The Duality of the “Raver Girl”: Peace, Love, Unity and Rave-Feminism

We’ve all seen them, and they’ve shown us all of them. Who do I mean: the 21st century “raver girls”. If you’ve been to an electronic dance music (EDM) show, you’ve probably been inadvertently baptized in raver girl sweat as she flips her hair and proceeds to do a half-hearted booty bump in your direction. The fluffy boots-pacifier-neon bra-and-underwear look seems like a vision from one of Heffner’s wet dreams after he tripped on acid for a weekend, and you can find them in crowds swarming with their white iPhones to Instagram selfies of their “hashtag-PLUR” experience.

Whether these girls go to shows for the music, for the drugs, or for their friends, their mere existence represents something more than a seemingly shallow and fashionably challenged façade: feminism.

Culturally, feminism has made a resurgence in America–and no, not because of Beyoncé’s Flawless, but because “settling down” isn’t the ultimate life objective for millennial females anymore. Most of these women value subtle independences such as getting an education, starting a successful career, and exploring the dating culture before they even consider moving into that suburban dream house with the perfect school system to raise little Kelly and Tommy. So what does this have to do with rave culture? Well, because women are no longer culturally strapped to being either Mrs. Cleaver or the proverbial Old Maid, they now have a choice about how they choose to express themselves professionally, socially and even sexually. This is where EDM comes into the picture.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 8.51.34 PMSince its early disco days, electronica provides an environment where men and women are uninhibited in every way possible. Who you are outside of the dance floor doesn’t matter when crowds of people from all walks of life move to the vibrations pulsing from subs that will most likely cause hearing defects 20 years from now. This arena creates a safe haven for any transgressive personality to play, making it a catalyst for the feminist movement. Wild and on the sexual prowl, women aren’t socially chastised for going shirtless–and even topless–at a club, strutting their “Naomi Campbell” walk and approaching the cute guy they made eye contact with at the bar. Hell, it’s even become empowering!

That being said, there’s an undeniable duality in the way the raver girl presents herself. Sure, going to a show in a light up bra and thong is bound to attract some human attention. Does that then become the reason for girls to dress and act the way they do? Is it just to get someone to look at them? Consequently, raver girls become prey for men and women, who interpret their scantily outfits and dance moves as a “clear sign” that they want to be taken home with someone (thanks, Robin Thicke). Or maybe the social stigma of going to an EDM show means that the crowd becomes a level-two orgy, where women and men alike let down all sexual boundaries.

But, what does that then mean for women? Could it be that the EDM scene opens the doors for women to possibly lose respect for themselves because they think it’s OKAY for strangers to grope their bodies, since it’s only happening at an EDM show?

I’m only a music lover. I can’t answer these questions, only ponder on them. For all I know, maybe a raver girl really does just get too hot on the dance floor. Maybe she can’t afford to take chances with wearing more clothes because, if the cute guy at the bar were to see that she sweats like a sailor, she could lose her potential hook up for the night. Maybe, just maybe, she’s actually making a statement.


As much as this counter culture is scrutinized by those who don’t understand it, I do believe that it provides a platform for all genders to express themselves. Whether that platform is comprised of feminist ideals, curiosity or exhibitionism, raver girls need to start asking that question for themselves.

Liz Tillman is a music addict, former dance instructor, and current producer of WRHU’s electronica show “Electro Kitchen.” For more information on what EDM and rave culture is click here.

All thoughts and opinions on this topic are strictly from Liz Tillman.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Ice Ice Baby says:

    I’m pretty sure most girls go to raves because they like to get drunk and party while listening to loud music. I doubt it’s because of feminism.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Ice Ice Baby. At the end of the day, the only reason to go to an EDM show, or any show for that matter, should be about the MUSIC. But I hoped this article could raise a different perspective that this environment lets women manifest certain feminist ideals, whether they realize they are doing so or not.–Liz Tillman

    2. Dan L. says:

      Ice, if a woman can attend a music festival and wear what she wants without feeling shamed, disrespected or have any personal/psychological traits attributed to her due to her clothing (“she must not respect herself”, et. al), then it is because of feminism. If not directly because of it, then it’s certainly *about* feminism.

