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A Modern Woman's Guide to Burning Man

Culture

It’s that time of year again: Burning Man.


A time when tens of thousands of people from around the world gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create a temporary, participatory metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.

As a past attendee, I can attest to just how radical and life-changing of an experience Burning Man really is. It’s more than just a city in the desert or an art festival -- it’s a culture of possibility among a network of dreamers and doers.

So instead of buying that flower headcrown and changing your Facebook status to “desert woke,” you’ll need to mentally and physically prepare yourself for what might be the best, most enlightening, and potentially challenging week of your life.

Have questions or need advice? Well, in a world where Google can’t answer everything, Alexa is unavailable without wifi, and SIRI STILL DOESN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING, this guide shares the real information you need to Burn right.

First, let’s cover the basics:

THE LINGO

Yes, you may use these as #’s when you harass the internet upon returning

Black Rock City (BRC): The annual, temporary city created by the Burning Man (BM) community

Burner: attended the festival at least once; pursues a way of life based on BM principles

Burn Virgin: You

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): A harmless mental disorder caused by the overwhelming scope of things to do and see in BRC; may lead to sleep deprivation.

Gremlins: People who turn into little party monsters once the sun goes down, exposed to bright/neon lights, or fed various things.

MOOP: Matter Out Of Place; litter, debris.

Playa: think “beach in Spanish,” not “promiscuous individual...” (though you’ll find both)

Sparklepony: Derogatory term for one who fails to embrace radical self-reliance (overly relies on the resources of friends/community). Often fashionably attired, since they packed nothing but costumes.

Theme camps: Tribes with communal space for members; offer interactive opportunities (music, art, events, food, etc.) to festival community

The 10 Principles: the core of BM: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, Immediacy

Moving onto those #Burning questions on your mind.

FAQ’s

What not to ask the internet

Q: An entire week outside? Will I have to pee in a bush?

A: Of course not -- there are no bushes in the desert.

Not only are there are clean portapotties (at the beginning of the day at least), but it’s also highly unadvised to excrete outdoors (hint: that’s MOOP). Leave no trace of doodoo behind.

Q: Am I completely cut off from the outside world?

A: No -- there’s a BRC postal service to keep in touch with muggle friends.

If you arrive before all 70,000 expected attendees, you might have cell service. But only use your phone to CAPTURE photos, even if you’re one of the lucky few with signal. It’s against BM etiquette. Plus, if you POST on social media, your boss will know you’re not completely off the grid. Enjoy answering emails in the desert.

Q: Do I have to join a Theme Camp?

A: Not if you prefer doing WAY MORE work yourself, especially on vacation.

People in camps are assigned different roles and shifts (kitchen, bartending, building, etc) which means you don’t have to spend your entire day surviving/working. You can instead go enjoy the marvelous art and activities other camps are offering.

Q: Is there really a sex dome? Naked people? Weird Sh**? Drugs?

A: What ye seek, ye shall find...

But don’t worry. Ye is safe and ye personal space is valued.

Q: No Rules...as in I can do WHATEVER I WANT?

A: #ExpressYourself

But keep in mind that Burning Man takes place on federal land, and is subject to local, state and federal laws, including those involving illicit narcotics. Officers are on-site.

Q: But how do I clean up without running water?

A: If you’re Greek, Windex.

Other options include solar showers, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, dry shampoo, etc. There’s also a theme camp that offers a “human carwash.”

Q: What if I get hurt at the Festival?

A: You’ll die.

  1. There are FREE emergency medical services with volunteer EMT’s and doctors. I may have tested it out first hand last year … Best X-rays I’ve ever had.
Q: Is it true that everyone at Burning Man is on drugs?

A: Only on days that end in Y

No. In fact, many participants are sober, and there are even support groups (like AA meetings) that take place! Plus, SO MANY camps offer free drinks and enough fun to keep you entertained legally.

And now for the fun stuff…

HOW TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BURN

Prep like your momma made you: though you don’t necessarily have to tell her you’re going

The more you plan in advance, the more carefree fun you’ll have. Plan your outfits day-by-day, what you’ll eat (snacks vs camp provided meals), create a checklist of what you’re bringing, and figure out how you’re getting it all there and back (return journey is arguably more difficult). Reminder: don’t be a sparklepony.

Tried-and-tested ways to have the best f***ng experience ever.

Items to always have on your person: Strap it to your fanny or put it on your back

A Quest/protein bar, moisturizer, sunblock, goggles (sunglasses alone won’t help during dust storms), bandana, chapstick, water bottle, hand sanitizer, cup with lid, a notebook/pen, your ID (it’s still 21+ to drink), and a tampon (even if just to gift to someone unprepared).

Make a loose agenda: #noFOMO

Though your plans will always change (like when you meet those New Zealanders that ask you to witness their wedding 5 minutes from now) identify the must-SEE’s and must-DO’s in advance. Give yourself a guideline of what you want to experience outside of partying.

Go Glamping: Girls don’t poop -- but if we did, we’d prefer to do it in an RV.

If you have the means to do it, do it. Save up and stay in an RV, or make friends with people who have one.

Give Superior Hugs: the average BM hug lasts WAY longer than a civilian hug -- and it’s MAGICAL. Give hugs out like candy on Halloween.

Bike, Babe: Treat bikes like boyfriends -- dress them up, take them with you, and lock them down.

1- Unique bikes are easier to spot in a sea of THOUSANDS. Wild designs and materials (fur, totems, lights, etc.) will satisfy your inner child.

2- Even if you’re going somewhere closeby, you’ll meet people who want to explore...don’t get left behind without a bike handy.

3- Burners don’t steal (I’ve seen laptops, passports, wallets, etc. returned) but Gremlins often mistake bikes as their own or think “they’re borrowing it.”

Network: Float like a butterfly, but don’t sting like a bee

Many influential artists, creators and leaders have called the Playa home (Elon Musk, Heidi Klum, Katy Perry, etc). Set your intention to rub dust-bows with inspirational people, and spend time with strangers. But don’t schmooze, it’s against the code. Friendships may carry into the real world, but don’t lead with that.

Volunteer: BM is not a spectator sport

There are so many opportunities to keep BM running by getting involved and meeting badass people. You can sign up for shifts at Center Camp including: postal office, lamplighting (an epic nightly ceremony), Moop, at theme camps camps, etc.

Make Fashion Your Passion: BM is like Halloween for adults (even though Halloween is really for adults)

Go all out with your costume -- headdresses, jewelry, props, wigs, hats, glitter, body paint, statement pieces -- and have people appreciate the art you’re wearing. TIP: recycle old clothes, get combat boots, shop at Goodwill, braid your hair for one hair-do, and go faux-fur.

Gift, gift, gift: you are what you give… (but seriously, Usher)

They say happiness can’t be bought, but it can be shared. Who needs money in a world where everyone gives time, love, and tangible items like food, trinkets, etc.?! The Playa is a desert oasis, contribute accordingly

IN CONCLUSION

You should drop everything and go Burn.

All humor aside, it’s hard to paint a picture of just how impactful and life-changing Burning Man was for me. I went in with the intention of finding myself -- and because I was prepared, I did that plus way more.

I let my guard down and explored strange ideas with new friends of all ages, and cried an embarrassing amount of times. I questioned my spirituality, mentality and social constructs. I prayed, meditated, and mourned. Witnessed marriages, sunrises, and art. And frankly, I partied pretty damn hard. But for a week, I let go of who I “thought I was,” and instead, allowed my authentic self to be who I am.

I hope you’ll experience the magic as well. You’ll understand when you arrive and they welcome you home.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.