An Open Letter To Those Who Put On Gigs

The cliché would dictate that every problem has a solution. Now, this could obviously be applied to anything – you’ve lost your toothbrush, buy another one – but the severity of the matter and the difficulty to find a solution varies from case to case. When you go to a gig, you’ve pretty much signed an unwritten contract that allows you to get sweatier than you’d like, crushed, and, undoubtedly, ripped off at the bar. One thing, however, that is eerily omnipresent, yet unacceptable, is molestation.

I’m not the first person addressing this issue, for this whole site is dedicated to it, but I’m fed up of us, the consumer (and victims), being the only ones fighting to bring sexual harassment at gigs, or in general for the matter, to an end. The very existence of Girls Against is proof that the industry doesn’t care enough, and the fact that it’s the gig-goers left to do the campaigning feels like we’re the mugged searching for the mugger or the customer sorting out shoddy stock rotation in the supermarket.

There have been times in the past where I’ve taken the issue to the security at a show, just for them to shrug it off lightheartedly, in a slightly worrying ‘boys will be boys’ way, claiming that I can’t ‘prove’ it. And they’re right, I couldn’t. The problem, and dare I say solution, starts with people. People are scumbags. But, specifically, sexually- and morally-deprived people in dark, crowded areas, are scumbags. There aren’t many ways of ‘proving’ that unknown and unwelcome hands are forthcoming in dark spaces without taking a hyperbolic, totalitarian ‘1984’-esque approach to things, which is probably why the issue is so prominent.

Of course I can sympathise with venues and security that try and make a change but are halted by this very problem. It’s a difficult situation, but one that isn’t given enough attention – it’s almost like one attempt is given and then they can’t be bothered, leaving it to people like Girls Against to make a stand. And that’s not right.

I commend the likes of the Good Night Out campaign, who are dedicated to this issue. Although, it just feels like an embellishment of the normal procedure. Their website reads: “If something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter how minor it may seem, you can report it to any member of staff and they will work with you to make sure it doesn’t have to ruin your night.” That’s all very well, but how can we prove it?

The answer is we shouldn’t have to. The responsibility ultimately lies with the venue, the security, and even the artiste in question – just look at Speedy Ortiz before their recent tour for steps taken in the right direction. They launched a hotline that spectators could phone, text, or even email during the show reporting any issues, and provide comfort and a solution.

So, to all venues, the security teams, and the musicians – we are the customers, the meat in your machine, and we’ve proven that enough support is here to find a solution to this frustrating and upsetting problem. Predators searching for prey need to be extinguished from the gig circuit effectively and urgently, and it’s your job to do so.

Ryan Lunn

 

Glitter/Armour

Our very own Hannah wrote a poem about her experience of sexual harassment at a gig. As a personal insight into the feelings it can summon, we thought it important to share. Empathy is key, and we hope this can resonate with everyone, whether you’ve been targeted or not. We welcome submissions via email too, should you want to share work on a similar topic.

The bass punches through me.

you’re stealing the breath from my lungs

My body pitches violently forward, my spine cracked into a submissive angle.

and not in the good way

Every side around me shuddering closer and closer to my chest until I’m cuddled in with nowhere to go.

i can feel the pressure of the barrier against every single one of my fragile ribs. they creak beneath the weight of you and their neighbouring muscle sandwiching them.

Like the snap of a guitar string. My breathing hitches and contracts.

i’mnotokayi’mnotokayi’mnotokay.

And it’s only afterwards, with my breath clouding in front of me and my hands shaking inside my pockets that I’ve realised what happened.

i can feel you scrabbling around my waist like a rabid animal and my only resistance thin elastic

No matter the colour of the glitter disguised as armour on my cheeks you still took from me with no thought to how you would leave me raw and stripped with the only evidence of my former self a whisper in the guitar strings.