Feminism | Posted by Emily S on 11/15/2010

Reclaiming The Night

Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night

On Thursday, November 11, 2010, I took back the night. Joined by a small group of passionate college women, I marched across my campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to protest the perpetuation of sexual violence against women and to raise awareness regarding the rising seriousness of this issue on college campuses. Proudly walking down busy Franklin Street, we blew rape whistles, chanted verses that asserted our rights to safety at all times, and, most importantly, we walked into the night without fear. For the first time in a while, I wasn’t looking over my shoulder. I didn’t have to carry a can of pepper spray, get out my cell phone and pretend to be talking to my mom, or avoid streets on which I ordinarily would have chosen to walk. For the first time, I felt like an empowered human being walking the streets of Chapel Hill at night, as opposed to a potential sexual assault victim.

Two nights after the Take Back the Night rally, I went out for frozen yogurt with my friend Sheena at our favorite place on Franklin Street. As we were walking to catch the bus back to our dorms, we walked by a group of five or six men, all of whom yelled tauntingly in our direction, calling us “baby” and asking us to “come back and talk to them.” As usual, I quickened my pace and ignored them, but my heart sank as I remembered the pride and safety that I had felt walking down the same street just two nights before. Soon, we reached the bus stop. Just as I was shaking off the disgust of being verbally assaulted, two men walked by. Both looked older than fifty, and they stopped in front of Sheena and me. “You ladies need to come with us,” they insisted several times. “We won’t be doing that,” I sharply responded. By the time they walked away, my ears were burning with anger. “See?” I asked Sheena, “This is why we need more rallies like the one on Thursday.” She began to give assent, but, before all the words had even left her mouth, a third perpetrator interrupted. “Let me see it,” he said. “See what?” we both asked, confused as to what he meant. “You said guys like to look at your butt,” he directed at Sheena, “Let me see it.” By this point, I was livid. “SHE DID NOT SAY THAT AND YOU ARE BEING COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE,” I exploded, “YOU NEED TO LEAVE NOW.” As the man walked away and I looked around, I realized that the people around us were giving me critical and scrutinizing looks, as if to say, “Wow, she overreacted.” As if I was the person acting out of line.

Wake up, people! This is what feminism is about. It’s not about man bashing or not shaving your armpits. It’s about recognizing that there is nothing “normal” about the fact that women have to walk into the night with fear, just like there is nothing normal about the fact that 1 in 5 women suffer from an eating disorder or that women in the U.S. make 77 cents for each dollar that men make. It’s about asserting that there is something terribly wrong with a society in which women must be raised to protect themselves from the constant threat of sexual violence and in which women who stand up for themselves are mocked for “overreacting.” And if we want it to change, we’re going to have to do something about it. We, women and men alike, must take responsibility for this issue by asserting our own rights and advocating for the rights of others. This is the only way that we can hope to permanently reclaim the night for ourselves and for women around the world.

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  • Sue @ at 3:17 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Just because someone does a stint in Afghanistan does not mean someone else doesn’t have the right to safety. Everyone has the right to be safe, including soldiers in warfare. Many women are raped in the military as well. Everyone has the right to their own body.

    Who cares if she doesn’t know the exact number of attacks and rapes on her college campus? Many rapes are unreported anyway, but at my Take Back the Night rally, I sat through 3 HOURS of people I knew talk about getting raped, in college or high school. It’s a fact that sexual assault against women is rampant in America and beyond.

    I’m also unsure of why you came here to condescendingly berate someone who believes in human rights.

  • Katherine C. @ at 4:18 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @Emily S: Really nice article. I like how you linked the TBTN rally with actual experiences of harassment just a few days hence instead of just talking about the rally. it really put the whole thing in context. And as to the trolls trying to hijack your message, well, that’s yet another reason for TBTN rallies to exist.

  • SarahC @ at 5:13 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @Ryan your remarks are incredibly off-base. If you cannot respond with the slightest relevance to the matter at hand (street harassment and rape), please do not respond.

    @Emily thank you for this essay. My campus (Cornell University) has recently experienced an upswing in forcible touching incidents. I have to remind myself on a regular basis not to live on a rape schedule. You’re right on. Feminism needs to be there, so I can go out at night, be it to a party, for a walk in the cool air, or even to the library for books without fear of being assaulted.

