Taking Back the Night, fo’ shur.

A lot of activity in my He Says/She Says: Language and Gender class this week. Take Back the Night took place on campus Tuesday evening. Why Take Back the Night?

A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees, and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and skips a beat. She hurries her pace as she sees her destination become closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on forgetting, at least for tonight, the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her life.

This scene could have occurred anywhere last night, last year, or even 100 years ago. Historically, women faced the anxiety of walking alone at night and that is why Take Back the Night began.

In Geneva, and indeed on many college campuses all across the country, the city saw—and heard—a group of women (and on some campuses, men) march around town banging pots and pans and chanting about taking back a right to own the night.

In the day that followed, various discussions were held concerning the event. Some of those discussions took place on our social networks. One such discussion blamed the event for causing a distraction in study time Tuesday evening.

I moved this discussion to our classroom today. I wanted the people that were affected by this conflict—those that felt the emotional impact of a TBTN March and those that were standing on the outside, uncertain about what TBTN was—to come together and have a space to converse and hopefully, to learn from each other.

I thought discussion went well today. It was emotional, but not aggressive. I feel both sides were heard and hopefully, both sides walked away thinking about the points each side made. But one 45-minute session on such a deeply embedded topic as sexual abuse and harassment is certainly not enough to break down the barriers that keep us all from recognizing the changes that need to be made on our campus and in our towns where sexual assault is an issue. An entire discourse needs to be created, an ideology relearned.

While I am using this blog post to allow for a safe space to continue our classroom discussion and indeed, to invite anyone to join that is interested, I also encourage the students of Hobart and William Smith Colleges to attend Take Back the Night: The Aftermath on Monday, October 25. This is an open forum in a safe space.

It’s up to you to carry on discussing the issue of sexual assault on our campus. If you want things in your community to change, get up off your ass and make a stand.

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10 thoughts on “Taking Back the Night, fo’ shur.

  1. Connie Mandeville says:

    I wanted to see if there were any more questions that were not answered in the class today because as the co-chair of women’s collective and part of the organizers of the event, I can answer any questions.

    One point that I wanted to make in class today was about the noise disruption. While the noise disruption lasts a short bit of time, the victims and survivors of sexual assault deal with it on a day to day basis. How do you think it makes them feel? Does it distract them from their studies? yes. Does it cause depression? yes. Not everyone is the same but it can be very emotionally damaging and scarring. A few minutes of your time being distracted to help empower women and those who have been sexually assaulted does not seem like that big of a sacrifice to me.

  2. As you said, Michele, I think our class discussion was really productive. Although there were some frustrating points that were made, I think everyone did a good job of remaining calm, cool, and collected.

    Connie, I think you’re right-on with these questions. Like we said, the noise is to draw awareness, take up space, and ultimately generate a discourse. One point that was brought up in class was the issue of understanding what was being said. As a Writing and Rhetoric major, I know the importance of rhetoric: Is not just what is being said, but how it’s being said. If the message can’t be understood, is the discourse really functioning effectively? With the purpose of TBTN in mind, I think a loud/noisy march is the way to go. However, looking ahead to next year, how can we make our chants more audible and articulate? It’s extremely difficult to get 50-plus women chanting in complete unison. We used a megaphone this year, but what else can we do? Does anyone have any suggestions?

  3. Ashley Yang says:

    Why are all the women wearing skirts in that cartoon, mm?

  4. Ashley Yang says:

    Also: I was not present for this discussion, but I think that anyone who complains about the noise can get the royal hell over it. It’s not like we’re circling the same block over and over for an hour–we pass any given site in a matter of seconds. The noise on any weekend night from the average drunken uproar is far louder, far more chronic, and doesn’t even serve a purpose. If you want to bitch about something, bitch about that.

  5. Katie Smith says:

    I thought the discussion that took place is class was extremely helpful (in regards to clarifying the event) and also very intense. I was to applaud the few females who had admitted (in class) to being sexually assaulted, it was extremely brave. I personally am a huge supporter of Take Back the Night. Unfortunately, this year I was not able to participate because of homework, but I tried to give my support by going outside when the group walked past my house. TBTN is extremely beneficial, in my opinion, to helping the females on this campus feel as though they are empowered. It was a real shame to hear that many people, both males and females alike, found this event more disruptive than anything else. Like we talked about in class, it was only for a few minutes that you would hear them pass, there is no way that it could have been more distracting that checking your facebook or listening to drunk kids walk by. However, there were more complaints about it than any other “distraction” I can think of.
    I understand that people were frustrated with the noise, which I think could have been avoided if listeners knew what they were hearing. The chants were a little mumbled, so you couldnt get the full message. People should respect what these women are doing; taking back the night is way for women here to make their presence and strength known.

    The problem I had in our class discussion was that I felt as though people were not listening to each other. More specifically, the men and women in our class stopped listening to each other and seemed to go into defensive attack mode. I myself was nervous to speak up because I was scared I would get death stares for either sex, or would be interrupted. The most prominent issue that the male side (from what I could gather) what that they didn’t understand what exactly the even entailed. Many of the women in the class didn’t seem to grasp this and went into attack mode…at the same time some of the males in the class reacted by being somewhat disrespectful. I think that it could have been a really great discussion, but it took a turn and I saw a lot of angry faces when I left class.
    On a positive note…TBTN obviously was a success if it could bring about such emotions and reactions. Again, the whole idea of the even leads me to think that understand about anything gender related is crucial. The reason that so many issues arise from gender related activities is the lack of understanding. This is why people were annoyed by the even, and why our class discussion seemed to spiral. I know this post sort of rambled, but my main point was that if we (both men and women) can give the other sex opportunities to understand and not be ignorant of the respective actions and motives, then many of the gender issues we are faced with on a day to day basis could potentially be avoided. GREAT JOB LADIES WHO WERE INVOLVED IN TBTN AND THAN YOU TO THE MEN ON THIS CAMPUS WHO OFFERED THEIR SUPPORT

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to share one male student’s response to Take Back the Night. He parodied one of the chants for the march, rewriting the words as:

    Hey, you bitches
    Hey, you ho’s
    Go find some string
    And learn to sew

    And the next day, talking to one of my best guy friends about the event, he commented, “I think Take Back the Night is pretty unnecessary. We’re past sexism. It’s just a random group of angry women running around campus.”

