Shawna Potter is the lead singer of the Hardcore band War On Women. War On Women use their platform to promote feminism and discuss social issues. With her TEI workshop “Creating Safer Spaces; You Have the Power to Shape Your Scene”, Potter is helping festival-goers learn about and promote feminism, find effective ways to stop discrimination, and empower people to do the right thing.
The topic Potter is most familiar with is feminism. Potter declared herself a life-long feminist because of the way she was raised.
“I feel like I’ve always been a feminist because I was raised by a single mother,” Potter said. “I feel like that’s sort of the default setting – you have to fight really hard to not be a feminist when you see your mom take care of business 24/7 and probably getting paid less than a man for the same job.”
Although she has always been a feminist, Potter has not always used music as a way to promote women’s rights. That all changed when she realized not enough was being done to help spread the word.
“I’ve always been a feminist, but I guess I had a wake-up call when Bush Jr. became president and started yapping about abortion rights and trying to take them away from people,” she said. “That was upsetting to me. But after years of playing music about and singing about all kinds of things, more poetically and lyrically, at some point I was like ‘fuck this’. There aren’t enough bands with women in them – heavy (bands) with women in them. And there are not enough bands that are talking about women’s rights.”
Since War On Women started using their music as a vessel for the people who are voiceless and discriminated against, the response from people has been supportive.
“We only get a couple hecklers from time to time,” she said. “For the most part, everyone’s really cool. I even have old punk dudes that just came to see Black Flag coming up to the merch table and being like ‘I learned something tonight. Thank you.’ That’s a really amazing feeling that you get that you can be catalyst for learning more. I always want to do more, learn more, be a better human, be a better ally, and a better feminist in general.”
Because her band sings about feminism and supporting those who need help, Potter thought it was only right that she put together a workshop and have a tent that gives people information about these topics. She thought Vans Warped Tour also needed these things due to bad press they have received over the past few years about bands engaging in inappropriate behavior with underage girls.
“If a band like ours is going to play Warped Tour, we have to be proactive and take it into our own hands and ensure that this place is safe for everyone and that people felt safe coming (to Warped Tour),” she said. “That’s why I thought ‘let’s bring this booth out with us and have a couple volunteers talk about bystander intervention and how men can step in and interrupt harassment and violence.”
At the workshop, people can expect a more in depth look in how to deal with harassment and how to take action.
“I’m giving them really specific things to do and say, so they don’t hesitate and think ‘maybe someone else will take care of it’,” she said. “People have been really appreciative. People want to do the right thing. They just don’t know how to do it. So when you can just tell them straight up, ‘Here’s the right thing to do’, they go ‘Oh. Sounds simple. I can remember that’. If men feel like they have more power, they can step in the right way without taking power away from the victim, which is really important. Hopefully women and girls learn there are ways they can intervene, too.”
Along with feminism, Potter’s tent and workshop are tackling many significant issues.
“We’re covering all kinds of issues at the tent like Black Lives Matter, and Anti-Islamophobia,” she said. “We are promoting the idea that there is more than one religion out there. And that there are people who don’t have one, and that’s fine, too. Leave them alone.”
Overall, her workshop is not just about Warped Tour. With the current state of America, Potter thought that her workshop was necessary because people are struggling with these issues every day.
“It’s not about Warped Tour; it’s about the general climate in America,” she said. “Trump being elected has emboldened people to harass and commit violence against people who are not like them. Period. It’s the truth. It’s a fact. There is an uptick in hate crimes. Any time the general population starts to feel more entitled to other people’s bodies or whatever, we have a real problem on our hands.”
“We brought it here to Warped Tour because that’s where we’re playing – because it matters to us. I think anyone can learn from it. I don’t want to pin it on Warped Tour like it has to be here, because it’s not even about that.”
She reiterated that harassment can happen anywhere; it can happen at local shows, while walking down the street, anywhere. And also to anyone one. People of all races, genders, and backgrounds can both harass and receive harassment.
Potter’s workshop was created specifically for Warped Tour, but she does hold events like her workshop when she is not touring. She does them at coffee shops and other small venues.
Unfortunately, not everyone can make it out to Warped Tour and go to Shawna Potter’s TEI class, but there are ways to access the information that she talks about in her workshop. People can follow Safer Scenes on social media. Potter also offers her Safer Spaces program in Baltimore, MD through Hollaback!
Also, if fans miss out on the workshop, Safer Scenes is raising money on GoFundMe. By donating a certain amount of money, Shawna Potter will come to wherever you are and train you in bystander intervention and all the other important things she is teaching in her workshop.
If the workshop is successful on this tour, Potter would be more than happy to bring the workshop to other festivals.
For concert-goers that have extra time on their hands during Warped Tour or those who would just like to learn more, tickets for Shawna Potter’s workshop can be purchased on the TEI website. Potter will be having workshops every day during the tour.
A lot of the music that is brought to Warped Tour has changed the lives of people in tremendous ways; Shawna Potter’s workshop has the potential to do the same.
War On Women
Facebook - @WarOnWomen
Twitter - @WarOnWomxn
Instagram - @waronwomen
Twitter - @SaferScenes2017
Instagram - @saferscenes2017
Tour Press Force will be doing an in depth feature on Potter's TEI workshop at the Tinley Park, IL stop during Vans Warped Tour. The workshop is being offered for free at Tinley Park on 7.22.
Keep an eye out for our video interview with Potter at the Phoenix stop of Vans Warped Tour! Coming soon!!