Take Back the Night is a truly amazing event that occurs internationally every year and initiates discussion about how violence specifically affects women. It began and is still run by women who feel that safely walking alone at night, without fear, should be an inalienable right and, as women, we are being denied that right due to fear of violence. The fear of rape at night, usually in a metropolitan area, is quite prominent in today's culture.
This atmosphere of fear is meant to be broken by having a large gathering of women take to the streets once a year at night (usually downtown) and march together as a symbol of hope for a time without fear and in honour of those women whose lives have been affected by violence.
The controversy surrounding the event is prompted by men being asked to walk on the sidelines, which some see as marginalizing them. This misunderstanding is brought on by inadequate knowledge of the symbolic meaning of the event. Men are asked to walk on the sidelines as a gesture of their support for the idea that women should not have to fear violence at night when they are alone or with other women. It is not meant to demean or belittle, but simply to further assert that women should be able to walk by themselves at night without fear.
Some think the event is about feminists taking revenge on men and that it's sexist. What people fail to realize is that feminists love men as well as women and appreciate and encourage their support in the fight to end violence against women and in general, as well as striving to create an open forum for all people to discuss gender issues. The roadblock to positive change is in not having this arena for discussion, which brings us to this year's theme.
Silence is deafening. It takes away so much from a rape survivor. Living in a society where you have no outlets to discuss your experience, especially when you are assaulted by a family member, is particularly dangerous, because it may increase the possibility of repeat occurrences. It also decreases chances for action. Reporting the rape, seeking counseling or generally discussing the experience can be very empowering when your power has been taken away in the most unjust way. Silence on the issues also implies that violent acts are singular, random occurrences, unconnected and not systematic and that strangers most commonly commit them. When it's a non-stranger, well, you just shouldn't talk about it, and, potentially, maybe it's your fault anyways. These concepts are false and dangerous especially in a province with the highest rates of domestic violence against women. The idea of living on a so-called "rape schedule," structuring your day to avoid any opportunity for victimization is not necessarily bad if it keeps you safe, but the fear behind it is troublesome. It assumes that as a woman you are constantly a potential victim and also opens up the possibility for people to blame the victim based on their actions, where they were, what they were wearing et cetera.
This year's rally will be held on Sep. 13 at 7:30 p.m. until about 9 p.m. at Connaught Park. It is open to all women, trans-gendered persons and children, and all male allies over 12 will line the march as a symbol of their support. Also featured is the photo voice exhibit, "Do You Know What I Mean," regarding the lived experiences of sex trade workers and Sandra Crazybull, a community activist, will be the keynote speaker discussing the impact of violence on women's lives. If yourself or anyone you know wants to discuss some of these issues, please come talk to one of our fine peer supporters about what resources we have around campus and in Calgary.