      These women might not explicitly identify as feminist, but they don’t have to. That’s not the point. Nobody has to be “in the know” to feel safe.

      Also, the overarching point is that most *people* go to raves to party/get inebriated/listen to loud music, though it’s only the “raver GIRLS” who get scrutinized. I can tell you that all the shirtless (and sometimes pantsless) GUYS I’ve seen at these festivals are not going to face the same scrutiny.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to read this Dan! Glad you saw a bit of what this post intended for.

  2. Cam says:

    Ok, when you go to shows or “raves” there are two types of people: rave tricks paired with “have you seen molly” bros and seasoned dance music fanatics. For feminists, raves are a special kind of hell filled with neon and fuzzy boots. But as the genre becomes more mainstream, the more sexualized it becomes, and the next thing you know your 14-year-old cousin is off to Life In Color in booty shorts. These large scale events that breed the “rave slut” are NOT about the music. Yes, paying $50 dollars to see a top tier DJ one would think its about the music, but it’s not.

    The EDM industry has nutured an enviornement surrounding DJ shows to be an all around experience, not an intimate listening party with your favorite artist. Music fans get upset because these people aren’t necessairly their for the DJ, but what you have to get over is that whats going on around you is far more than a DJ. You’re packed in with 100-10,000 other people who wanna get fucked up, listen to music, watch neon lights shoot out from all directions, and most importantly- unleash their inner freak. If you’re so concerned with the music, you’ll take the time to see these DJs in a smaller setting without all the tricks and whistles that draw in these “slut” branded rave chicks. If seeing a DJ is worth subjecting yourself to that enviornment than thats on you. You can’t knowingly walk into a purposely sexually charged setting then get upset cause its packed with chicks in pasties and thongs.

    It doesn’t matter if you and a “rave slut” share the same kind of excitement when you hear a DJ drop a track. Music has always been hear to bring all walks of life together-thats the beauty of it. Don’t worry, in 2 years when the EDM craze has died down those same “rave sluts” will have already moved on to the next trendy thing to rub their vag on and your favorite DJs will still be spinning- only now they’re making less money.

    1. Mr. Big says:

      Hmmm… It doesn’t seem your response is relevant to the topic at hand. It didn’t seem like it aimed to put down any female ravers or decide who is really there for the music or what not. Granted, many females who do dress a certain way may make other females feel a certain way. Hell, maybe they are “sluts” in real life, but to degrade them to such because of their clothing or actions is simply inhumane. Whether or not they indirectly or directly express their feminism through clothing, dancing provocatively, etc…they are expressing something many woman feel should not be expressed. That seems to be what they article is about, please correct me if i am wrong, author!

      Furthermore, yes…Anyone can see their favorite artist in a more “intimate” setting, but what’s the point of that? To prove that you are a “true fan”? To prove you are there for ONLY the music? Because if that’s the case, stay at home and buy the albums. These artists live off of money from big shows (as well as many other things) that you seem to be downplaying because of “rave sluts”…

      Hey. I’m just another average reader, who got a different reaction from the article.

      1. Hello Mr. Big:) I do believe the author meant to express the correlation between the two, but furthermore to engage in conversation. It seems that has been successful, as you clearly exemplify. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

  3. Dr. Rabbit says:

    The entire issue the article is presenting is that people like Cam see rave girls as just looking for something to “rub their vag on” and THATS why it’s a feminist issue

    1. Dr. Rabbit, you make an excellent point. It is a feminist issue because there are people who consider “raver girls” sluts or girls seeking to get laid. And, while the same can be applied to women going to shows of ALL genres–the same can ALSO be applied to men (if not applied a little bit more). Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I’m glad it sparked an interest for your comment.

