Beyond Optics : Resisting Gender-Based Violence Through Safer Arts Spaces
By Viktoria Belle
I am not the first queer woman and musician to write about gender-based violence within our live music spaces . What I share with you here means to add to the discourse since there is no single solution or approach to challenging rape culture and misogyny . Also , simply attending one training session or creating a policy won ’ t provide the cultures of consent and equity we need to be able to experience live music in safer ways . There are ways that we can integrate the creativity it takes to make art and the dedication it takes to organize live music into creating safer space . It ’ s not an impossible challenge about perfection or optics , rather it is a formation of active values and practices rooted in gender-equity and the sharing of power and accountability . This is a call to action rather than a nuisance or burden . Building safer spaces does not translate to building spaces that censor or restrict artistic or patron integrity or enjoyment — rather , it ’ s quite the opposite .
Since 2017 I have been working with all kinds of spaces and people in the arts through the Safer Spaces Training program at the Dandelion Initiative . I ’ m grateful to share some short offerings from the training to help you think about how to create safer spaces for women and gender-diverse people .
Values Need Clear Actions When an event space has a sign that says , “ We are a Safer Space ,” what does that mean ? Safer spaces require actions and values that help people understand what the expectations are for their behaviour and for the culture created in that space . Safer spaces also make it clear what happens when someone causes harm there . Consider even communicating these values ahead of time . For example , send the code of conduct to other artists , the bar staff , or even send your values when people purchase tickets to a show .
Environment Matters If you are expecting artists to share green rooms or private spaces , how are you ensuring these spaces are safer ? Check your environment with safety or potential risks for gender-based violence in mind . This can look like environmental scans and risk assessments for areas that are less visible or populated . This can also look like using the environment to translate your values . Early in my career I learned that an environment can often act as an invisible teacher , either enabling dangerous behaviour or encouraging collective care .
Designate Areas for Support & Safety A diffusion of responsibility happens in live music and festival spaces , which can make encouraging people to intervene very challenging . Consider reaching out to your local rape crisis centre or gender-based violence prevention organizations to ask them to set up a tent or resources at an event . Some festivals and live music spaces have had good outcomes from training specific workers or volunteers as gender-based violence prevention and response teams to work festivals .
Normalize Artists Sharing Their Safety Needs Artist Safety Riders can communicate your expectations and needs . We normalize artist riders and their value ; however , we rarely incorporate our boundaries and needs for safety within these . Sometimes , if we want to , we ’ re told not to . I challenge us to try and put into words what we need and expect to feel safer in a space before , during , and after a performance .
Stop Protecting Abusers Live music and creative arts spaces are built to share in rituals of community , expression , and fun . Why do we still expend so much of our resources and energy to hide or protect perpetrators of gender-based violence ? The integrity and sustainability of our creative spaces relies on safety for all , not just for some .
Sadly , the false narrative that we have achieved enough gender-equity in the creative arts gives gender-based violence more space and silence to thrive . There is a responsibility that needs to be shared . For artists this means thinking about the dignity of not only your craft and performance , but about the
environment and the people within it . If performances can ripple through people and societies , then so can the practices we enact or allow in these spaces . For people involved in the organizing of live music , your call to action is immediate since you profit off these spaces , which have historically been built on the backs of women and the silence of bystanders . Reach out to organizations and local leaders in gender-equity and safety to work with you , get training from organizations like The Dandelion Initiative , or listen to the survivors , women , and gender-diverse people in your community . Because if you don ’ t have to think about safety daily , then that is a privilege , not the norm . Resisting gender-based violence through the creation of safer spaces is one way to use that privilege .
Viktoria Belle ( she / her ) is an educator and feminist counsellor , musician and artist , and the founder of The Dandelion Initiative . It is grassroots Canadian organization that provides gender-based violence prevention , response education , and services . If you are interested in learning more about DI programs , training , policy , and advocacy , go to www . dandelioninitiative . ca .
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 9