The Girls Fighting Against Gender-Based Violence in the Live Music Scene

Content Warning: This blog discusses sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Teddy, from the Girls Against campaign, discusses what the campaign is all about and the actions we can all take to put an end to gender-based violence on the live music scene.

Who are Girls Against?

Girls Against fight against sexual assault, sexual harassment and misogyny in the UK live music scene. The campaign was formed in 2015 in response to a formidable sense of anger and frustration felt by 5 women from across London and Scotland. As young women the founders frequently attended gigs and found they all had shared experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

No one else seemed to be talking about it – so they did.

How did Girls Against begin?  

The campaign began at the height of ‘gig season’ in the indie music scene after our founders spoke about their experiences of harassment and assault at live music events. At first, they took these experiences to social media where band members and press started to take notice and share the posts that highlighted the unacceptable nature of the behaviour they had experienced. 

As the posts were shared more and more, it became apparent how widespread the issue really was. The group wanted to give others a platform and safe space to speak more openly about their experiences and aid their recovery. In a surge of media interest, the group realized they needed a well thought out campaign to tackle the issue and create this space for others, and so Girls Against began. They set up a twitter account and gained 5,000 followers overnight. 

Now, the campaign is onto its 7th year with a number of regional representatives alongside 3 original founders spread across the UK. While we are still a grassroots operation run by volunteers and run on donations, we now have a few more years of experience behind us. There’s been progress but our work continues to be important at all levels of the music industry; whether that’s sticking up for survivors, calling out a lack of diversity in line ups or helping venues get access to the training they need.  

Sexual violence at live music events

When we talk about sexual violence, we are referring to any sexual activity or act that happens without consent.

It is an intrusive and unwanted behaviour. Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, but often is inflicted upon people of marginalized genders because of their gender – that’s why you might also hear the phrase ‘gender-based violence’.

This is a result of a patriarchal system, with acts of sexual violence being committed to establish power over someone else. We recognise that women are often victims because they are women, and support all survivors of sexual violence whatever their gender identity. 

The kind of sexual violence that can happen at live music events is the same as sexual violence that happens in any other setting, but because of the nature of a music event this often includes unwanted touching, sexual language or forceful dancing.  

In 2018, YouGov reported that a third of female festival goers had experienced a form of unwanted sexual behaviour, and for those under 40 the figure was even higher. Unfortunately, the 'creepy person standing too close' trope is one that is all too familiar to young women going to live music events.

It’s often seen as just part of the gig or festival experience, and isn’t taken seriously. This is something we want to change.  

What we can do about gender-based violence

Ultimately, we want to change the culture around gender-based violence and misogyny in live music and see progress towards getting rid of it altogether. Here are a few of the ways we try and do this.

Raise Awareness

We want to get people talking about sexual violence and misogyny in live music, whether that’s sharing information in venues or with those working in the industry or on social media. We want everyone to be involved in the discussion so that it doesn’t go away.  

Create Support Areas

We create visible areas at events where people can go if they have experienced sexual violence to talk to someone about their experience, or just sit somewhere and take a moment. We want all members of the crowd to know that there is a place to go if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Supporting Policy

We are urging venues to create clarity around what consequences perpetrators will face in their venue, and act on it. Sexual assault is a crime and should be taken seriously with sufficient punishment in place. We want all venues to have sufficient policy and to make this clear to everyone attending events.

Training

We work closely with the campaign Good Night Out who run training sessions in how to successfully respond to sexual assault. This is an organisation we are currently recommending venues to engage with. We want this to become a necessary form of training for all live venues.

Communication

We pride ourselves on working as an active network between victims, music industry staff and other organisations working towards similar goals. Girls Against aims to direct victims to effective support and join forces with all parties to ensure future safety.

Education

To truly get rid of misogyny in the music industry we want to educate audiences and industry professionals. We love to taking part in educational research and talking to people about  the most effective ways to ensure all parties enjoy their music experience. We share this knowledge by creating educational resources.  

What you can do to support Girls Against

There are a number of ways you can support Girls Against's mission:

1. Share our message and support our campaign through our social media accounts

2. Donate if you can

Donate to Girls Against via their GoFundMe page.

3. Read our Bystander Booklet 

Find out more about Girls Against and ways to get involve on their website.

Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.

Visit the That's Not OK campaign page for more information and support if you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this post,