Sexual Harassment at Gigs is Real: And Here’s What You Can Do About It.
Sexual harassment and the music industry have always gone hand in hand, but that’s not to say the toxic grip on female artists and fans to be there forever; despite how complacent some people have got with it.
Sometimes it can be quite easy to forget the extent of the issue, but it is posts such as this one made by Lauren Tate (Hands off Gretel) which remind us of how much women have to contend with, whether they are in the crowd or on the stage;
Sounds fair enough right? Not everyone thought so.
It would seem that for a few people there’s still confusion on what a woman is wearing, and what that means they can do to them. “She was wearing a short skirt” isn’t an excuse to rape women, and it also isn’t an invitation for men to put hands on them and shower them with unwanted verbal and physical attention. This often stems from the incorrect assumption that women dress and present themselves solely around what men want. If you’re still carrying that assumption, it’s time to swallow a little bit of humility and admit that you’re wrong. I can’t speak for all women, but I can tell you that putting on flattering clothes does far more for my confidence than trying to hide my body from the world. It’s not a dirty secret or something that I should be ashamed of, so why should I feel the need to hide it? The preconception that female artists must be welcoming sexual advances because of their outfit is even more ludicrous. Anyone who has spent 90 minutes under scorching stage lights will tell you that.
Then, of course, there’s the “this happens to male artists too!” argument. We’re very well aware of that, and we’re also aware of the painful irony in the fact that many men don’t care about these issues when women have to deal with them. So, why should women care about men’s issues when they have chosen to voice their own that precise moment? I'm not saying men's rights aren't important, but there is a time and a place to voice them.
Potentially one of the most enraging comments was one man’s petulant response that famous celebrities have to deal with unwanted sexual attention, so independent artists should accept it as part and parcel of the music industry. He may as well have just said “Aw, but I was getting SO comfortable in my misogyny”.
There was also a fair amount of noise at the request of women being called to the front at Hands off Gretel’s gigs. As a fair number of people believed that this promoted inequality for men. There are numerous reasons why women would ask for girls to the front. Kathleen Hanna first started it back in the 90s with her Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill – she was the one who started the 3rd wave of feminism by incorporating feminist ideology into music. When she was playing her smaller shows, often, there would be no bouncers to protect her and her band on stage from the aggressive men in the crowd. She felt safer performing guarded by a wall of women. Kathleen Hanna also recognised that women weren’t able to enjoy her gigs as much as men, they’d often get pushed around or pushed to the back of the crowd. So, it doesn’t really seem like an unreasonable request, does it? Allowing the women in the crowd and the women on stage to feel safe? For everyone who is offended by girls to the front gigs, where the fuck is your chivalry? Or, does chivalry only apply when you individually dole it out in the hope that you’ll get some gratitude?
I told myself I wasn’t going to get angry writing this. I told myself that I’d do my best to try and raise awareness without it seeming like a straight-up attack, but in honesty, it was impossible. I'm raging, and you should be too.
Want to Help?
Writing tweets and sharing posts are great for raising awareness, but if we want to see real change, real change has to be implemented in the offline world. Here’s how you can make a difference.
Volunteer or Work in Partnership with an Organisation
There are fantastic organisations popping up everywhere such as Safe Gigs for Women (SGFW). They’re currently accepting applications for event volunteering, social media posting and blog contributions. You can also help to fund the organisation which was founded in 2015; their premise is simple but effective. They educate girls on how to stay safe at gigs and strive to have a presence at as many gigs as possible. So, if you go to a lot of shows in the UK, you might as well!
There are also plenty of collectives coming together with the primary aim of creating safe events for women such as LOUD WOMEN, HELL HATH NO FURY PROMOTIONS, and GIRL GANG which are operating in various cities across the UK. All of these organisations help to champion female artists and make sure there are plenty of events for women who are looking for a safe space to enjoy live music.
Learn the Importance of Interjecting
When I see women sharing their stories of sexual harassment, I see a lot of comments from men along the lines of “you should have just punched him”. I’d hoped that comments such as these would get a lot less prevalent, but they haven’t. To explain why this attitude is more than a little problematic, I’ll tell you a little story.
On the dancefloor of an extremely dank club, I spotted a girl who looked extremely uncomfortable, her eyes were fixed on the floor, her palms were in front of her face and her elbows were out in front of her as a man was obnoxiously trying to grind on her. I approached her and asked if she was comfortable with this man making sure that only she could hear what I was saying, she shook her head. I took her outside to get some air and she told me that she just felt herself shutting down on the spot and she couldn’t move. I asked her if she was there alone, she said she was with her male friend, but he was probably too afraid of the confrontation to interject. When we got back inside, I got him removed by the bouncers and let her know she was welcome with me and my friends.
I didn’t tell you that story to do a nice bit of virtue signalling, instead, it is the perfect example of how you can help someone without having a verbal or physical confrontation. It is also the perfect example of how some women can react to harassment, others might try to laugh it off, they’re not being coy, demure, or a tease, it’s a reaction to the threat and a way to release nervous tension, it doesn’t mean they’re okay with it.
I know everyone reading this won’t be an expert in body language, but generally, if you see someone flinching, trying to back away from someone, crossing their arms in front of their body, or nervously laughing, there’s a good chance that they’re uncomfortable.
Got a Platform? Use It!
If you’re in a band, whether you get 50 or 5000 people at your shows it doesn’t matter, use that presence to let people know who are obviously active in the music scene that sexual harassment isn’t going to be something women should fear when they book tickets for a show.
It should go without saying, but sadly, some people do need to be told that groping women isn’t appropriate at gigs. Say what you like, just let people know that the music industry is changing.
Here’s what Frank Carter had to say to his fans at a gig in Brisbane:
If what I’ve written here hasn’t sunk in, here’s a video from the powerful feminist Punk band powerhouse Petrol Girls; perhaps the message will resonate now.