Twirling towards freedom

Beyond the pale
On Meredith and Golden Plains' No Dickhead Policy

A few years ago, in late December, I was standing on a dairy farm’s sunny hillside a few hours’ drive outside of Melbourne, watching a man try to drink beer through a tight layer of spandex that covered his entire face. The occasion was the annual Meredith Music Festival. The spandex was a Morphsuit – a full-body lycra suit so named because, according to its inventors, everyone who wears one “morphs into a more fun version of themselves”.

The guy in the Morphsuit appeared to be having a reasonably good time, but he was doing so at a music festival where a lot of people are on acid, and I thought it somewhat mean-spirited of him to have dressed as a faceless man. Meredith, which turns 24 this year, and its sister festival Golden Plains, have a No Dickhead Policy, which is carefully outlined by Aunty Meredith, the festival’s matriarch, each year. “Essentially this is a self-policing policy whereby ‘the dickhead’ is not celebrated at the festival,” says Aunty. Citizens are encouraged to inform any dickheads that their dickhead behaviour “is not admired or appreciated”, and things generally take care of themselves from there.

Accordingly to a recent survey, only 72% of Australians think that democracy is the most satisfactory form of government. Meredith serves as an advertisement for how well a system of benevolent dictatorship can work. Imagine if Australian law-makers could successfully implement a No Dickheads policy.

Aunty Meredith has now announced this year’s line-up, and 2014 is the first year that the festival has added “no offensive signage, slogans, clothing or costumes” to the list of banned items. The list already included “weapons” and “bongos” as well as dickheads. Citing the excellent article “But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?” on Native American appropriation, the festival has made it clear that the wearing of headdresses is neither cute nor fashionable nor “ironic”.

The article sensibly points out that “eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned”, and “warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power”. The right to don eagle feathers and warbonnets hasn’t been earned by white people, and it certainly is not likely to be earned by partaking in the great Australian festival tradition of getting drunk by 10 am.

In the ten or so Meredith and Golden Plains festivals I’ve attended over the years, I’ve seen far more people in Morphsuits, Santa suits and birthday suits than in headdresses. As far as I’ve observed, the No Dickhead policy has worked beautifully. Aunty Meredith’s latest edict is likely a pre-emptive strike, and a most welcome one.

Yet another new music festival has just been announced. Beyond the Valley will be held over New Year’s at Phillip Island. The festival’s website features a headdressed blonde girl, spreading her eagle-feathered wings and holding a torch aloft, tilting her head towards a purpling sky. The festival’s website goes on to explain that punters who choose to camp at Beyond the Valley have the option of doing so in the “Chief Camp”, where you can pay a yet-to-be-announced sum for the ability to take part in the renowned Native American pastime of hanging in a six-person jacuzzi. Chief Campers will also have access to the “Hangover Spa”, which, I can only imagine, was in someone’s mind kind of similar to a Native American sweat lodge.

The culturally insensitive lot at Beyond the Valley may not be able to grasp the subtle difference between celebrating genocide and celebrating fashion, but at least now there’s a place for them all: in the Hangover Spa, on Dickhead Island.

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.

@michaelamcguire

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