I have never been to Warped Tour. The one summer I was planning to finally attend the festival, I was 18 and working at a sleep away camp, and subsequently wasn’t allowed to switch my scheduled day off to coincide with the tour’s local stop because so many other counselors had the same idea. Warped Tour is known to be a space for teens to see their favorite bands in an inexplicably dust-filled parking lot of an amphitheater, complete with reverse daycare for parents that were dragged by their children to said parking lot.
Over the weekend, I noticed my Twitter feed begin to light up with photos of a tent in the middle of the Warped Tour dedicated solely to pro-life/All Lives Matter organization Rock For Life. Many tweeters were appalled that Warped Tour, whose target demographic consists mostly of individuals still in their teens, would allow this tent — which, it has been noted is being run by mostly men — to ask young, impressionable festival-goers when they think rights should begin for a fetus.
— Rock For Life (@rockforlife) July 2, 2016
Rock For Life’s presence on the Warped Tour is the only secular appearance that the organization will make this summer, in addition to 17 touring Christian festivals, with a total reach expected to be about 1 million young people, almost half from Warped Tour alone. In a press statement posted on the Students for Life of America (SFLA) — the organization to which RFL reports — website, RFL co-founder Erik Whittington said:
This summer will be our largest endeavor yet as we will be going to nearly triple the number of music festivals we have gone to in the past, including one of the biggest secular music festivals in the country. Many young people that we talk with, even at Christian festivals, are either undecided on abortion or are not pro-life, so reaching them at this crucial stage of figuring what they believe and why it is important. By presenting them with a positive pro-life message in a relaxed environment, we can start making a difference in their lives – and hopefully many others. We have been able to have thousands of life-changing conversations with young people at these festivals, many of whom have never considered taking a stand on abortion or given a second thought to the greatest human rights tragedy in in our time. We have to meet these teens where they are, speak their language, and show them why being pro-life and speaking for the voiceless is so essential to changing the culture.
Here’s the fishiest part about the whole thing, as reported by Brooklyn Magazine: Warped Tour never publicized the inclusion of Rock For Life on their website as a sponsor or as a non-profit, causing many to question Warped’s values not only about the presence of this tent on the tour, but also why they seem to be keeping it private.
In a festival scene with a historically low representation of individuals that do not fall under the categories “male” or “white,” Warped Tour is supposedly intended to be different. However, the inclusion of Rock For Life is the latest in a series of decisions that have come under public scrutiny, including allowing alleged sexual predator Front Porch Step to perform during the tour’s 2015 installment. In a 2014 article for Wondering Sound, the author’s conversation with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman devolved into his deeming that the patriarchy of festival lineups, especially with regard to Warped, is not a problem:
“There’s really not a lack of women,” he says, interrupting me before I’ve finished asking the first question. “If you’ve got 20 bands that have women in them out of 120 bands, that’s one out of six bands.”
“You think that’s OK?” I ask, surprised that he would be so comfortable with such a one-sided ratio.
“That’s absolutely OK,” he says.
Several individuals have already called out Warped Tour on Twitter for the inclusion of Rock For Life.
this is unreal, a women's right to chose reduced to a sticky note collage at warped tour https://t.co/Gv12IKNX6v
— Sorority Noise (@sororitynoise) July 9, 2016
an environment so unwelcoming to women is literally teaching teens abortions are wrong. when did mall pop-punk become fascism?
— maria sherman (@mariasherm) July 9, 2016
Between FPS being let on, and now Rock for Life how do people support Warped Tour anymore?
— chef goldblum (@BrahNick) July 9, 2016
UPDATE: Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman emailed an explanation for why Rock For Life is not listed on the tour’s website:
27 of over 100 non-profits are listed on the site since only 27 are sponsors of the tour and the rest are tabling for free. All 100 are not at every show but that was the last count I got and more have been added since.