In case you missed it, here’s some news: women and girls can go out in public now. I wish I could say “women and girls can go out in public without fear of harassment now,” but we’re still waiting on that utopia.
The music world remains a site of unstopping harassment and institutionalized sexism, both for people within the industry and for fans. While female musicians face impossible double-standards about their looks and female music journalists continue to face harassment and disrespect in the workplace, women fans are made the targets of jokes and harassment online and in person.
The “fake geek girl” trope, so well-known (and well-despised) among other forms of media fandom, extends into the world of music with girls’ love for a band or musician frequently being chalked up to a crush on the boys in the band or a plea for male attention from elsewhere—as if girls are incapable of appreciating music for its own merits. At music festivals female fans are subject to a horrifying and trivialized rape culture, and at concerts they are sexually harassed and made to feel that they are only welcome there as an added perk for the male concert-goers to enjoy. The most depressing part? This behavior is so normalized that fans often don’t report instances of harassment or stand up to their harassers.
But that’s starting to change. Folks in the music world are speaking up about this very real problem, and they’re getting some attention. At the crest of this wave of change is a group of teenage girls in the UK calling themselves Girls Against. Coming together to raise awareness of and put an end to sexual harassment at concerts, the five girls launched their campaign in October of this year and have already made a couple headlines. In the midst of their suddenly busy media schedules, WWAC caught up with Hannah of Girls Against to talk about what they’re doing to stop harassment in music and what sort of changes they want to see:
So how did you all decide to form Girls Against?
We decided to start the campaign after we had all had a few bad experiences at gigs, and I got some attention from the band after a particularly bad experience at a Peace gig. We’ve had this group chat together for ages, and we always knew we had wanted to do something together, so we quickly started building ideas that evolved from handing out badges at shows to a full blown campaign.
What kind of work are you all doing to fight harassment at concerts?
We’re primarily raising awareness at the moment among bands and fans by contacting them on Twitter and selling badges at gigs. Then we hope to get in contact with venues and security companies to ensure that all security guards are trained in how to spot and deal with sexual harassment, which should hopefully result in a solid security plan for most, if not all, venues across the UK. We also have a blog and Twitter where we keep our DMs and ask box open to support and listen to victims; sometimes we think it’s easier to speak to and work through something like this if the person you’re speaking to doesn’t have a face. On our blog we’re also working on getting out some articles on various feminist issues and giving people opportunities to collaborate with us.
Why do you think dudes continue to engage in this gross behavior? What makes them think they can get away with it?
We should make apparent that it’s not just dudes that do this! We’re intersectional feminists, so we recognise that this can happen to anyone, including men and all other genders. I think people do this because there has never been anyone working to stop it. Plus, because of the nature of the situation where you are pressed up against lots of people if they’re accused they have the “it was a accident” to fall back on. However, there’s obviously a huge difference between accidentally brushing up against someone and forcibly trying to put your hands down their tights.
What do you think needs to change, culturally, before groping and harassment in general at concerts is no longer a problem?
We do think it is a part of a wider feminist issue and the “rape culture” that society has developed. We need to stop over-sexualising girls if they’re not asking to be and consent has to be taught within sex education. White feminism also needs to be gotten rid of, and more education on what feminism actually is and make it [feminism] more inclusive to everyone.
Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with an instance of harassment at a concert?
If it’s happening then we would recommend only doing what you feel comfortable with. If you want, you can turn around and confront the person or make people around you aware of what is happening, and they may be able to help you. If you don’t want to do either of these things then please move, we would always recommend going with friends you trust so move somewhere else with them and go have a dance somewhere else! We would recommend speaking to security as well, if you’re not comfortable with that you could always get in contact with the venue afterwards. If you’re not comfortable with that then you can get in contact with us, and we can represent you on your behalf and discuss your emotions about what’s happened.