Take Back The Night To Be Gender Neutral

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After four years of maintaining a women’s only space at the front of its annual march, Take Back The Night (TBTN) has decided to make participation gender-neutral. The Columbia-Barnard group, an anti-sexual violence activist organization, announced yesterday:

As the anti sexual violence movement adapts to include all survivors, we realize that the time is now for TBTN to evolve as well. In order to combat sexual violence, we need to acknowledge that it is an issue that affects people regardless of gender boundaries.

TBTN also announced that unlike previous years, the group will not police camera and cellphone use in order to maintain the participants’ anonymity, but asked that any documentation of the march be done respectfully. The march will take place on April 19th at 8pm.

Full press release:

Take Back the Night Announces Changes to its Annual March

March 27th, 2012:

Take Back the Night (TBTN), Columbia University and Barnard College’s sex-positive, anti sexual violence activist organization, is announcing today two major changes to it’s annual march.  Since 1988, TBTN has organized an annual march in April designed to reclaim Morningside Heights as a safe space for students and community members.  This year, the march will be gender-neutral for the first time in its history at Columbia University.  We will also begin to allow march participants to use personal cameras to take photographs within the march.

In past years, the march has been separated by gender in a variety of ways.  Since 2008, TBTN members maintained a women’s space at the front of the march.  The women’s space was created to ensure that female survivors, co-survivors, and allies could participate without feeling afraid, intimidated, or triggered in a co-gendered environment.

However, any person can be a survivor of sexual assault.  Throughout years of discussion about this topic, we have debated if highlighting female members of the march undermines the experiences of male, trans, and gender-non-conforming survivors and their allies. As the anti sexual violence movement adapts to include all survivors, we realize that the time is now for TBTN to evolve as well. In order to combat sexual violence, we need to acknowledge that it is an issue that affects people regardless of gender boundaries. We hope a gender-neutral march helps foster this conversation on campus and unite all community members in the fight against sexual violence.

We also announce a change in our camera policy.  In past years, we have maintained that the march should be as anonymous as possible in order to protect the identities of the march participants. Unfortunately, this policy has recently forced us to police personal cell phone and camera usage during the march.  In order to better maintain the energy and mission of the march, and to acknowledge that our generation frequently uses such technology to participate in our communities, we will allow bystanders and march participants to take photographs and/or videos of the march, so long as any documentation of the march is done respectfully.

The TBTN March is a community event; consequently, it should be inclusive of all community members. We will work hard to ensure that the march will be a safe space for survivors and allies. As always, we are open to feedback about these changes.

The annual TBTN March will take place on April 19 at 8pm, beginning with a rally outside of Barnard Hall and ending with a speak out in LeFrak Gymnasium. We welcome all members of the Columbia University community to join us as we march to establish our campus as a safe space through empowerment, support and survival.

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  1. Anonymous  

    Well, this one's a long time coming. That distinction wasn't doing anyone any good.

  2. Anonymous

    I don't see how allowing photography and video recording in what is supposed to be a safe, anonymous space could possibly bring any good.

    • Anonymous  

      I agree. This is not the kind of thing that needs live photo tweets or something. I don't want people taking my picture while I deal with a traumatizing experience. That feels invasive.

      The opposite of a safe space.

      If people want to be texting or something, they should step away from the event.

  3. Anonymous  

    This is great news.

  4. Anonymous  

    The streets are a public place, and as a survivor I felt stigmatized with the marshals running around telling people they couldn't take pictures of me. I like the change as long as the speak out remains anonymous.

  5. Anonymous  

    I don't understand what the point of having a public march is, if you want it to remain completely undocumented and anonymous.

    If you have a public march, that is inherently not anonymous.

  6. Anonymous  

    Also, why use the term "survivor"? That carries... a different connotation shall we say? "Victim" might be more appropriate..

  7. Anonymous

    I think this is a great move.

  8. Anonymous

    "We choose to use the word survivor, rather than victim, to honor the strength and courage of the women and men who survive sexual, physical, and emotional violence. We understand survival as a physical, emotional, and psychological process." -from the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center website, under "Values and History":

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