Swedish Music Festival Cancelled After Sexual Assaults Will Be Replaced by Women-Only Festival

Written by Kelsey Cochran

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.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine.

Photo Credit: Stephen Arnold/Unsplash

116 comments

heather g
heather g4 months ago

Only men who've suffered the strap would be able to truthfully say whether it was a deterrent. Currently, tazers seem to be in fashion - perhaps that would work.

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini4 months ago

Richard Anonymous
Thanks for your appreciation! I see your point about flogging done as you say but I still need time to see it as not being a return to bad old days of physical punishment. I'll go on thinking about it. It might indeed be a revolutionary approach!

I am now off on holiday and will be out of internet range for a few weeks so I'll say good bye and thank you for your extremely interesting and thoughtful posts. I'm sorry we have lost Pam and Mairja and Inez because I would be interested to know what they think, but there you are!

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Richard Anonymous
Richard Anonymous4 months ago

Annabel, I appreciate your rational response to my posted comment. I should have mentioned that I believe that flogging should be done as humanely possible. My suggestion would be what was done in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s where a wide, flat leather strap that was applied across the men's bare buttocks was used because it did not cut into and scar the skin. It just raised temporary welts and only fifteen or twenty strokes were administered under medical supervision. It was an effective deterrent while not being excessive or disfiguring. You are right in that certainly not all men need the strap to behave. It would be there for the men who need it and be a non-issue for the men who do not need it. I think having it sends a strong message about respect for women and could help women to feel that sex crime is taken seriously because many women think that it is not taken seriously enough. Annabel, I very much value your feedback because I know comes from a thoughtful place of compassion for both genders.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

With more human rights, people think they can get away with anything.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini4 months ago

Richard Anonymous
I don't know what to say. As a man you know more about what deterrent would work than I do but I have to say that knowing what flogging does to the body and the mind (working on human rights cases) I don't like the idea of whipping. Shari'a law? Surely we can find other ways of helping men to live peacefully with their sexual instincts. Indeed the huge majority of men do manage to.

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Richard Anonymous
Richard Anonymous4 months ago

I just want to clarify the comment I made below by pointing out that I am not negative on men. I am just saying that males (esp. young males) are hard wired by nature to seek sexual gratification. Having men control their sexual impulses in mixed gender situations requires men to go against their natural impulses. This is why it is not surprising that most sex crime is committed by men who are known to their victims, even men who have been trusted for years (sometimes simply because they have access to these women or have been secretly desiring them). Men are like circus lions that through ongoing training from a young age can learn to suppress dangerous instincts but still need the threat of the lion tamer's whip hanging over them to keep them consistently/securely under control. Nothing in nature is more of an immediate deterrent than extreme pain and very little is more immediately physically tempting to a man than sexual temptation. In this way, whipping suits the need for an intense deterrent to male animal impulses and males have the strong bodies that are well suited to whipping. Having a deterrent in place that actually keeps men from ruining their own lives and the lives of women and that promotes gender harmony is the fairest thing for both genders. Women who live in or visit Singapore find the men and broader society there very civilized and often attribute it to the civilizing influence of the well publicized and enforced caning laws for men which

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini4 months ago

Richard Anonymous
Thanks for your endorsement!

Pam and Marija and Inez
Have I silenced you?

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Richard Anonymous
Richard Anonymous4 months ago

Annabel, I love your comment about human solidarity. I see much warmth and kindness in what you said about that.

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Richard A
Richard Anonymous4 months ago

I hate to see fighting among Care members because we hopefully all have the same motivation -- the greatest good -- and we should be open to different perspectives and good to each other. I believe in nonjudgementally facing biological realities in order to actually keep women safe when the genders mix as they do in our modern society. Because of their testosterone levels, males are more sexually driven and more sexually aroused by revealing outfits than even some women realize, and males are almost always strong enough to take what they want by force. Education on women's rights needs to be back up by punishment for men known to deter sex crime (not something abstract such as longer prison terms when no one knows how long the terms are anyway). In the past and in modern times in nations such as Singapore and Malaysia, a mandatory whipping in addition to a prison term has been found to be a much more effective deterrent to sex crime than just prison. As a male, this makes sense to me, fits the crime, and is needed now more than ever given how women are dressing.

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