  • A @ at 6:11 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Excellent article, Emily! It is very passionate and eloquent.

  • A @ at 6:15 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @Ryan-
    http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
    Note Article 3.

  • Jen @ at 6:19 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Dont feed the troll.

    Awesome article Emily! I remember my first night on campus. I was walking with two of my guy friends and suddenly they were gone. I had no idea where I was and the walk to the other side of the campus (getting lost many times) trying to find my dorm was probably the most frightening experience I’ve ever had.

  • Hannah @ at 6:23 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @Emily. You are completely right – away from campus, I will never, ever go out on my own at night. I always makes sure I am with a friend, and if it is very late and we have been at someone’s house, I always ask a group of people to walk us to the bus station. My city isn’t so bad – it’s little, and most of the people there are either students or elderly, but it can be a daunting place in the dark.

    It’s really terrible to never feel safe, and to have to protect yourself from people who don’t understand why they’re frightening you or making you uncomfortable, even in the daytime.

    I don’t know if you’ve read this?

    http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

    It’s a really interesting essay by a woman looking at the kind of behaviour that we often have to deal with, and brings up a lot of things I’d never noticed before, including body language from both sides.

  • M @ at 7:05 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @Ryan:
    Do you have the statistics for the number of men “garnished and the man placed Inside of a cage like an animal” for refusing to “work for or provide to women [men's] wages”

    It’s not men that’s a problem; it’s criminals, and men are victims too.

  • Natalia @ at 7:06 pm, November 15th, 2010

    I love the sound of this rally and I really wish my campus had something like that.

    My mom raised me to not walk alone at night, and if I saw a “weird” man, I had to either cross the street and walk faster or pretend I was on the phone with my dad or boyfriend (ie a man). My mom also taught me to wear a bra and not show cleavage so I wouldn’t “tempt” men, cuz If I did, they would blame me for raping me. Therefore, if I were ever to be assaulted, it would be my responsability. AND that is why many women don’t report their rapes because they feel responsible for it and ashamed.
    Rape does happen and the fact that women are being terrorized like this, is why we still need feminism.
    You still haven’t answered my question, Ryan, how exactly does a woman own her husband’s body?

  • GlenCoco @ at 8:38 pm, November 15th, 2010

    I love this post, especially the last paragraph. I hate that most people brush off feminism as something outdated and ridiculous when it’s dealing with such important, everyday issues like violence against women.

  • Emily S. @ at 8:45 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Thank you to all who have given positive feedback! As a first-year Women’s Studies major just beginning to discover her own feminist identity, it is really exciting to finally give words to my passionate feelings and to know that they have been welcomed by other intelligent women.

    @Ryan: Your comments are irrelevant and ignorant reflections of your misogynistic tendencies and do not merit much of an answer from me or anyone else who feels passionate about the issue of sexual harassment. But, since you asked, I actually do know the numbers. According to a study conducted by the National Victim’s Center, one out of four women will be sexually assaulted on a college campus, and one out of eight women will be raped while in college. I am not looking to blame the entire “male sex” for this problem. Obviously, not all men are rapists, but 95% of all rapists are men. The truth is that we live in a culture where this type of violence against women is promoted and encouraged by the media’s continued perpetuation of gender stereotypes that portray men as aggressive and active and women as passive sexual objects. This also ignores the many other social factors that promote a “rape culture”, including racism and homophobia.

    This article is not intended to “blame” anyone–just to show that this problem is everyone’s problem. Excluding Ryan, most men love and respect women, and, thus, men have a lot to gain by helping to stop violence against their wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends.

  • GlenCoco @ at 8:50 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Ryan, you realize this is a site for teenage feminists, right? Since you’re obviously neither, it’d make more sense to publish your off-topic rants on your own personal website/blog rather than here. Just sayin’.

  • Elizabeth @ at 9:29 pm, November 15th, 2010

    @ Ryan

    “In my country marriage is an obligation to provide money to a woman and what is seen as her child or children.”

    You could not be more wrong. It is actually impressive how successful you are in being misinformed. Marriage is a social institution that allows men to be taken care of, fed, loved and supported in a home that they do not make or maintain so that they may go further in their careers than women might. If a woman chooses to pursue a career, she must also be held responsible for raising children and taking care of her husband, making it impossible to devote all of her energy into her performance in the workplace.

