Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

“Don't slam the women-only zone at Glastonbury: it can only be a good thing”

glasto 4.jpg

This year, for the first time in Glastonbury's 45-year history, there will be a women-only zone at Glastonbury Festival. Stylist contributor Moya Crockett explains why she thinks it's about time.

It’s rare that I go out with just women. Generally, when the weekend rolls around, my friends and I will head out together in one big boy-girl gang. I like it that way, because my guy mates are great. They’re funny and respectful and cracking dancers, and I’ve never felt threatened by any of them, not once, not ever.

But a few Saturdays ago, after the boys vetoed the idea of accompanying us to a Beyoncé-themed club night, “the girls” and I went out alone. In a sticky basement in east London, the mood was startlingly joyful: as buoyant and light as a Mary Berry sponge. It was an atmosphere I hadn’t encountered on a night out for a long time. Partly, of course, this was due to the fact that they were playing back-to-back Queen B – but something else was different, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

And then I realised. For the first time in my life, I was in a nightclub with virtually no men in sight – and it was unexpectedly lovely. There was no hum of nascent aggression in the air, no unspoken threat that a fight might, just might, kick off. Nobody groped my arse as I walked to the bar. My friends and I danced with blissful abandon, without once having to fend off the advances of predatory strangers. Before that night, it had never occurred to me that partying without men would be such a freeing, joyful experience. But it was.


Revellers at Shangri-La at Glastonbury, where The Sisterhood club will be held this year

I thought about that night recently, when Glastonbury announced that this year’s festival will feature a woman-only venue for the first time. Tucked away in legendary after-hours zone Shangri-La, The Sisterhood club is billed as an “intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space open to all people who identify as women”. Everyone involved, from the staff and security to the performers and punters, will be female. Men are not invited.

Predictably, Twitter instantly split down the middle as to whether this was a good idea or not. Many users heralded it as an important step forward. However, others complained that women-only spaces like The Sisterhood are discriminatory against men and patronising to women. 

But those who are up in arms at the idea of a female-only nightclub clearly don’t understand how exhausting it can be to be a woman who’s just trying to have a good time: at a festival, in a club, at a gig. They don’t know how boring it is to have to push a stranger’s hands off you for the fifth time in an hour. They don’t know how frustrating it is to be knocked bodily to the ground as you’re trying to dance to your favourite band, because the men in the mosh pit next to you have suddenly started full-on brawling.

They don’t know how it feels to always keep half an eye on your friends’ drinks, because three girls you know have been spiked before, one of whom ended up being raped. They don’t know how disgusting it is when a man won’t stop dancing behind you, grinding his penis against your back, even though you’ve asked, then told, him to please go away.

“Not all men are like that!” I hear you cry – and you’re right. But enough men are enough like that enough of the time for women to feel like their enjoyment of festivals or gigs or concerts is sometimes… curtailed. Not totally ruined, but dampened, like rain on your birthday. Most of the time, we simply endure the low-level bullshit; we think of it, subconsciously, as an occupational hazard of having a good time.

But what if we don’t want to anymore? What if we simply fancy a break from it all? I suppose we could just ask the men to leave us alone – it’s just that so far, that tactic hasn’t worked so well.

Girls Against

Members of Girls Against, who are campaigning against sexual harassment at music events

Some people have argued that that women-only spaces like The Sisterhood are just as sexist as male-only establishments like the infamous Muirfield golf club. But that’s comparing apples and oranges. As Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates points out in The Guardian, men-only spaces generally exist because of centuries of pointless patriarchal privilege; women-only spaces, meanwhile, tend to be created to make women feel safer.

And sexual assault and harassment is increasingly recognised as a serious problem at music festivals. Just last week, up to 26 women reported being sexually assaulted at a festival in Germany. In 2015 there were three sexual offences reported at Glastonbury and one rape reported at both Secret Garden Party and V Festival; the year before, two men were arrested for raping a woman at Reading Festival, and a male nurse assaulted two unconscious women in the medical tent at Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire in 2013.

Campaign groups such as Girls Against and Safe Gigs for Women are – admirably – trying to change the culture of sexual harassment at music events from the ground up. But until that happens, it’s not unreasonable that some women might feel safer knowing that a place like The Sisterhood exists.

This year, I’ll be going to Glastonbury with a posse of men and women. I don’t know whether I’ll visit The Sisterhood; I might not feel like I need to. But until enough men stop behaving in a way that makes women want to party without them, women should be able to do just that.

Images: Getty, girls.against / Instagram



How to dress for a festival - if you can't stand ‘festival chic’


Female politicians should be trained to handle trolls, says MP

Mr Fogg's gin slider safari cocktails london bar Purple Lady.jpg

All the best ways to indulge your love of gin around the UK


Outcry over lenient sentence for student who raped unconscious woman

We Count Postcode Camapign.jpg

#WEcount campaign is helping victims of sexual assault reclaim London


Your must-pack beauty essentials for festivals, camping and glamping


European train operator launches women-only train carriages


What a scoop: this summer's best ice cream-inspired beauty buys



At last - Britain's first gravy bar is coming

Finally, a proper way to enjoy chips

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

“When are you going to get hitched?” How to tackle intrusive questions

Useful responses for the most annoying of questions

27 Mar 2017

Oh, happy day: a live Sister Act show is coming to London

Featuring a 35-piece gospel choir and full band

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Westworld creators answer one of the big questions about Maeve

And star Thandie Newton addresses the show’s violence toward women

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Women link hands on Westminster Bridge to honour victims

Many wore blue as a symbol of hope and peace

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

New report: endometriosis symptoms often “dismissed” by doctors

42% of women said they were “not treated with dignity and respect” by doctors

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Airline defends decision to ban girls from flight for wearing leggings

The incident was “sexist and sexualised young girls”, according to an observer.

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Deliveroo is giving away free ice cream to make your Monday better

That's your lunch break sorted.

by Hayley Spencer
27 Mar 2017

Muslim witness of Westminster attack responds to Islamophobic trolls

A picture of the woman walking on Westminster Bridge has been shared widely

by Nicola Colyer
24 Mar 2017

Bright, beautiful and bold Easter cake inspiration

Stylish bake ideas to nick and claim as your own

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017