Sweden’s largest music festival has been cancelled in the wake of four rape cases and 23 sexual assaults reported by festivalgoers this year. In a statement to The Guardian, Bravalla’s organizers expressed their dismay about the events that led up to Bravalla’s cancellation: “Certain men … apparently cannot behave. It’s a shame,” they wrote. “We have therefore decided to cancel Bravalla 2018.”
In 2016, five women reported that they had been raped at the festival to the police, and ticket sales dropped from 52,000 to only 45,000. Bravalla also lost the chance to ever host Mumford and Sons at their festival, who vowed to boycott it after the multiple reports of sexual assault were publicized. Another popular Swedish festival dealt with its own problems of sexual assault last year: at Putti i Parken festival in Karlstad, a total of 32 sexual assaults were reported, including a 12-year-old victim of groping.
Sweden, of course, isn’t alone. Festivals all over the world struggle to create and foster environments free from sexual violence. Kelly Oliver, a professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University and the author of Hunting Girls, explained to The Los Angeles Times: “There’s a lot of music that celebrates a lack of consent…. Men take it as carte blanche—once you enter into a fest or party, it’s like she signed off whatever happens. If she’s dancing, it’s an invitation.”
Multiple organizations have been created to help prevent sexual assault at venues that host music performances. The Association of Independent Festivals, a non-profit trade association created to represent and empower independent festivals that operates in the UK, has recently created the Safer Spaces campaign to increase awareness of sexual assault among their concert goers. At 9am on May 8th, more than 25 UK music festivals “blacked-out” their websites for 24 hours as part of the campaign. The festival organizers also shared a short animation on their social media with the hashtag #saferspacesatfestivals, encouraging festival-goers to play an active role in promoting safety. Project SoundCheck also promotes a safer environment for everyone attending music festivals. The Canada-based organization works with event staff and volunteers to talk about the prevalence of sexual violence and how they can prevent sexual violence.
These are necessary steps—but Bravalla took a different approach. After the disheartening reports of sexual assault that took place at the festival, Swedish comedian and radio presenter Emma Knyckare posed a question to her Twitter followers: “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome that we’ll run until ALL men have learned how to behave themselves?” Shortly after the original tweet, she posted to Instagram a confirmation that a women-only festival is going to take place in place of Bravalla next year. The Telegraph reports that the 50,000-capacity Bravalla Festival grounds will be the largest music event to refuse men entry.
Other festivals have taken that route. The Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England introduced its first man-free venue last year. Called “The Sisterhood,” the venue promised to be an “intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space” that allows no men, from attendees to security guards to performers. Back state-side, the Electric Forest festival held in Rothbury, Michigan created a separate program of events for women known as “Her Forest.” The events focus on “connection, inspiration and comfort,” underlying the fact that “Her Forest is a collaboration between all who identify as women, and those who celebrate their enjoyment of and equality in the Forest family.” While Her Forest is not as separate a venue as Glastonbury’s Sisterhood, it is still a welcoming oasis at the eight-day music festival.