Interview Highlight: This Is Not Your Fest

TINY Fest logo

The Pencil Sharpener interviewed This Is Not Your Fest (TINY Fest) founders/organizers Danielle and Marie. TINY Fest started as a direct response to a local Oakland pop punk fest, as Danielle and Marie, after calling out one of the organizers for sexually assaulting multiple women, experienced exile from the pop punk scene, bullying, and stalking from the perpetrator. All proceeds from the four-day festival will go to Bay Area Women Against Rape.

I am Elie Katzenson, and I am here with Danielle and Marie, the organizers of This is Not Your Fest, aka TINY Fest. This is a four day music festival taking place all over the East Bay. It’s a benefit for Bay Area Women Against Rape, the dates are September 27th to the 30th. There’s a pre-festival drag show at the Ivy Room, there’s a couple of all ages shows, and y’all have more than 30 bands playing?
: There’s been a lot of interest, we actually had to turn away a few bands. The interest and the support has been really overwhelming, and we are really excited to have everybody on board.

Danielle: It’s pretty amazing considering that this started as an idea of a one day show that turned into a four day festival at five different venues and 29 bands.

What was the impetus for starting This Is Not Your Fest?
: The very beginning of this started with me calling out a local organizer of another local festival that doesn’t happen anymore. He was a promoter and booker who was very big in the Oakland music scene. It started with my frustration with people not wanting to take responsibility for the information and his lack of accountability...

Like hearing of an inappropriate behavior and completely excusing it?
: Yeah, excusing it for various reasons, whether they were friends with him for many years, or the pull he had in the music scene. I think a lot of bands had concerns about not getting booked anymore if they did listen to what I was saying and stand up for the survivors.

And you would call yourself a member of what local music scene?
: This all started with me being in the pop-punk scene and in calling out this person I ended up basically getting exiled from that music scene. His friends bullied me out, he would stalk me down in public.

This is a good moment, if you, Marie, could read the mission statement of TINY Fest.
: We wrote our mission statement with the assistance of a couple other people who are really important to creating this fest.

-Defend our shows, venues, and communities from perpetrators and apologists of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault

-Increase awareness and organization against domestic violence and sexual predation, with the goal of preventing predators and removing abusers and apologists ability to participate, function in, or profit from our scene

-Hold our venues, record labels, promoters, bookers, bands, engineers, patrons, and community accountable for their words, actions and associations

-Champion the needs of those who have survived abuse or are being abused through direct action and a zero-tolerance politic, thereby fostering a safer music scene free of abusers and those who enable them.

Can you tell me more about how you came to write these together and how they took direction?
: We started planning this festival in December of 2017. We have put this together over the last nine months, and we had a lot of help from a lot of friends. This mission statement went through several iterations. The main point is that we are not going to tolerate this behavior anymore, and we want to stand up not only for ourselves, but for the people who don’t have a voice anymore and who were exiled from the scene.

We would see a lot of people at shows, then they would disappear. It was always like, “What happened to these people, where did they go, why did they stop coming?” Then you find out later that these horrible things happened to them, and they didn’t feel comfortable or safe.

Danielle: The result of getting pushed out of that scene is that we started going to different kinds of shows, seeing all different kinds of bands. It led us to meet a lot of really great people, but also we saw that this is a widespread problem. It’s not just in the pop punk scene, it’s everywhere. That’s why one of the goals of TINY Fest is to have bands from as many scenes as we possibly could.

Marie: For us festival organizers, it’s critical that all scenes come together and support each other and make a community effort to not stand for this kind of behavior anymore.

The festival is going to be an amazing gathering of energy and people. It’s going to show how you can create a safe and fun show experience for every type of person where no one feels unwelcome or in danger. What steps are you going to take to have people know who to boycott and who to support? Is there going to be an information platform where people can learn this information?
: A lot of that is going to come from the people we are having table. Throughout this whole experience, we found people with a lot of good resources to share. I’ve been working with a group called ABO Comics which is a queer prison abolitionist group who create comics illustrated by queer and trans prisoners. All the proceeds go back to the prisoners. I was at the Queer Zine Fest yesterday and there were so many zines and resources. That’s one of the cool things about Oakland, people putting that information out there and having the courage to do so.

I find myself thinking about what it’s going to feel like at the very end of this festival. It might be inevitable that we continue to work on TINY Fest-affiliated projects throughout the year. It could be a yearly fest or smaller shows once a month.

Marie: We will have people and resources available at our fest merch table. If a person is a survivor of assault, wants to support a friend who is a survivor, or just wants to learn more, they can learn about things like consent, abuse, and post-assault options.

Danielle: Bay Area Women Against Rape takes every resource that our community has, for survivors of sexual assault, which aren’t a lot, and advocate for them.

They help them see all their options?
: Exactly. A lasting effect that I hope this festival has is that it makes somebody so afraid to sexually assault somebody because we will throw a whole damn festival against them.