    Talking to a girl on my floor about the event later that night, she was shocked to hear that one in four women is raped on college campuses and was doubtful that that kind of thing could exist in the utopia that is HWS. I knew that people still aren’t well-informed enough about rape on college campuses, but I had no idea that this level of ignorance still existed.

    So for anyone who thinks events like this are unnecessary, open your eyes.

  7. kelly olney says:

    Unfortunately I was unable to attend Take back the night. I was actually doing a paper that night and did happen to hear the women march right by my window. When i heard these women march and chant I was not disturbed or annoyed, but surprised and intrigued. I was surprised that they were marching right by my window at the hour that it was with full force and no resistance, really making a statement. I was intrigued by the women and their bravery to get their message across to everyone possible. My friends that were able to attend TBTN told me some good points that they absorbed from it, one being that some of the women that had encountered domestic violence wanted to be known as survivors rather victims. When I heard this from my friend it made me believe that domestic violence is severe and could affect anyone. Had i gone to TBTN, I would have enjoyed to hear the stories and any information made by the women on campus as I personally have never been aware of how much domestic violence happens. So for anyone that complained about the noise that the women were making can just truly SAVE IT. I feel that the whole campus should be involved with TBTN as I’m sure there are women out there that have a story but are not comfortable enough to say. If everyone on campus took some time out to show that they are there for those that have been violated, this night will have a great impact.

  8. Emily Harris says:

    The point of Take Back the Night is to Make Noise, so I can say that it was pretty successful if people heard the noise for the couple of minutes it happened to be in their vicinity. I didn’t go on the walk or hear their chanting, but I wish that I had been there to make a disturbance and make people understand the importance of changing our society. Watching the YouTube video makes me proud of what the women on this campus are working towards, but the converse attitudes of some that say it is a disturbance is angering. For women to not feel safe walking alone on the streets is an issue that many men do not have to deal with. For the majority of men that were not present at Take Back the Night I think that you should take the time to try and understand what it is like for women to not feel comfortable walking alone or comfortable at all around men because of the fear we have created. So yes TBTN is noisy, but if it bothers you that is a good thing. The noise should be bothersome and you should be curious to see why 1) the noise bothers you and 2) why women still feel the need to be making such noise. Sexual abuse is still happening and until the many men that don’t understand why the noise is still there, then women are going to continue to interrupt your study hour. The most influential people that can make a change in sexual abuse are men. So those who have been “disturbed,” what can you do? Are you going to continue to complain or try to understand and act accordingly? The facts don’t lie and women are still being abused.

  9. Grace B says:

    Although the discussion we had in class on TBTN was productive in that it brought awareness to the cause, I left the room feeling more frustrated than when I entered it. I felt that in lieu of discussion instead of sympathy and understanding shifting to the perspective of those who took place in the march, emphasis swayed to those who opposed the way TBTN was carried out; those whose studies were disrupted, who didn’t understand our chants, who felt that there was no analogous event for men and that this was unfair. TBTN was coming under fire when what should have been in question was not the bean filled noise makers and women seeking safety in their campus, but the considerable lack of support given.
    60 out of ~1100 women attended TBTN. I like to comfort myself with the fact that these 1000 or so women simply didn’t know what TBTN was or what we were doing. And so in having an open conversation about this and still seeing such insensitive, selfish, ignorant opposition I found it hard to not feel beaten down, both as a student, a woman and a victim of sexual assault.
    When I told my boyfriend, a member of the fraternity who held the TBTN reception and who attended the vigil about the comments generated in class by those who did not agree with TBTN, he summed up the situation perfectly. He said “the people who are making those remarks clearly didn’t take part in the event”. So to those who were momentarily disturbed from your reading, or who think TBTN is an angry feminist protest, or that it is done in poor taste, PLEASE please take place in it next year in some way, shape or form. The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about.

  10. Ami says:

    I know this post was from last year, but I decided to comment because I participated in Take Back The Night this year. At first I was self-consious because I did not want people to look at me in a certain way and I felt uncomfortable, and it brought back meomeries I was trying hard to forget. But once we started marching and chanting, all of my fears were wash away.
    I was chanting because I wanted to be heared and understood. the words “TAKE BACK THE NIGHT” has very powerful and deeper meaning than meets the eye. We are trying to get back a part of us that we once lost, and we want to renew that part of us. What surprise me the most is that a lot of people came out and support the movement and the guys, THE HOBART MEN! join us! I was amazed.
    It goes to show that a lot of people have been effect from this devasting act.
    Men and Women are both affect by this and no one should be afraid to stand up and ask for help when they need it.
    I am glad I attend this event because I feel more empoewered and I know I am not alone. This event is a good way to learn more about your surrounds and people you might have thought you knew. that night I learn more about my friend’s past then I was ever told about.

    Thanks “Take Back The Night” for giving us strength and courage. and most importantly support.

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