Almost every woman has experienced a form of gender-based fear, such as not walking alone at night.
Changing a culture that allows that fear, and violence against women, is a daily struggle for many individuals, but there is one evening in particular where women can come to-gether, empower one another, and reclaim the night for themselves. That night is Take Back the Night. The year’s march is on April 19.
The event coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness month, and is one of a number of Take Back the Night rallies at universities and in communities across the United States and the world.
“Take Back the Night is important because women don’t get the opportunity to have a safe space in such huge numbers,” said Rhiannon Andreini, co-coordinator of the Women’s Center. “We’re given our consciousness raising groups and our little meetings with friends over wine, but we’re not given the opportunity to be loud and take up a lot of space with other women. I think that’s really important.”
Andreini said Take Back the Night is also a metaphor for reclaiming the dark.
Women’s Center Co-coordinator Jessica Tracey said Take Back the Night is also about recognizing the prevalence of violence against women.
“It’s more than not being able to walk at night,” said Tracey. “It’s about so many issues that affect women and men. It’s a time and a space that we can say that [violence against women] does happen, and it isn’t okay.”
Spoken word artist Christa Bell will begin the evening at 7:30 in the Performing Arts Center. Her performance is free.
“[Christa Bell is] someone rooted in her own sexuality and her own body,” said Tracey “She’s very much about self empowerment.”
“This year, it was really important to us to have the march and the rally be really em-powering,” said Tracey. “We want to make women feel confident. We want women to feel proud.”
Everyone is welcome to attend Christa Bell’s performance, but to maintain a safe space for women, the march itself is for people who are female-bodied and identify as women. At that time, Western Men Against Violence will hold a candlelight vigil for allies in the Performing Arts Center Plaza. There, they will facilitate a discussion on the importance of a march for women and transgendered individuals.
“Having men participate in the march... [would] detract from the idea of women march-ing for themselves without needing men there as protectors sanctioning it,” said Tracey. “It’s about women making a safe space for themselves.”
Andreini said that men can be allies to women by listening, respecting women’s deci-sions and supporting the women in their lives.
On a personal level, Tracey said men should be clear about consent and communicate openly in any romantic relationships. She also said that men should challenge the cli-mate that creates fear for women.
“I also think that it’s important to add that we acknowledge that there are male survivors who may need a similar space, but in the same vein it’s not just about survivors, it’s about women being empowered in a society where they’re not given that,” said Andre-ini.
Although the fear of violence from strangers is often discussed at the expense of over-shadowing family violence and date rape, Tracey said that fear of violence at night is legitimate because it does occur and all forms of violence against women are intercon-nected.
“[The inability to walk at night] is a real tangible, visible representation of the fear women have, because of violence against women, on a day to day basis,
Andreini said the march is one night where women don’t have to be afraid.
You’re with kindred spirits who are passionate and hoping for a day where maybe [vio-lence against women] won’t be an issue,” Andreini said.
Andreini and Tracey each lived in the Ridgeway Dorms during their first year at West-ern, and recalled having to take a longer route to main campus at night.
“I didn’t realize until I was marching [at a previous Take Back the Night] how inherently wrong it was I couldn’t walk the same routes that my male friends could,” said Tracey.
On Wednesday evening, Women’s Empowerment and Violence Education (WEAVE) will host a Night of Testimony, which is a safe space for women and men, allies and survivors, to talk about how they’ve been affected by sexual violence. Night of Testi-mony is from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. in Viking Union 565.