How a Squad of Sexologists and Music Lovers Is Making Festivals Safer for Women
Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
As the conversation blooming from the #MeToo movement continues to grow, empower, and challenge the legal system, we have seen a major increase in the number of unique organizations devoted to fighting for women’s rights. Organizations like The Hirondelles (French for The Swallows) who have joined the conversation surrounding female festival safety and made it their mission to stand up for those in need.
The Montreal, Canada-based squad, which made its debut at the city’s famous International Jazz Festival, includes sexologists, psychologists, and security experts working together to protect women, LGBTQ+ youth and anyone vulnerable at festivals across the city.
Speaking with Stéphanie Cloutier, a proud member and team captain, right as The Hirondelles were gearing up to take on their biggest festival mission, Montreal’s Osheaga (which welcomed over 135,000 fans last year alone), it didn’t take long for her to pay respect to the fierce women behind #MeToo.
“I believe that it’s thanks to a better social awareness and these kinds of headlines that The Hirondelles saw the light of day,” she says. “It’s because of a need that was vocalized by the population, as well as their active listening [that] we have adapted our work as women to continue to educate the population on women’s rights, mutual respect, and consent, which are the basis of our mission.”
In setting up the unique team, which moves around various festival grounds while also offering safe spaces, it was especially important for Cloutier to recruit one specific type of member: sexologists. Using her school network she did just that because, as she explains, “It was really essential to be able to address the problem adequately. Who better to discuss sexual assault than sexologists?” So true!
Asked about the possibility of an ideal future in which teams like The Hirondelles won’t be needed and harassment will be a thing of the past, Cloutier explains that she prefers to take things one day at a time.
“I believe that being realistic and understanding that this kind of help is needed and must be offered to the public is the first step towards a more equitable society,” she points out. “I cannot predict the future, but I hope that our power struggle and the vulnerability of women will one day be much less prevalent than they are at this moment.”
As for her biggest piece of advice to ladies of all ages planning to attend a festival this year, it’s as simple as remembering that “you have your proper place [at the fest], just like everyone else. Never be afraid to denounce any type of harassment — it’s never tolerable. If anything ever happens that does not respect your body, your integrity, your privacy, or whatever the case may be, know that The Hirondelles will be there to support you. All for one and one for all!”
Do you think festival safety still has a long way to go? Tweet us @BritandCo.
Photos by Frédérique Ménard-Aubin