Safe spaces for women hit right note

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People tend to love or hate musical festivals—crowded areas filled with music, dancing and, often, drinking and drugs. 

The pressure to participate in those activities, especially all at once, can diminish the enjoyment of music for groups such as families and those practicing sobriety.

Women especially know how easy it is to feel uncomfortable in areas crowded with intoxicated people. Unwelcome touching and degrading comments are prevalent at concerts and festivals, and that harassment is often seen as a necessary price to pay in exchange for enjoying live music.

That’s where Bonnaroo enters the equation.

This year, the Tennessee music festival is promoting SheRoo, a camping area designated for “women, women-identifying individuals, and non-binary Bonnaroovians.” The concept of the space has come on the heels of a Teen Vogue report highlighting sexual harassment at music festivals, though it’s taken on a life of its own. For $50 a ticket, you can enjoy self-defence classes, body-positive yoga, and kombucha bars, among other features

Bonnaroo’s efforts are a promising step toward ensuring women’s security in public spaces. A designated space full of productive and entertaining activities, from body glitter stations to women’s empowerment workshops, make them more than a preventative measure: they’re a positive experience.

SheRoo empowers women and encourages them not to see themselves as victims of an unequal culture. However, in the process, it’s leaving non-binary and trans individuals by the wayside. Their inclusion in SheRoo feels like an afterthought given the pronoun in the name, along with activities marketed toward cisgender women. More could be instituted to accommodate those beyond cisgender identities, and festival organizers should keep this in mind when expanding their camping site.

One message remains implicit in the “no boys allowed” camping site: people still feel uncomfortable at music festivals, and they deserve the same security in public spaces as others.

This speaks to a larger epidemic. Women are in search of places they can dance without being touched, and are able to walk home at the end of the night without holding their keys between their fingers.

Women are in need of separate spaces from men in order to feel safe. And they don’t want to have to retreat to their own space instead of existing in the world without fear of harm.

In this way, SheRoo is reactionary rather than proactive.

—Journal Editorial Board

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