We have a chat to the campaigners Girls Against who are speaking out against the very real problem of women being sexually harassed at music venues.
Have you ever been at a gig, the band is killing it, everyone is dancing, all your friends are with you and you are having a great time, and then a guy decides to grope you? If you have, you definitely aren’t alone. Gigs often seem to be a breeding ground for men who think it’s okay to not keep their hands to themselves, and for most it’s a bit more than just a mood killer. But luckily this situation isn’t being condoned by gig-goers or bands any longer.
Girls Against is a campaign set up by five women after two of them experienced sexual harassment at a Peace gig last September. “We’ve all been through it [sexual harassment]” but this “was the last straw for us” explains Hannah, one of the five who hail from Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London. “We started the campaign to end sexual harassment at gigs,” and they aim to “provide a safe platform to discuss with someone their story and never be judged, and to make learning how to spot and deal with sexual harassment a mandatory part of security guards’ training”. Their campaign has caught the eye of many bands currently on the gig circuit.
After the Peace gig the girls decided to post their story, receiving resounding support for their ideas, including from the band themselves with lead singer Harry Kossier talking about his support for the campaign at a gig in Brixton in October. The likes of Spector, Circa Waves, The 1975, Ratboy, Slaves, and Foals have all shown their support for the campaign in the past two months as well.
The 1975 are a band that the five all hold close to their hearts as well – they “kind of met” through their love of the band, and help support them in more than one way. “We often feel like they are dismissed as musicians and taken the piss out of because the majority of their fan-base is female”. It’s certainly something else that needs to be addressed; often bands with a stereotypical ‘fan-girl’ audience are made out to be jokes or not serious artists. They are often immediately classified as mainstream pop, and to enjoy their music is seen as shameful because their main supporters are enthusiastic young girls. “Dismissing a band because their fans are mostly female is sexist – there is no other word for it – so we’d like to see that change”.
Other inspirations for their campaign come from not just musical backgrounds, but political ones too. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has arguably the strongest political position in Scotland, providing inspiration for other young Scottish activists to have their voices heard. Likewise, their inspiration comes from feminist activists such as Alexis Isabel Moncada – creator of Feminist Culture Magazine, and Tumblr blogger FeministsMadeFromFire, known as Blige. The girls aren’t just interested in stopping sexual harassment at gigs, but also in providing a platform for women in Indie/Alternative music altogether. “Because of traditional gender roles, girls are more likely to be in pop music”, this is why acts like Wolf Alice, The Big Moon, and Courtney Barnett are so important to their respective genres, they aren’t just fantastic artists, but they are also rare in their position as successful women in the Indie/Alternative industry. “That’s one of the reasons we love Wolf Alice so much, because they not only have a girl in the band, but she’s the lead singer and writes quite empowering lyrics”.
The campaign grabbed the attention of mockney punk duo Slaves when Girls Against rose awareness about groping that occurred during the bands gig in Cardiff last week. The boys quickly responded in full support of the Girls Against campaign, stating “If you are reading this and you are one of the men doing this. You aren’t welcome at our shows”. Swim Deep lead singer Austin Williams also tweeted saying, “it’s great to see a bunch of you taking these horrid matters into your own hands and raising awareness”. Foals frontman Yannis Philipakkis has also recently called out “shady macho behaviour” in mosh pits in relation to him hearing about how a girl had been treated in a mosh. Clearly this is something that has been a long time coming, it just needed someone to call it out and fight it. This of course is where the Girls Against campaign steps in.
If you want to support the cause you can follow them on Twitter @girlsagainst, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. They sell merchandise at gigs when they can, but luckily rumours of an online shop are brewing so keep your eyes peeled for Girls Against badges popping up all around the country. The responsibility to end this lies with ever gig goer; if you see someone being harassed, don’t be a bystander.