Everybody knows that gigs aren’t the safest places to be, but that’s especially true for young women, which is a shame because they have every right to enjoy the gig as everyone else does. So, four young women from the UK — Hann, Anni, Anna, and Bea — who love music and who don’t want to see this issue become swept under the rug, decided to take action.
They formed a campaign last year called Girls Against, after Hann was assaulted at a gig, to talk about this issue and try to achieve real change. They began getting support from bands and they have allowed people who been sexually assaulted or groped at gigs to share their stories to show that this is a problem. The group identifies as intersectional feminists and they also make it known that these issues can also affect people of any gender or age.
The campaign has been endorsed by bands like Peace, Wolf Alice, Slaves, The 1975, Jaws, Rat Boy, Inheaven, The Wytches, Drenge, The Magic Gang, Baby Strange, and more. As a result of the campaign’s efforts, many bands have publicly told their fans not to come to their gigs if they engage in this kind of behavior. Their campaign logo even made it on the video boards of this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival and their posters are in venues across the world. They have even been in contact with venues and security companies, which shows the campaign’s devotion to actual change.
I spoke with Hann of Girls Against to talk about what the campaign is working on and what the experience has been like so far.
I first heard about your campaign after hearing what happened to one of you guys at a Peace gig (I am also a big Peace fan), did this discourage any of you from wanting to go to more gigs now that you’re more conscious of this problem?
Hann: Yeah I was assaulted just over a year ago now. To be honest, everything surrounding my experience was very publicised because we began Girls Against straight after. I don’t really remember ever feeling scared to go to another gig. Of course, there have been moments at gigs since then when I’ve felt uncomfortable or been a little scared, but because I know so much about how to deal with these situations now I can sort myself out very easily.
I’ve read various stories about incidents that happened at Catfish And The Bottlemen gigs (I’m also a huge fan). Some fans have blamed the band for their fans’ misbehavior at gigs because of things the band did several years ago (like Van McCann telling girls to take their tops off and having a vulgar merch stand) and even for their song lyrics. Do you think that Catfish And The Bottlemen, specifically, are contributing to this behavior and have you reached out to them to let them know this is happening?
Hann: I’ve never had to answer this question so directly before but it is something we have discussed and suggested. Yeah, of course we’ve reached out to the band multiple times and we’re pretty sure they’re aware of who we are and what we do, however, we’ve never got a reply. We’re also aware of their past comments and, of course, we don’t support or condone any of it. (It makes us pretty mad to be honest). As soon as we see anything come up we do call it out and what we’ve said about them in the past, individually, is available for anyone to read so we’re past trying to get in contact with them. We’re working with bands who actually want to be involved with us and with the fans who have been affected and they’re our main priority.
Bands like Slaves, Peace, Wolf Alice, The 1975, Inheaven, and many more have been really responsive to your campaign and vocal about these issues. Have bands been giving you guys ideas about how to address these problems and vice versa?
Hann: Yeah! All the bands we’ve had support from have been really helpful and encouraging. It’s great to have these people we often look up to congratulating us and taking us seriously – it really motivates us. When we meet bands, we discuss potential ideas we have for the future and they do help us out with a lot so we’re really encouraged about what the future holds for Girls Against.
Do think that it’s somewhat the responsibility of artists and bands to watch the crowd and make sure that everyone is OK? In other words, do you think that bands need to be the ones to stop gigs and throw people out if they see something that’s not OK or is that solely the job of the venue security?
Hann: It’s definitely not the responsibility of the band to look out for it. They’re up on stage to do their job and perform their music, not to look after the crowd – that’s security’s job. However, if they see something and don’t call it out or point it out to security, then they’re part of the problem.
I’m all for it, as long as it’s in good fun, but what do you guys think about crowd surfing and moshing, especially in regards to females or people who may not necessarily want to take part?
Hann: My opinion on crowdsurfing is pretty much the same as yours – it’s great if you do it safely and try not to knock someone out with your foot and the crowd don’t take it as an opportunity to assault the crowd surfer. Moshing is slightly different. I love a mosh as much as the next person, but the attitude seems to be that girls who do it deserve to be patronised. I know girls who have been in a mosh pit and have had their head patted because the guys in it think it’s “cute” that a girl is moshing. This is all part of the wider issue of stereotypical gender roles. Women are supposed to be the softer, less aggressive of the genders and it’s seen as a novelty when we aren’t. The majority of girls who don’t want to join the mosh pit often do it because they’re intimidated by the nature of it because of a number reasons – the gender roles enforced upon them or they see it as a likely place they’re going to be assaulted. We need to take a step back and realise that everyone is at a gig for the same reason and that is to enjoy the music – everyone has a right to be there.
You guys have mentioned solutions like the retraining of venue security and the hiring of more female venue security personnel to make women, especially, feel safe. How responsive have venues and security teams been to your initiatives and ideas?
Hann: Yeah, we’re really encouraging venues to take a look at how their security are trained. We’ve had a number of venues contact us themselves and our posters are displayed across the world in venues. We’re also working on producing a conclusive document giving our recommendations on how security should be trained to deal with this issue in the new year. Most have been really receptive – particularly venues – because they don’t want to be seen as somewhere where this kind of behaviour occurs. Security companies are usually a little more hesitant and we’ve had large companies outright tell us that the issue doesn’t exist, but we’re handling it and I think we’re making progress. I think people need to realise this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and this issue isn’t going to be solved overnight.
You guys have 15,000 Twitter followers and I also saw that your logo made it onto the video boards at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival. How does it feel now that your message has really started to spread and people are talking about these issues, even though you just started the campaign about a year ago?
Hann: It feels really great to be honest! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by it, so I don’t like to think about it too much and just continue working but it’s really great. Seeing Girls Against get real, live recognition and make progress is really encouraging and something that keeps us motivated actually.
Lastly, on a lighter note, I want to shift the conversation to music. What are some of the best gigs that you guys have seen and what are the bands that all four of you guys really love?
Hann: The first time I saw Wolf Alice is a gig I still think about to be honest! I think Gengahr also create a really atmospheric gig and I recently saw Kloe live, which was amazing because you could see how much it meant to her. We’re all loving the new Jaws album and I’m loving Kiiara at the moment too. When we all saw The 1975 together that was quite special because that’s how we all got to know each other at the beginning, so it was a bit of a moment if I’m honest.
You can support Girls Against in many ways. You can follow them on Twitter here, on YouTube here, on Facebook here, on Instagram here, and on Spotify here. You can also buy merch from them here, especially their famous pink buttons, worn by the many bands that support them.