Interview: Girls Against

Girls Against is a UK-wide campaign that fights against sexual harassment at gigs. Founded by five teenage girls from Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, the campaign has gained massive support from gig-goers and bands alike. Qmunicate’s Amy Shimmin had a chat with the founders to discuss the origins of Girls Against and the work they are doing to help raise awareness of, and thus prevent, sexual assault in gig environments.

qmunicate: Hello! To start us off, can you give us some context behind Girls Against and what led you to starting the group?

GA: We’re made up of Hannah, Anni, Anna, Ava, and Bea. We decided to create the campaign after Hannah’s experience of sexual harassment at a Peace gig in Glasgow. We shared her story, which led to members of Peace requesting that fans who engage in this behaviour do not attend their gigs. Others began to share their own experiences, and we acknowledged how widespread this problem is and why we must do something about it. Hannah found that confiding in a stranger gave her courage to speak more openly about the incident, so in creating Girls Against we are acting on this problem, as well as giving others a safe speak to speak out and aid their recovery.

qmunicate: Bands like Wolf Alice and Peace have backed your campaign, which is really exciting. How has the campaign been received in and outside of music?

GA: So far it’s been received really well! It’s quite humbling because these are the people that we listen to, so it’s very odd to be emailing and messaging them on Twitter. We’ve had coverage from music magazines like NME, DIY and AltPress. We’ve also been featured on the BBC and in papers including the Independent and the Times. There’s been backlash in some comment sections, but it’s quite funny to read their arguments. There are always plenty of people backing us though, which is really lovely to see.

 qmunicate: One example of an outspoken feminist in music is Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches, who talks about harassment in crowds, as well as on stage. There’s a one-word answer to this – patriarchy – but do you think there’s any other factors that influence (primarily) men and their behaviour in these environments?

GA: We love her! She’s really cool, and also from Glasgow which makes her ten times better. The patriarchy has a lot to do with this, but there are quite a few subcategories to it which also have an effect. For one, rape culture advocates their behaviour – girls, who presumably are the most commonly assaulted in this environment, are just expected to take this lying down. We’re not expected to create a fuss or stand up for ourselves thanks to stereotypes of the angry woman, as well as gender roles. Victim blaming is also a large part of why this issue hasn’t been discussed much until now. Victims are scared to come forward with their stories in case they’re seen as making it up, or creating a mountain out of a molehill. This attitude is possibly one of the most damaging ways to treat a person who has been through these kinds of experiences.

 qmunicate: Glasgow had a summer school for young girls last summer to encourage new bands to form, and give them the confidence to enter music. How do you think we can encourage women and non-binary people into such a male-exclusive industry? 

GA: We saw this! [Hannah] really wanted to go but was away on holiday, which sucked. Projects like this are essential, as we need to see strong women in the music industry (and other male-dominated areas) to act as role models. Destroying gender stereotypes is essential, as well as education on the subject. More needs to be taught to young kids about feminism, equality, and consent.

 qmunicate: The incident which inspired your group was at a gig in our venue, Qudos. What do you think venues – from the size of Qudos, to somewhere as big as the Hydro – can do to ensure women feel safe at their gigs?

GA: Reforms in security policy are key. We’re working with venues and their respective security teams at the moment to have their venue policies made public. We’re also working on getting posters made for venues to show their support for the campaign and display that there’s no tolerance of the issue. We’d like to see how to spot and deal with sexual harassment appropriately as a mandatory part of security guards’ training, as well as more guards in easily accessible areas.

[Amy Shimmin – @amylfc]

A massive thanks to Girls Against! Find them at @girlsagainst and on their Crowdfunder page. 

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