MARCH 2017: BEHIND THE NEWS
SUMMERNATS organisers have vowed to wipe out sexual harassment at the event by adopting a zero-tolerance approach.
Tickets for Street Machine Summernats 31 are already on sale, and anyone buying tickets online will notice a second checkbox in addition to the regular T&Cs.
“We want to make a statement,” Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez said before tickets went on sale on 12 February. “Now, in addition to the regular box to accept the Terms & Conditions, there will be a second box that you must check and it will say something like: ‘Summernats is a safe place for women. I accept by buying a ticket to the Summernats that harassment of women or anybody, whether it be verbal or physical, is unacceptable and if I engage in this behaviour I will be ejected from the event immediately.’ So that’s our first statement. And starting from Summernats 31 we’re adopting a zero-tolerance approach.”
Since taking ownership of the Summernats in 2009, Andy and his team have taken steps to remove the blatantly sexist parts of the show. They canned the old wet T-shirt competitions and strip shows, and have tried (albeit only moderately successfully) to work with authorities to stop local strip clubs sending girls into Exhibition Park during the event to drum up business.
Now they are bolstering their efforts to make Summernats an all-inclusive space, with a focus on eliminating what Andy said are the “very small minority of young blokes that think, because of the event’s past, that coming to Summernats gives them an excuse to behave badly towards women.”
As part of Summernats’ crackdown, things like the Puppy Wash will no longer be welcome. Any ‘Tits Out’ or similar signs will be cloaked and left at the door. Strippers that try to infiltrate the event will be asked to leave. And yobbos that yell at girls to lift up their tops will be ejected.
“It’s up to us to take responsibility,” Andy said. “In some ways Summernats has to admit that we’ve been complicit in it because we haven’t been strong enough about it, but enough’s enough.
“People might think it’s funny or tongue-incheek to chant: ‘White top! White top!’ at a girl.
It’s not. And it doesn’t matter whether you think the girl thinks it’s funny or not. It’s not acceptable to stand around a girl and chant at them. I mean, I don’t know what the legal definition of it is, but to me that looks pretty bloody ugly.”
It was scenes like this that led sections of the mainstream media to be critical of Summernats 30, and Andy didn’t think it was fair that “the 99.9 per cent of people that come to Summernats that are good, decent people” are tarred with the same brush.
“It’s such a small percentage of people that do this,” he stressed. “It’s not our entrants doing it, it’s not people who love cars, it’s just a few poorly behaved men that come down on a Saturday because they think that buying a ticket to the Summernats grants them some sort of licence to behave in a way that they never would anywhere else. We’ve just got to get rid of it.”
Summernats plans to develop an awareness campaign to accompany the new measures, based around the slogan ‘Tuff Guys Don’t Harass Women’. Andy said the message should be clear: Buying a ticket to Summernats gives every person the right to enjoy the event to its fullest, but not at anybody else’s expense.
“If a female wants to go to Tuff Street on a Saturday arvo, or anytime, she should be able to without fear of being harassed – that’s her right,” Andy said. “This is not about being politically correct; this is about just being decent.
“We hope that when we hold a mirror up to the behaviour, the guys who are doing it will realise how uncool it is. And what’s the question they always ask: ‘Tits or rubber?’ We’ve heard that question enough; now we’re giving them the answer – it’s rubber. Summernats is about the cars, that’s it.”
SUMMERNATS 31 is set down for 4-7 January 2018. Tickets are on sale now. Entries are expected to open in March.