In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Take Back the Night is celebrated on International Women’s Day in March, rather than in September as is traditional in many parts of the world. On March 8, 2017, a sizeable contingent of Mexican, Canadian and American women took to the streets in the early evening, led by a traditional Mexican giant puppet of a woman and a very untraditional all-woman mariachi band dressed in vibrant pink. We wove our way through the streets of the old city, singing and chanting for women’s equality and freedom from violence.
Women began taking to the streets in the 1970s to call loudly and unashamedly for our right to be safe:
“Whatever we wear, wherever we go
Yes means yes and no means no.”
The birth of TBTN
There are different stories about when and where the first such march took place, but we do know that the name Take Back the Night was coined in San Francisco in 1979.
Vancouver organized Canada’s first Take Back the Night march in 1978, and other cities soon followed. In 1981, the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres declared the third Friday in September to be the official date for TBTN so that women could march on the same day everywhere in Canada. However, communities have made their own choices to meet their needs, so that TBTN marches are sprinkled throughout the month.
In Renfrew County in 2015, TBTN had to be delayed by a week because on September 22, the date originally scheduled for the march, police were hunting for Basil Borutsky after three women – all former partners of his – were found murdered in their homes in this small, rural community. (Borutsky now faces three first-degree murder charges and is slated for trial this September.
Last year, to respond to the high level of community engagement on the issue of violence against women following the murders, the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County organized two TBTN marches in different communities.
As we approach TBTN events in 2017, it is clear we still need them: women are still subjected to sexual violence and harassment in the street, at work, at school in and in our homes. We must put up with misogynist advertising everywhere we look. Pornography flourishes, with the internet making it easier and easier to access increasingly violent images of women. Sexting, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram videos of young women being raped make me glad to be in my 60s but discouraged about what lies ahead for upcoming generations.
Surely, we should have eradicated this problem by now, I find myself thinking, and yet so obviously we have not.
Getting over rape Eve Ensler style
Eve Ensler takes this on in her piece Over It Here are just a few excerpts:
I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humour and women don’t have a sense of humour, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think uninvited penises up our anus or our vagina is a laugh riot . . . .
I am over rape victims having to be re-raped when they go public. . . .
I am over women still being silent about rape because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen.
I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. . . .
I am over years and years of being over rape.
And thinking about rape every day of my life.
And getting sick from rape and depressed from rape and enraged by rape.
I am over being polite about rape. It’s been too long now. We have been too understanding.
Women unite to take back the night 2017
She is right. It is past time to end violence against women, so when we take to the streets this September, let’s be the loudest, the least polite and the least understanding that we have ever been. After all, these are our streets, our schools, our workplaces and our homes, and we deserve to be and feel safe in them.
Happy Take Back the Night to all women everywhere!