Friday, November 24, 2006

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.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:48 pm

    woohoo! It's our RTN in London tomorrow night and, you're so right, it's an amazing feeling to be together, all women, marching and chanting for our right to be safe from male violence.

    The London route passes a 'gentleman's club' and the whistles, chants and general noise increases dramatically at that point.

    I take your point about reinforcement of popular notions of rape - strangers down dark alleys etc. - and, yes, RTN is mainly about street safety.

    Perhaps RTN will morph into something more about women's safety in general after time. I don't know. In the meantime I guess we need to keep pointing out that the streets are the safest place for those of us who live with a rapist.

    Yay for Rowan, though. I think that's fab.