Earlier in the month, a new Swedish music festival, Statement Festival, was successfully crowdfunded, and, like its name suggests, the festival is looking to make a statement. In direct response to the high number of cases of sexual assault at concerts and festivals in Sweden like Bråvalla and Putte I Parken—Bråvalla 2018 was canceled after 23 cases of sexual assault were reported in 2017 alone—Statement Festival will only allow cis, non-binary, and trans women to attend; in short, no men allowed.
The concept for Statement Festival comes from a viral tweet from comedienne Emma Knyckare: “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome that we’ll run until ALL men have learned how to behave themselves?”
The tweet quickly led to the creation of a successful Kickstarter that raised 500,000 Swedish Kroner, or more than $60,000, for Statement Festival’s inaugural event in 2018. Acknowledging that “year after year,” concerts in Sweden are unsafe for women, they noted that Statement Festival would help “create a safe space for the people who want to attend a festival without feeling scared for their personal safety.” Now, the festival is moving to the planning stages for 2018, using its crowdfunding revenue to lock down a venue and secure talent for next year’s event.
However, the festival exclusive to those who identify as women has drawn criticisms from some, particularly men who feel that it’s unfair to be excluded from events in an attempt to stop sexual assault at concerts. Festival organizer Klara responded to these criticisms, noting, “If you, as a man or woman, are upset by the idea of a men-free festival, you may instead be upset about how many women are asked to stay home [by] friends and family when they plan to go to the festival or elsewhere. Put your energy on what is actually unfair. You as a man are just offended because you can not do as you like for once, which you are used to.”
While news broke of Statement Festival’s successful funding earlier in the month, it’s timing is particularly relevant now. Over the past week, people who regularly use the Web have become undoubtedly become familiar with #metoo, a widely shared social media hashtag that encourages people to share their stories of being victims of sexual harassment and assault. The #metoo movement hopes to end the stigma around speaking about sexual harassment and abuse. Since going viral in recent days, it also has shown just how prevalent these negative experiences are for certain subsets of the population, placing real people in the center of conversations about sexual violence rather than abstract numbers and statistics.
With the recent attention to the #metoo movement and the growing list of sexual harassment allegations against famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment, assault, and rape have been at the forefront of many people’s minds. Though Statement Festival will take place in Sweden in response to the country’s high rates of sexual assault at concerts, the live music community within the United States similarly is not free from cases of rape, sexual assault, and harassment, though they are luckily reported at lower rates than that their European counterparts.
Police have investigated incidents of sexual assault and rape at mainstream festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach, and Outside Lands, and increasingly concert promoters, musicians, and fans have been working to stop sexual assault at concerts. This year, the Los Angeles concert promoters and Coachella collaborators at Do LaB hosted seminars called “Creating Safer-Braver Spaces: Consent Culture & Social Care” ahead of Lightning in a Bottle focused on fighting sexual harassment at music festivals. The Do LaB also had a medical team at Lightning in a Bottle trained specifically to address sexual harassment, including counselors on hand for victims.
In August, Sam Carter, frontman for British metal band Architects, stopped his festival performance at the Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands, after seeing a woman being sexually assaulted in the crowd. After noting that he’d “been going over in my fucking mind about whether I should say something about what I saw during that last song,” Carter called out that he saw a man grope a woman who had been crowd surfing, stating, “It is not your fucking body and you do not fucking grab at someone. Not at my fucking show,” before continuing the performance.
[Video: Mister Buzz]
In the jam world, notable online fan groups have hosted conversations about harassment and sexual assault at concerts, with many women chiming in to share their experiences of harassment at Phish shows. These dialogs spurred members of The Phunky Bitches, the Phish women’s group, to host a sexual harassment and consent awareness rally before one of the Vermont foursome’s Baker’s Dozen shows at Madison Square Garden this summer. The women also passed out cards with concise reminders about the importance of consent.
In any case, while concerts are generally a place of escape and a safe space for many music lovers, it’s important to lift up and protect all members of the scene. Practice consent and insist those around you to do the same, act when you feel that something isn’t right, and listen to those around you when they say they feel unsafe.