January 7, 2013 • In web :: Features
Take Back the Night
Activist and couselor deborah singh discusses this global march and its herstory in Toronto.
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Feminist activists around the globe have used TBTN to mobilize for decades. I believe the event’s strength is its flexibility; any community can make the march its own. An example of this is the Malvern community, which hosted its first TBTN this year, making Toronto the site of two TBTN events in the same month. Communities all over the city supported each other to make safer spaces, make noise, and make it known that sexual violence is not okay.
As information of multiple assaults continued to hit the news, we also saw the resistance in events like Take Back the Block (community parties held after TBTN in Ryerson and Kensington areas). Of course, this is not the first attempt at protests, marches, parties, rallies or demonstrations that have worked alongside TBTN to end sexual violence. The TRCC/MWAR used to run dances post TBTN to not only protest, but as survivors, to celebrate still being here.
At the same time, as much as we can hoot and holler, it is not in our power to stop the violence. It is a clear challenge to engage men in stopping the behavior of sexual violence. Men (cisgender and trans) need to mobilize more, and work in allyship with women and trans women organizers. It has been a challenge to engage men in effective ways around this issue, to say the least.
Another challenge we face, outside of co-creating a movement with other feminists is the “common cause” issue. Specifically, many women and trans women come to the table to talk about sexual violence but often the issue gets watered down and only speaks to interpersonal violence. At the TRCC/MWAR, but also as a larger community, we know that sexual violence is much bigger than a man raping a woman. It is a systemically accepted form of violence that affects racialized women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, older women, queer, lesbian and bisexual women, younger women and immigrant women more than women who do not identify in these ways.
If, as feminists, we don’t push the envelope to recognize how oppression is intersectional and is used to continue our collective marginalization, then we will not end sexual violence. If we continue to talk only of the interpersonal, we negate the bigger causes of why men use sexual violence to control and have power over women. Put simply, our biggest challenge as feminists is to talk about race, colonization and class at the same time as personal experiences with sexual violence.
It is common practice to end an article like this with something that shines bright about the future of the movement and Take Back the Night itself—and it is possible to do that. Take Back the Night has a rich history of activist mobilization in Toronto. The event has not only focused a lens on the pulse of what is currently happening for survivors. It is not only an event that highlights the common issue of sexual violence no matter what community you are in. It is not only a tool to showcase the anti-violence activism that happens in our city today. TBTN is a tool to bring community together. It is a tool to convey the struggles survivors face beyond the violence itself.
However, I’ll leave with you a few questions, in the hopes that you continue this conversation in your own communities and neighbourhoods. How do we want to use TBTN as a tool in the future? What do we want to see from an event like TBTN in our communities? What are you going to do to support the next TBTN in your community?