World’s first festival ‘free from cis men’ held in Sweden

The world’s first major festival to be “free from cis men” was held in Sweden on Friday and Saturday in response to sexual assaults at music events in the country.

Statement festival at Banana Pier in Gothenburg, which is only open to women, transgender and non-binary people, is the brainchild of Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare.

She thought up the event after hearing about a swathe of sexual assaults and rapes reported in 2017 at Swedish music festivals, including Bråvalla Festival and We Are Sthlm.

Comedian Emma Knyckare founded Statement music festival in Gothenburg. (Julia Sixtensson)

As well as barring cis men from entry, the new festival only included performances by women, transgender and non-binary artists.

Cisgender men who were part of the performers’ teams were required to stay in a cordoned-off area nicknamed the “manpen” backstage.

“The festival is the world’s first major music festival free from cis men—both among visitors and artists, and it is a statement against all the sexual assaults in our society,” reads the Statement festival website.

“We simply want that women, non-binaries and transgender to be able to visit an awesome festival and feel safe at the same time.”

The event featured musical performances from former Eurovision Song Contest winner Loreen, Frida Hyvönen, Joy, Beatrice Eli, Maxida Märak and Tami T.

Comedians also played at the festival, including Nour El Refai, Petrina Solange, and Josefin Johansson.

“I thought it was sad that the media focus was on immigration or alcohol and not that it is cis men who account for 97 percent of all sexual violence,” Knyckare said on the festival’s website.

The event is run by a non-profit organisation called Statement, which is made up of around 30 people, who are all women, transgender, or non-binary.

A five-point mission statement is listed on the festival’s website.

Swedish singer Maxida Märak performing at Statement music festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Friday. (Julia Sixtensson)

These include creating a music festival “where non-cis men can feel safe,” and promoting “artists who are not cis-men.”

Other aims include highlighting a “work culture where non-cis men are those who work at all levels,” and instigating a “debate regarding the social norms that underlie sexual violence against non-cis-men.”

Knyckare initially proposed her idea for the event on Twitter, posting: “What do you think about doing an awesome festival where no men are welcome until ALL men have learned how to behave?”

After receiving a positive response, she started a crowdfunder in 2017 for the festival, which raised around €50,000 (£45,000) towards the event.

Organisers have a long-term goal of allowing cis men to attend the event.

However, organisers of the festival have been accused of discriminating against cisgender men.

In July, the Swedish Equality Ombudsman reportedly launched an inquiry investigating whether the event breaks laws banning gender discrimination.