replicates the pornified culture of our mainstream society.
Attending the festival is very expensive, not just in travel and food costs, but entrance fees. And, most recently, the New York Times reported, that at a gathering that embraces counter culture, so-called “Tech elites” from Silicon Valley are over-represented, spending as much of their wealth in the 8 days as possible.
GUEST: Samhita Mukhopadhyay, writer, and a Senior Strategist at Purpose and the former Executive Editor of Feministing.com.
Click here to read Mukhopadhyay’s article on Burning Man.
Explore this year’s Burning Man theme at souk.burningman.com.