In Gothenburg, Sweden, a music festival kicked off last weekend that banned cisgender men from attending after years of predatory behavior at two of the country's major festivals. Running from Friday, August 31 to Sunday, September 1, the Statement Festival only allowed entry to women, transgender men and women, and non-binary people, and had all women, transgender, and non-binary performers, staff, and security.
The catalyst for the event was a tweet from a Swedish comedian and radio host, Emma Knyckare, that led organizers to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds: “What do you think about us putting together a very cool festival where only non-men are welcome and that we host until ALL men have learned how to behave themselves?" Knycare wrote. As reported by The New York Times, Knyckare's sentiments were strongly embraced after a wave of sexual harassment at other events in Sweden, including allegations of rape and 23 sexual assaults at the country’s biggest music festival, Bravalla, which was canceled this year because organizers could not guarantee a safe environment.
In 2017, the atmosphere at Bravalla became so sexually hostile that, at one point, police gave out wristbands to women that read #TafsaInte, or "don't grope."
Statement Festival created a different festival environment, according to some attendees. “There are no men screaming or threatening me as a trans person,” Saga Becker, a 29-year-old transgender actress told the Times. “There’s no violence here. No fights. That is so revolutionary in so many ways.”
"We simply want women, non-binary and transgender [people] to be able to visit an awesome festival and feel safe at the same time," according to the organizers of the Statement Festival.
The issue of sexual assault and predatory behavior at music events isn't exclusive to Sweden. In Australia, the Your Choice campaign created a list of "house rules" to combat sexual assault against women and LGBTQ people at live events. Last April, rampant groping at Coachella was reported by Teen Vogue in an investigative piece that surveyed 54 young women who all reported being sexually assaulted or harassed during the two-weekend festival. As recently as July, a 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in the port-a-potty during a Foo Fighters concert in Chicago.
OurMusicMyBody, a joint effort between nonprofit organizations Between Friends and Rape Victim Advocates, created anti-harassment guidelines for Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, of 379 women surveyed, 92 percent said they had been harassed in music spaces through spoken harassment, groping, sexual gestures, stalking, being yelled at, and being photographed or filmed without permission.
“Fans want to be able to go out to see their favorite band without having to worry that someone is going to disrespect their space," Matt Walsh, the education specialist co-coordinating OurMusicMyBody, told the Tribune. "They want festivals and venues to actively support them and create a safer environment to enjoy these concerts.”
What the Statement Festival did is different: They completely removed cisgender men from the narrative. Cisgender men were no longer corralled with guidelines, symbolic wristbands, or security. When cis men's seat was just removed from the table at Statement Fest, women and LGBTQ people were no longer expected to bear the responsibility of hand-holding predators.