Lots of people are getting excited about the upcoming Cambridge Reclaim the Night, which will consist of a women’s march and a vigil open to all genders, as well as a men’s solidarity demo. (All parts of the evening are explicitly welcoming to trans people).
Holding events which are women-only inevitably reignites the debate about why there are events to which only self-defining women are welcome. In reponse, I have written a (wo)manifesto which tries to communicate why Reclaim the Night marches which are women-only are so empowering and so necessary…
We are marching to reclaim the night as women together because it is as women that the night is taken away from us. As women, we are told not to walk outside alone, and it is as women that we are taught to be afraid- 95% of women do not feel safe on the streets at night. Having a women-only march is empowering for the women who participate, and makes a strong statement to those who see the march.
We are marching as women, because when walk down the street, we encounter abuse, harassment and unwanted attention on a daily basis. When walking with a man at our side – friend, family member or lover- we rarely receive the comments, unwanted touching and looks up and down our bodies that are common when we walk alone, or with other women. So we are reclaiming our right to be free from these daily abuses, whether or not there is a man with us.
Last year, as we gathered for Reclaim the Night, we experienced how powerful and necessary it was to reclaim the night as women when some of the men we passed pulled down their trousers at us and heckled us. Had any of us been walking alone, we would have felt threatened and unsafe. But there were many of us, and we felt strong.
Reclaim the Nights have been happening around the world for decades as a response to violence against women, and to challenge the common attitude that women should stay at home at night in order to be safe. Violence on the streets is part of a deeper problem- women are more likely to experience sexual violence from someone they know rather than from a stranger on the streets, yet our society still places the responsibility of preventing rape on the woman rather than on the rapist. Until we confront the gender oppression that exists in every facet of our society, we will not end violence against women.
We are taking back the night as women as part of the fight against gender based violence, which people of all genders must take part in. While Cambridge women march through the streets, men will be handing out leaflets outside of Great St Mary’s, and then we will join together for talks, music and reflection in King’s College Chapel. Join us on May 8th to reclaim the night, and to demand an end to violence against women.