Reclaim the Night – a march against gendered violence and for equality - takes place 25th November. We asked the Women’s Network to explain why it’s important.
CW: This article references sexual violence
When asked what their fears are, many women probably wouldn’t list fear of gender based violence at the top. Maybe because it feels almost hyperbolic. Or maybe because it’s so innate that sometimes we even find ourselves overlooking it because it’s always felt normal. And yet, according to Fiona Vera-Gray, a researcher at the University of Durham, everyday women put in place strategies and behaviours to shield themselves from sexual assaults.
It’s a fear that was taught to us when our mothers told us not to walk home at night as teenagers, but never pressed the same message on our brothers. And often so young, that we never thought to interrogate it or question what the avoidance related to. But it was always about avoiding gender based violence.
You can hear it when we ask our friends to text when they get home, and the follow up messages when they inevitably forget. You can see it reflected in the keys we craddle in our fists, and the “don’t talk to me” faces we carry when we walk the streets alone.
This fear is so common that it has inspired a whole catalogue of apps under the banner of ‘Women’s Safety’. And it’s no wonder. Indeed, a 2014 survey that asked about women’s’ experiences on Clifton Triangle found that only half felt safe getting home at night. Additionally, More found that 73% of women fear rape, and almost half avoid going out at night due to fears over their safety.
Many women are, however, met with few alternatives than to walk the streets at night, whether they’re commuting or meeting friends. And yet consistently we’re told not to. And worse, when an incident occurs we are reminded not to walk the streets. We are told to police ourselves: don’t drink, don’t wear short skirts, don’t tie your hair back. Instead of making these spaces safe for women, we remove them from them, and in doing so we make women responsible for the harms committed against them.
But we reject that. Women should not be forced to plan their lives around fears of violence and harassment. They should be able to walk the streets freely. So on November 25th we take back the streets. We Reclaim the Night to challenge that culture that tells us so often we must hide ourselves away.