Thursday night Bwog’s Maddie Stearn attended Take Back the Night for the first time. Read on to hear what she took away from the opening remarks and the march.
Where are you? This is what I wondered as I looked at the crowd gathered in front of Barnard Hall. The group was sizable, but nowhere near the 454 people who clicked “Going” on the Take Back the Night Facebook event. I suppose that’s the nature of Facebook events. You decide to go, but something else always gets in the way. I can’t fault anyone for this–who knows how many times I have been in the same position.
But really, 454 isn’t that many people to begin with. This is concerning.
This number is indicative of the problems with institutional feminism, problems that are prevalent on our campus as well. Certain voices are still shut out of the sexual assault conversation. Feminism remains a predominantly white, straight, cis-gendered female institution. By extension, sexual assault is strongly focused on this very limited perspective. As Nissy Aya, the guest speaker at TBTN, put it, voices are not being heard. This is not a societal problem, something far off that we can rail against while comfortably thinking, “At least that’s not going on here.” Voices are silenced on our campus, and not just by the administration. We, the student body, are still giving precedence to white, straight, cis perspectives.
To those of you who did attend, I hope you were listening. I was. I think we all needed to hear Nissy Aya’s speech. We can all take something away from her words. I only wish that more people had been able to hear her. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?
Aya’s speech provided incredible momentum for the start of the march, momentum that I believe propelled us through the entire route (marchers sustained the same pace and level of energy throughout the entire protest). TBTN members led everyone through Barnard’s gates, and proceeded to take over Morningside Heights. Due to my role as “Press” I kept to the sidewalk during the march. While I took notes and snapped photos, I heard snippets of conversation from other sidewalk observers. Some shouted in support, others looked on in confusion, and some ignored the protest altogether. For those who decided to vocalize support, I wondered why they didn’t join. A man in a suit said to his companion, “I really respect that shit.” I wasn’t sure what to think of that. Later, I heard a girl ask her friend, “What is this?” “Rape,” he said. She just nodded. Their nonchalance bothered me.
The entire time I felt like I was straddling the line between the marchers and the outside world. I sensed a troubling mixture of vague curiosity and ambivalence from the observers. Regardless, the marchers’ energy was high and many lost their voices by the time we completed our route. I was impressed by their inexhaustible energy. I was also glad for it. Their unfailing energy made it difficult to dwell on anything, and even as an outsider I felt buoyed by the voices of the marchers.
The experience was intense, to say the least. My mind still feels like it’s buzzing from Aya’s words and the marchers’ chants. Looking back, I believe that Take Back the Night was successful in embodying its slogan: “unique in our experiences, united in our purpose.” I just hope that the rest of the world catches on.
Taking back every part of the day via Take Back The Night’s Facebook Page