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like you’re part of a cult, nothing that you have said is true or sociologically sound. I’d suggest you take a sociology class but clearly you are far too close minded to benefit from one. If you are TRULY suggesting that there has never been a rape at UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, you might be the most ignorant person I know, you clearly know nothing on sexual assault or violence against women despite your raging opinions on the matter.

    As a matter of fact, asshat, did you know that UNC’s student body president, a woman, was shot to death by teenage boys two years ago? Until you actually learn a thing or two about life at all, do the world a favor and refrain from voicing your opinions on the internet.

  • Tessa @ at 10:17 pm, November 15th, 2010

    Great article. I’m planning on becoming a political science and women’s studies double major when I go to college (in about 2 years), and I would love to help organize such rallies! It’s incredibly important to raise awareness of the amount of violence against women that occurs.

    @ Ryan
    I love the fact that your completely irrelevant and shallow arguments are being deleted (finally!!)

  • Shaneru @ at 11:59 pm, November 15th, 2010

    This is a great article, I only wish people would be more aware of feminism in my town. It is hard growing up a feminist if everyone critisises you for pointing sexist behaviours. It’d be nice to point out something without multiple people telling me I need to calm down. I believe this blog is for teenage feminists, if your comment is going to critisise feminism then it shouldn’t be here.

  • kanadra @ at 12:03 am, November 16th, 2010

    Please stop talking to yourself, Ryan. No one but you likes hearing you talk. And please don’t blame the poster for your “censorship” as she has nothing to do with it. The forums moderator is merely doing his or her job.

    OP Emily; Thank you for your post. Like others, I quite appreciate the dichotomies shown by the two experiences. I believe my city has done a TBTN walk, or something similar, as well. The last one I heard about was a few years ago, and I wasn’t able to go, but I wish I could have. For anyone else who is interested, take back the night has a website, and you might be able to get your university, high schools, or cities to put on a walk. Definitely worth looking into. http://www.takebackthenight.org/index.html

  • Minnah @ at 3:10 am, November 16th, 2010

    ooooh the seth/ryan controversy deepens with another dramatic name change!

    but seriously, I really enjoyed this article, expresses just how i feel about feminism.

  • johnny @ at 2:44 pm, November 16th, 2010

    you’re not being fucking censored, ryan. ‘free speech’ doesn’t mean that any private forum you choose to spew vitrol on has to provide you with a soapbox.

  • M @ at 5:00 pm, November 16th, 2010

    How is initiating a divorce the same as placing a man inside a cage for not working? Why would someone who married for money want a divorce?

    On a campus I have lived on, a girl named Katie Autry was raped, sodomized, and murdered by being set on fire using hairspray as an accelerant. If that’s not pathological I don’t know what is.

    Also, don’t delete his posts. They’re great for fstdt.

  • SarahC @ at 11:38 pm, November 16th, 2010

    Ryan, I hereby ask that you appropriately cite all data mentioned in your posts. Give us the names an d credentials of a few of these criminal pathologists. Give us a link to a survey, or at least the NAME OF AN ORGANIZATION WHICH CONDUCTED ONE indicated that the 1 in 8 statistic of rape on college campuses is incorrect.

    And don’t claim that we aren’t holding ourselves to these standards. We at least name organizations responsible for giving us our information.

  • david @ at 7:18 am, December 27th, 2010

    You have written about a serious problem in this society; disrespect for women. Respect for women is the cornerstone of any great civilization.
    Somehow this respect has begun to disappear to the point where confrontation and intimidation are the new conversations between men and women. You and your friend were together and strong but what about a younger girl that is possibly alone. Would she be as strong?
    It’s a crime that you cannot feel safe on the streets; night or day. Many men, particularly fathers, care about your safety and I’m sure they would like to stand with you against insults and rudeness on the streets. What stops them is this simple fact: they are part of the patriarchy. No matter what they do, they are the evil enemy.
    A war against men started with, “A women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” and ended with men being perceived in society as stupid pigs. Feminism won the battle against men and now is saying the new battle is for women.
    Just remember that the silent guy, the one not being rude or vulgar, may be on your side.

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