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Comedian organizing ‘man-free’ music fest until they learn ‘how to behave’

A police officer hands out bracelets that say “Don’t grope,” at the Bravalla Festival in Norrkoping, Sweden, on July 1, 2016. (Izabelle Nordfjell /TT via AP)

Sweden’s largest music festival, the four-day Bråvalla, which regularly featured such acts as Kanye West, the Killers and Iron Maiden, has been canceled next year in response to the growing number of sexual assaults reported at this year’s event.

One woman, though, suggested a different idea: Just don’t invite the men.

The festival began in 2013, and annually drew crowds upward of 40,000 people. But it also became a venue for frequent reports of sexual assaults. In 2016, at least five alleged rapes and more than a dozen sexual assaults were reported. Attendees of this year’s festival, held from June 28 to July 1, reported four alleged rapes and 23 sexual assaults, according to the Guardian.

“Certain men … apparently cannot behave. It’s a shame. We have therefore decided to cancel Bråvalla 2018,” the festival’s organizers said in a statement. “Words cannot describe how incredibly sad we are about this, and we most seriously regret and condemn this.”

In response, Swedish comedian and radio host Emma Knyckare tweeted, “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome?” It would last “until all men have learned how to behave.”

Though it may originally have been commentary, quickly it seemed to become a possibility.

“Sweden’s first man-free rock festival will see the light next summer,” Knyckare said, according to the BBC. “In the coming days I’ll bring together a solid group of talented organizers and project leaders to form the festival organizers, then you’ll hear from everyone again when it’s time to move forward.”

“Since it seems to be OK to discriminate against women all the time, maybe it’s OK to shut out men for three days? I would not exactly call it an abuse not to come to the festival,” she told Sweden’s Aftonbladet.

Slate’s Christina Cauterucci wrote that ” ‘man-free’ offers Knyckare a bit more flexibility than ‘women-only’ ” because it is inclusive of people who are gender nonbinary or transgender.

Knyckare isn’t the first to express concerns over number of sexual assaults reported at Bråvalla.

“We won’t play at this festival again until we’ve had assurances from the police and organizers that they’re doing something to combat what appears to be a disgustingly high rate of reported sexual violence,” Mumford and Sons wrote on Facebook in 2016. That same year, as The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reported, police handed out wristbands at the festival that bore the words, “Don’t Grope.”

“We’re hoping mainly that this will get boys to think twice,” national police chief Dan Eliasson told TT News Agency at the time. “A lot of them don’t seem to realize that this is a crime.”

In fact, Knyckare isn’t the first person to suggest a man-free music festival.

Perhaps the most notable was the Lilith Fair, founded in part by Sarah McLachlan, a traveling music festival in North America that only billed female performers. It was held from 1997 to 2000.

“We looked around [at other tours] and thought, Wow, they’re just full of men. And yet there’s all this amazing music being made by women right now,” McLachlan recently told Glamour. “So why is that not being represented?”

Attendees, though, could be male or female. That wasn’t the case at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which began in 1976. As LGBT magazine Advocate explained:

MichFest is held every August in Hart, Michigan, in a woodsy enclave of 650 acres referred to as “The Land,” harkening back to the womyn-only lesbian separatist land movement of the 1970s. The event is completely built, staffed, run and attended by women. It becomes, for that week (and the month previously as The Land is transformed from woods to sound stages, tents, outdoor showers, disability-friendly areas and separate encampments for women of color, for children, for chemical-free space), a whole city of women and only women.

It, though, came to end in 2015, after it had routinely been attacked for not allowing transgender women to attend the festival.

Meanwhile, a female-only venue called the Sisterhood was featured at the Glastonbury festival last year. Its organizers said, “The producers of The Sisterhood believe that women-only spaces are necessary in a world that is still run by and designed to benefit mainly men.”

Of course, such spaces are not always met with cheers from men. Knyckare’s idea of an all-female music festival mirrors that of the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, which held an all-female screening of a “Wonder Woman” — albeit with an exponentially larger audience.

“Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it,” the theater announced about the June 6 showing. “Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”

Many man were furious, as The Post’s Peter Holley reported. One law professor even tried to shut such screenings down.

“If women are entitled to exclusivity and a sense of togetherness, then so are men,” Greg Martin wrote on the Facebook post. “If you don’t provide the experience people are looking for, others will, and frankly, with that attitude, I’m glad you’re not going to be the ones making that money.”

Of course, Knyckare’s idea is still in its infancy. Time will tell if her festival is well-received and supported or if it becomes the target of scorn.

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