Friday, September 10, 2010

Take Back The Night and reCLAIM Alley Walk



beginning 7pm, starting out from Victoria Park (Murray & Water)



beginning around 9pm, also starting from Victoria Park (Murray & Water)

A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees, and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and skips a beat. She hurries her pace as she sees her destination become closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on forgetting, at least for tonight, the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her life.” (from the Take Back The Night website)

Take Back The Night started in Philadelphia in 1975. It began as a response to the murder of a young microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth. This spawned a number of international marches, the first and largest of which was a march in Brussels that coincided with the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in 1976.

Peterborough’s annual Take Back The Night march will begin at Victoria Park at 7 pm, taking to the streets and returning to St. Paul’s Church for refreshments and an open stage full of performances, speeches and stories. Organized by Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, this year’s Take Back The Night is said to be inclusive and all are invited to attend.

Take Back The Night has generally been a women- and children-only event. This has been so in order to provide space for women to feel safe and unthreatened by men and masculinity. In the 70s and today, the pursuit of women-only space has been an important feminist challenge to dominant forms of patriarchy that often silence women and conceal women’s experiences. Especially in relation to street violence and the sensation of fear at night, women-identified and female-bodied people are very often victimized. Take Back The Night acts to reclaim spaces that are often threatening.

Women-only spaces are still important, but are certainly not uncomplicated. What, for example, constitutes a “woman”? This question came to the fore in feminist circles at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival when the organizers decided that trans women were not actually women, and therefore were not allowed to attend or perform at the festival. This may have been one of the more prominent examples, but this debate has always been a part of feminist struggles. In relation to taking back the night specifically, it is important to realize that women and female-bodied people are not the only people to experience gendered violence and fear on the streets at night. Lesbians, bisexuals, gay men, trans-identified individuals and queers of all sizes and shapes are also endangered on the streets. Street violence is also racialized in our communities, so that people of colour of all genders and sexualities are also made to feel unsafe walking on the streets at night. It is important to realize that all of these struggles are intertwined and thus, must be challenged together in order to be overcome. The exclusion of men and male-identified people from feminist struggles in general can also be problematic. Recently in Waterloo, an organization that provides shelters for abused women and children has decided to boycott Take Back The Night for this reason, stating that “men are critical to ending violence against women” and should thus be included in the march. (from The Record)

In response to Take Back The Night, but not in contrast or competition, the Centre for Gender and Social Justice is holding its second annual reClaim Alley Walk. reClaim is inclusive of all genders and sexualities and strives to recognize the intersections of race, class, ability and sexuality, along with gender, in creating unsafe spaces on the streets at night. On a tour through the dark (yet beautiful) alleys of Peterborough, attendees are invited to share stories, poems and songs about their experiences of empowerment or fear on the streets at night. This walk will begin after the festivities following the Take Back The Night march, and all are encouraged to attend and/or support both events.

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