It is our right

We had a Reclaim the Night March last night. It was a truly awesome experience, and just so powerful to have so many women working together at dusk. We were doing some really great chanting. It was wonderful to see so many women I knew there, and so many women I didn’t. Reclaim the Night is the only regular feminist action in Wellington, and there were several generations of women together that night.

Too many women I knew were survivors of rape and violence, it was amazing to stand there and honour their strength in speaking about their experiences. I know there were women there who do not have the support that would allow them to speak about their experiences, and that is our failure..

As I’ve written I do have real problems with the ‘reclaim the night’ concept:

I can understand the power of a reclaim the night march. If you’ve never felt safe walking the streets of the city that you live in after dark, that fundamentally limits the way you can live your life. To come together with a group of women and challenge that idea, does show the strength we have when come together. I’ve always felt that power on a reclaim the night march, even if I’ve never felt particularly afraid walking the streets at night.

Despite this, I’ve come to feel that Reclaim the Night marches fundamentally reinforce the very notions of rape that we’re supposedly fighting against. I may know women who have been attacked by strangers when they were walking alone at night, I’ve never talked to anyone about that experience. I do know women who have been beaten and raped by men they know, in their homes, in the man’s home, or at a friend’s.

It’s not the night we need to reclaim, it’s our bedrooms.

I’m sure that almost everyone on that march would have agreed with me. But everything about the march fed the idea that it was stranger danger that we had to be afraid of. It took quite a considerable effort for us to change the chant “What do we want” “Safe Streets” to “What do we want” “Safe streets and homes”. Nothing about that march would have challenged or expanded anyone’s idea of what rape was and where it happened.

The best bit was that my friend Rowan felt strong enough to carry her “Pro-feminist and Gender Queer” placard. She didn’t want to carry it herself, so a bunch of people carried it with her – I was really happy that she got to say her thing.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

9 Responses to It is our right

  1. 1
    Janna says:

    This is so true. I worked as a rape crisis counselor for two years, and only spoke to one survivor who was assaulted by a stranger.

    I think people are more comfortable speaking out against stranger rape because they don’t have to deal with the notion that those they know and trust are more likely to hurt them. It’s painful to come to terms with that concept. However, this means it’s even more crucial to address this when organizing for change.

  2. 2
    debbie says:

    I hate whole concept of Take Back the Night because, as you said, it reinforces the myth that most rapes are stranger rapes and/or happen in public places. It’s also always felt weird to me because I generally don’t feel unsafe in public places at night, even when I’m by myself. I know that I’m unusual – most of my women friends do feel less safe, but I do have this disconnect with the idea of needing to “take back” the night.

  3. 3
    Q Grrl says:

    It may, to some extent, reinforce the stranger rape myth, but I think that conversely it addresses just how a rape culture uses rape to control women’s choices and actions. Being able to control women’s movement through fear is part and parcel of the patriarchy, reinforced through it’s stranger-rape myths. I’ve always viewed take-back-the-night marches as a big metaphorical middle finger raised at those men and institutions that use fear mongering to keep women in the home and out of the public sphere.

    Implying that “we” have to take back our bedrooms denies the totality of a rape culture: rape isn’t just an act levied against individual bodies, it is a paradigm that serves to socially reinforce women’s subjugation and undermine women’s agency. Taking back the bedroom works for those women who partner with men — but for those of us who don’t, we still wrestle with the lingering doubts about our own safety and vulnerability in a society that suggests that we are fair game no matter what, no matter when.

    Taking back the night is much more than fighting rape. It is a reclamation of half the population’s right to move freely and bodly in the world. Hundreds of years ago, women who moved freely in the night were labeled witches; now-a-days women who do so are labeled “loose” and “asking for it”.

    It’s not just rape we have to fight, but the stripping of autonomy through the rape of our sisters that our culture encourages and allows.

  4. 4
    IrrationalPoint says:

    While it is true that Reclaim the Night has traditionally been about reclaiming *streets* at night, couldn’t one make it about reclaiming our homes at night?

    –IP

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    Yeah, I get that it’s about protesting rape culture and the social control of women by fear mongering. I’ve been to some wonderful Take Back the Night marches, but for the most part I’ve found them very disempowering. Many of the marches I’ve been to have involved the police marshalling which seems to defeat the purpose of the march in the first place.

  6. 6
    mythago says:

    What Q Grrl said. It’s a retort to the notion that women aren’t to be without male protection–no going out after dark, because You Might Get Raped.

  7. 7
    IrrationalPoint says:

    Or rather, make Reclaim the Night about making abuse *within homes*public?
    –IP

  8. 8
    Maia says:

    It may, to some extent, reinforce the stranger rape myth, but I think that conversely it addresses just how a rape culture uses rape to control women’s choices and actions. Being able to control women’s movement through fear is part and parcel of the patriarchy, reinforced through it’s stranger-rape myths. I’ve always viewed take-back-the-night marches as a big metaphorical middle finger raised at those men and institutions that use fear mongering to keep women in the home and out of the public sphere.

    But don’t you see this as problematic: saying ‘fuck you’ to the purpose and effect of those myths while reinforcing those myths?

    At least at this Reclaim the Night, we weren’t explicitly addressing the way the rape culture limited us, we were addressing the act of rape.

  9. 9
    Haily says:

    When I think of the Take back the Night Rally’s, I’m not thinking of it as an engine to make others aware of the possibility of rape by a stranger. I think of it as a way to make others aware of the sexual harassment women face just because they are out at night. Harassment not limited to rape, but to catcalls, cars honking, guys pulling over and making lewd comments and offering us rides. Things like that. Sure, rape is a very real possibility for women, but it can happen anywhere. For me, I would just like to walk home without being harassed by creeps in cars.

    I recently wrote about an experience I had one night while walking home.

    If you would like to read it, just click here!