At a groundbreaking music festival that took place in Sweden over the weekend, all attendees were women-identified — from the musicians, to the audiences, to the technicians, to the security staff.
As Agence France-Presse reports, Statement Festival took place at an industrial building in the city of Gothenburg, and was closed to cisgender men, or men who identify with the sex and gender assigned to them at birth. (Transgender women, in other words, were permitted to attend). In addition to the musical lineup, the event featured a bouncy castle, “giant pillows,” and a seating area covered in pink carpet, according to the New York Times.
The festival was launched in response to reports of four rapes and 23 sexual assaults at last year’s Bravalla Festival, the largest music festival in Sweden. “What do you think about us creating an awesome festival where only non-men are welcome until ALL men learn how to behave?” Emma Knyckare, a Swedish comedian, tweeted at the time, planting the seeds for this weekend’s women-only festival.
In July, Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman, a federal agency that oversees discrimination complaints, launched an investigation into Statement Festival to determine if the event was “compatible with the prohibition of discrimination related to sex.”
The festival’s organizers pushed back against any suggestion of discrimination; after the investigation was announced, Kyncare noted that “you can [restrict attendance to a specific gender] at a private party, or through a society like men already have, like a gentleman’s club.”
And at the Statement festival, performers and attendees emphasized that a women-only event is necessary because of the dangerous atmosphere at integrated festivals.
“You cannot relax; you don’t feel safe,” Stina Velocette, one of the performers, told the Times. “You have to hold your keys in your hand like a weapon. You have to hold your cellphone in your hand ready to call the police.”
Statement, she added, would by contrast feel like a “safe zone.” Below, watch some of the people behind the event talk about how it was organized.