It was only a matter of time before Glastonbury, the world’s most middle-class festival, caught up with the latest political trend. In an announcement heralded as brave, pioneering and ‘necessary’, a group called ‘The Sisterhood’ have announced a women-only venue at the four-day festival. ‘In a world that is still run by and designed to benefit mainly men,’ the group argue, ‘oppression against women continues in various manifestations’. The way to combat this global sexism, it seems, is to have a boy-free zone at festivals.
The Sisterhood has designed the special zone to allow women ‘to connect, network [and] share their stories’ about sex work, domestic violence and the pay gap. In spite of this, they assure female festival-goers that the space will be fun.
There are probably lots of weird places to go at Glastonbury – everyone has heard of that one secret venue if you take a left by the third tree under a full moon – and a women-only venue is a similarly weird idea. But one of the main goals at a festival is to cop off with someone and get away from real life. Barring boys from a venue and discussing politics into the early hours doesn’t seem in keeping with these traditional aims.
So we should be reluctant to take this initiative seriously. Just as women-only carriages were laughed out of existence when Jeremy Corbyn flirted with the idea, so should women-only spaces at festivals, nightclubs, museums, or any other public place. If you fancy going to a boob-filled venue for a night at Glastonbury, fine. But don’t pretend this is, as one tweeter called it, the start of a ‘movement’.
Many have heralded the idea as a necessary precaution for women’s safety. But the truth is, there really is no place safer than Glastonbury. With its excessive security, hoards of stewards and general happy-clappy feeling that attracts only the most right-on Islingtonians, it’s not mad to claim that most women will be just fine. For what could possibly oppress women at Glastonbury? Unripe avocados? The inability to remove last night’s glitter?
By creating a zone in which women are sectioned off, it completely undermines what needs to be done to win women more freedom. Conversations about women’s rights, domestic violence, abortion and childcare shouldn’t be discussed in a female-only vacuum. Even if Glastonbury is the right location to discuss these things (which it most certainly isn’t), preaching to the converted never achieved anything.
The Sisterhood’s own policy proves the ineffectualness of the campaign. It has been described by the organisers as a ‘revolutionary clubhouse’ open to ‘all people who identify as women’. If we take this to its logical conclusion, this means that anyone could get into the space by claiming that they identify as a woman, in the same way that I’ve pretended to be into yoga in the past to get into hippy tents for the free tea.
But aside from it sounding like the most boring venue ever created, the whole thing sends out the message that women can’t engage in political discussion unless there are safe parameters provided for them. And at the safest place imaginable, Glastonbury festival – home of the yoghurt-weaving dippy-hippy – this is frankly insulting. I hope a big bunch of drunk lads and girls go and crash it, vomit on some ‘networkers’ and rubbish the idea that women need to feel protected to have a good time.