  4. BriannaB says:

    As a fan of edm music I honestly feel that women in rave culture dress the way they do because of images we see in the media of what a rave girl is supposed to look and dress like. Honestly before I went to my first rave I would of never thought to choose a strapless tight tutu dress to wear to a concert. Granted, I wasn’t dressed as provacitively as other girls at the show but if I hadn’t seen the type of attire everyone is expected to wear I might of worn a more casual outfit. I believe women should wear whatever they want if they are comfortable in it and shouldn’t follow a trend if they aren’t into it. I wear what I want to shows now and don’t let the images of scantily dressed rave girls make me feel like that’s the only thing I’m allowed to wear in order to be accepted in the rave scene. I think women regardless of what music they are into are pressured by society to look sexy and wear the perfect outfit which is unfortunate. Everyone wants to look good but we shouldn’t have to be half naked in public to feel beautiful. Everyone should enjoy the music, wear what they want and most importantly don’t become involved with drugs at show. Edm needs to be more about the music and less about the outfits and drugs.

    1. Hey Brianna! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I completely agree that women should be able to wear what they want, and by most wearing these tutus, bras, flower headbands, etc… They are doing so, which is such a liberating thing. But, like you said, many ARE doing it because of what they see/hear and not because they are choosing to do so. We will always have those types of people and it is not just in the “EDM” scene, it’s life. You do raise some great points, and I’m glad this article was able to let you freely express them. Lastly, it should ALWAYS be about the music. People are going to do what they want, but at the end of the day if it isn’t for the music–why bother?

  5. Zachary Hall says:

    Having read the article and the subsequent comments below I feel that the author does a good job of raising issues not necessarily discussed within rave culture or feminism explicitly. The connections between these topics aren’t those that one would expect to make, but the idea that women’s sexuality and sense of self have become more assured in recent time definitely acts as a catalyst for a more gender balanced society. Dressing “[w]ild and on the sexual prowl, women aren’t socially chastised for going shirtless–and even topless–at a club, strutting their ‘Naomi Campbell’ walk and approaching the cute guy they made eye contact with at the bar.” This sense of freedom and inhibition present at an EDM show can foster an environment where women feel safe to express themselves as they see fit. This freedom of expression allows feminism to proliferate in some cases in so that women aren’t afraid to express themselves sexually. However, this topic has a double edge to it. It is foolish to assume that EDM shows only provide safe environments for feminism and ideals of independence and self assurance for both men and women. As the author asks, “[c]ould it be that the EDM scene opens the doors for women to possibly lose respect for themselves because they think it’s OKAY for strangers to grope their bodies, since it’s only happening at an EDM show?” I believe that this is unfortunately a very real consequence of our cultural values. While these spaces provide a space for freedom of expression, they also provide a space to be occupied by those who follow the majority cultural practices represented through media. These ideals have been instilled and continue to be berated into each and every member of the society that practices that culture. These ideals are forced and become problematic when unchecked and unquestioned. It’s important to look at both ends of every story and it’s always important to ask questions. I appreciate this article for it’s ability to inform and operate as a sort of catalyst to prompt further inquisition.

    One can only begin to change one’s environment once they have questioned the environment they surround themselves with.

    1. How beautifully said, and what a great comment to an interesting article. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I am glad it sparked this thought in your head.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Great article Liz! I think this piece has sparked the need for some market research. We can argue back and forth about this article all day long, but let’s hear from the ravers themselves! I’d be interested to see a follow up article or video of interviews/ surveys taken by the raver girls, in order to get a direct expression of their individualistic ideals and what exactly their thoughts on feminism are. While x% may participate in the feminist movement, 90% may not even know what feminism is or how they are indirectly involved. I’d be interested in the results of a poll or survey taken at a live event to capture the statistics and thoughts on this matter!

    1. What a great concept; however, consider the chances of actually catching a female willing to discuss something like this at a show/concert/rave/etc.


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