Politics of the Pit

Where Do We Go Now? The Aftermath of Rapestock

Berkowitz hints that RAINN has approached at least a couple of Woodstock's more aggressive bands about having a presence at their shows; in an earlier interview with Billboard, he said he'd welcome a benefit concert by Limp Bizkit. "In raw self-interest, the moneyand attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hot line better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," he told the Voice. "But beyond that, I think it has a value in talking to their fans-for people like that to step up and say, 'Talk is one thing, but you can't step over this line. You can't go out and rape people.' "

Good luck getting Bizkit's Fred Durst to move beyond his third-grade "It's not my fault" phase long enough to do anything proactive, though. Check out MTV's Woodstock retrospective; it's staggering how quickly Durst shifted blame after exiting the stage. Then check out the self-indulgent Durst-directed video for the song "Re-arranged," a visual reiteration that the burning, looting, and violence were-as he said backstage-"not our fault." In a recent Washington Post article, Durst says he finds the rape "terrible ... demonic ... disgusting." He says, as a Southern man, he believes "men should always respect women." So he doesn't hate women-he's just dumb. Admitting that some women might be uncomfortable with the breast baring now common at Bizkit shows, he offers this sage advice: "Try to ignore the things in life that you don't like if at all possible."

But not all musicians can ignore the hostility toward women they've seen. The Offspring's Dexter Holland called attention to the problem before dark on Woodstock's first day: "I see a lot of girls passing overhead and they're getting really fuckin' groped. They ought to be able to do that without getting molested. So if you're a guy and you have a girl passing over you, do me a favor and give her a fuckin' break. And if you're a girl and you have a guy passing over you, do me a favor and grab him by the balls."

Woodstock trailer-and-ground abuse gauntlet: "If you'd seen it, your blood would have gone cold."
Woodstock trailer-and-ground abuse gauntlet: "If you'd seen it, your blood would have gone cold."

"I've found that if you say something with a little humor," he says, "it tends to go over better than if you just beat them over the head with it." Holland recalls "a girl coming over [the barricade], probably about 15 years old. You could see that she was trying to cover her breasts with her arms and fold them up. And you could tell that she was very uncomfortable, because there were about five hands on her arms that were trying to get to her breast.... It just bothered me to where I thought I should say something about it."

Closing the festival two nights later, a fully naked Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) made a similar point. "Just because a girl out there wants to feel free and take her shirt off doesn't mean a bunch of ya have to go grabbin' her tits and stuff.... Those tits are a girl's private property and they're a beautiful thing. So ya gotta respect them." Later at the MTV Video Music Awards, the Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock, who didn't perform at Woodstock, encouraged artists to get involved and work with promoters and security to ensure a more female-friendly atmosphere.

But finding solutions is difficult when, mired in a frenzy of finger-pointing or general apathy, you can't identify the real problem. Pick your favorite simple excuse-open sexuality, drug and alcohol intake, absentee security, inept planning, misogynist lyrics, irresponsible stage presence, expensive water, Clinton-Lewinsky, misalignment of the planets, poor parenting. Whatever the cause, all we do know is that some women suffered irreversible trauma. And that some women probably don't even realize they were violated. "How many knew the difference between having a bad time and a crime being committed?" Rob Sheffield wonders. In an article for Rolling Stone, Sheffield describes a crowd of men, on top of a trailer and on the ground, repeatedly grabbing girls as they walked by, forcing them to flash their breasts. "I was scared," he says now. "If you'd seen it, your blood would have gone cold. I was watching women be picked up and I was failing to understand why they weren't interested in going to security. I don't know why they saw themselves as not having a right to something better. They didn't pretend to like it. I don't know why they didn't see themselves as worth sticking up for. It was depressing."

Nobody asks, or deserves, to be sexually assaulted. But it's discouraging when a woman chooses to transfer responsibility for her own well-being to a group of strangers without assessing the danger of the environment and considering the consequences. Delusions of "it won't happen to me" are more dangerous now than even five or 10 years ago. Half-naked, overheated, drunk, and drugged-up, too many women at Woodstock trusted similarly drunk and drugged-up, half-naked, violent idiots with their bodies. It's not fair that we have to think that way, but it's the reality we're working with. "I saw a lot of pit dilettantes who didn't know what they were getting into," Sheffield says. "It was their first time in a pit. It's where people go to kick ass and have their asses kicked. It's not something you dip your toe in and then pull your toe out." But some girls never intended to try the pit; they were physically forced in. Saying women need to know how to handle themselves isn't enough.

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