Marie: We are going to work to have resources online after the festival, either on our Facebook/Instagram, perhaps on a shared Google Drive or in a zine.

When you have a conversation with anyone about sexual assault, it doesn’t tend to look at the long-term consequences for the survivors, it tends to look at the long-term consequences of the perpetrator and how they can re-enter the group/society later. It’s not an irrelevant point but would you say, based on the zero tolerance politic mentioned in your mission statement, that you have forfeited your right to participate here because of your behavior?
: Definitely. An important detail of that is that there are people who just will not take accountability for their actions. If there’s no accountability there’s no healing from that. What I am exploring right now, and I don’t have a direct answer for it, is how do we fix it? Why would somebody hold themselves accountable for their actions if it only meant exile? It can be very situational.

There are so many gradations of behavior–verbal versus physical, the style of boundaries and sense of humor–it’s very sensitive. Every woman I know, and I’m sure lots of other gender identities and men as well, has experienced someone breaking a boundary with them in a sexual way. Knowing how to solve the discomfort, asking if you handled a situation as best as you possibly could, it’s hard to know what the best decision is. You as the survivor or person who had to experience this egregious act, you have to really engage in a lot of emotional labor to explain what went wrong. If the person is really sensitive or doesn’t get it, you ask, “Did I experience this like I thought?”, kind of gaslighting yourself… is this where friends can come in? Do you ask a mutual friend to step in? I’m excited to come to the festival and talk to a crisis counselor– what is the best way to move forward because a lot of times when you have this conversation with a friend, it’s like “WHAT DO I DO NOW?”
: Totally. Calling somebody out, it is terrifying. This person didn’t assault me, but the stories that I heard from four different women, all very similar stories, and they don’t even know each other. I sat down with these women separately, and their stories were scary and awful. I have a friend who just called out her own rapist. The reaction that a lot of people had was pushing her to reconcile with them. She was like “I don’t want to do that, I want them gone. I don’t want them around anymore because what they did was not OK.” Then you have that, the people who say when the victim says nope, “I’m not going to reconcile, that has to be OK.”

Marie: That has to be accepted. They should have the decision of what to do. That’s absolutely their call and no one else’s.

Venues have a lot of responsibility here to tell someone “Don’t come here.” Eli’s saying, “I’m not going to work with that person.” That’s a really big deal.
Danielle and Marie
: That was HUGE!

For a pop punk promoter? Bye! I’ll never see you in the East Bay again.

Danielle: I had hit up so many people at that point. I had so much going on and it was so terrifying to me. Every time I would send these emails, it really took a lot in me to build up and do it. The fact that I was being threatened by many people, including his friends. These were all people that I’d met when I first moved to Oakland. They were my friends, and they were all at once abandoning me or getting mad at me. It was so much emotional labor every time...

And imagine the emotional labor it would take for the survivors to do this themselves. It’s so much work and it’s re-traumatizing to describe it, and it’s hard when someone isn’t taking you seriously. You, Danielle, saying “I have the capacity and energy to do this,” and the drive, you obviously felt the passion. And you Marie as well had said “I am going to stand for this because I am able to.” You must be friends with these people as well, so it’s you standing up with and for your friends.
: I wasn’t even the first person that any of these women told about their situation. There were so many people who didn’t want to hear it or do anything about it. This all started with me calling him out for being a bully and a violent drunk who said racist and homophobic remarks, and that’s when a woman came to me over Facebook and told me what had happened. That’s when I knew that this was way more serious than I had thought. I was mostly calling him out within our own small group.

Marie: I think an important aspect of you contacting bands, venues, and friends is that you never told anyone what to do with the information. You never said “This person did XYZ and this is what you should do about it.” You said, “Here is the information and do what you will with it, whatever that looks like is fine.”

I’ve noticed this as well. Because the vast majority of survivors are women, they get the microphone, but it’s really important that everyone feel included because this affects everyone.
: Right, that everyone feels they have resources, that there’s an organization that will support them. It’s not just an issue that affects women it affects everyone.

Danielle: Going back to the zine part too, one of my dreams is for us to, post TINY Fest, sit down and write a whole zine about all of our experiences and how we did this so we can distribute it to the people in different states. I want to distribute a zine everywhere so that people anywhere can do their own TINY fest.

Marie: I think that’s really important. A how-to zine that gets put online as well and let’s people know that they can do this in their own scene. A) you don’t have to tolerate this behavior in your scene, and B) if you want to throw a festival, we’ll show you how. It’s a lot of work and it’s been a steep learning curve. Neither of us had booked a show, let alone a festival before, but that doesn’t mean that people like us or with years of experience can’t do this in their own community.

Danielle: First Oakland, then the world.

Every time I think about this festival I get overwhelmed by all the support we have. Thank you so much for all this, people who are listening who are going to go buy a ticket, you are making a huge change in the scene and it means a lot to a lot of people who have been silenced for so long and who have been in pain. It means a lot.