Words: Amber Nicole Williams
Artwork: Mithsuca Berry
With the #MeToo movement gaining worldwide recognition back in 2017, things have begun improving for female professionals in the film industry. But, can the same be said for music?
Britney still isn’t free. Ke$ha still hasn’t found justice. What’s being done to protect women in this industry?
While individuals may still be suffering in other sectors of the music world, a variety of feminist movements have had a major impact on female safety in the live events industry.
In 1991, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna (along with a selection of other feminist punk bands) started the Riot Grrrl movement. It was a space that allowed them to vent frustrations, embrace feminism and encourage women’s involvement in the political punk scene. Within this feminist movement, ‘All Girls to the Front’ was born.
Live shows, especially punk, were often violent – increasingly so when the mosh pits started. Countless women were physically attacked or sexually assaulted by men who took advantage of the lack of security, dark rooms and crowd numbers. Well, not on Kathleen Hanna’s watch. She went above and beyond to protect the women at her shows, refusing to start performing until all girls were at the front.
This not only protected her fans’ safety, but it protected her and the rest of her band too. They’d dealt with hecklers in the crowd before, with some men making sickening threats. The last thing they’d want to see at their next show was another group of rowdy men. Having a few rows of women at the front allowed them to enjoy performing, without being harassed by nasty gig-goers.
As the years have gone on, the movement has slowly died down. But unfortunately, women are still at risk of being attacked and assaulted. Festivals, for example, are a hotbed for violence. In 2018, a survey found that almost half of female festival-goers had been sexually harassed or assaulted while attending an event.
It hasn’t got much better for the performers either. Lady Gaga and Florence Welch are just two female artists who have told stories of sexual assault from their shows.
Despite the best efforts of third-wave-feminist movements like Riot Grrrl, the violence against women hasn’t stopped.
But people are listening and do want to make a change.
In 2016, Glastonbury created a women-only tent (aptly called ‘The Sisterhood’) to provide a safe place for women to connect and enjoy themselves. It was described as a “secret space for women to connect, network, share their stories, have fun and learn the best way to support each other in our global struggle to end oppression against women and all marginalized people, whilst showcasing the best and boldest female talent in the UK and beyond.”
Though many described The Sisterhood as sexist and unfeminist, the organisers released a statement disputing the claims. They stated that “the producers of The Sisterhood believe that women-only spaces are necessary in a world that is still run by and designed to benefit mainly men.” And they’re absolutely correct. We do need more female-focused spaces – both for safety and empowerment.
Movements such as All Girls to the Front had a significant impact on the live industry. But sadly, it’s still not enough. We need to do more to ensure our voices are being heard and our safety is being made a priority. So go ahead and write to your favourite festival asking if they’ll incorporate a female-only tent. Gather a group of girls at your next gig and watch each other’s backs. And, most importantly just keep talking about it.
It’s voices like yours that can change the world. Read more on the subject through our article about pop-culture’s influence in wider society. You can catch that, here.
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