Friday, September 25, 2009

Taking Back the Night: Feel Good Friday

Yesterday night, I was standing in a park, surrounded by 200 hundred other people dedicated to ending violence against women. Take Back the Night 2009 had come to Ottawa, Ontario, and I was more than happy to be a part of it.

Take Back the Night (TBTN) was started in the late 1970s and has been going strong every since. Events have been held all across the world: England, Canada, the U.S., Belgium, Australia, the Caribbean Islands, and more. In 2001, TBTN was given a national headquarters and formalized as an organization with the hard work of Katie Koestner. Hundreds of thousands of women and men have participated over the year, making TBTN one of the most popular manifestations of feminist activism.

Check out this article in Ottawa' Metro newspaper, although it doesn't quite do justice to the awesome-ness of the night.

The Ottawa march began at 6PM, and I prepared myself for the march by donning an intense t-shirt that says: "1 in 3 women worldwide are vicitms of beating, rape, torture or assault." I plastered my shorts with stickers and prepared for some intense screaming. I spent the march with my friend Kaitlin, proudly waving an Amnesty International banner, waving at passers-by, shouting TBTN slogans, and asking passing motorists to honk their horns (and yes, most of them did).

Although TBTN is a always a cause for Feel-Good Friday, something about this one made it seem extra special. Every where I looked, I saw a face that represented the diversity of Canada. Not the faces that the media tells us are desirable (thin, white, tanned, blond-haired, blue-eyed, man-hungry), but the actual faces of feminism.

Mothers and fathers with the children they're introducing to activism; women of all ethnicities and religions; gay, lesbian and transgendered activists; those with physical disabilities; Francophones and Anglophones linking arms; and Native women. These voices--those of women of colour, women of faith, disabled people, gays, lesbians, transgendered people, and Native women--have been marginalized for too long in Canada, in the world, and even within the feminist community.

But last night, I did not sense these seperations. We marched past the Parliament Buildings chanting: "racist, sexist, anti-gay, you will not take our night away!" And the feeling of solidarity was incredible. As I circulated amongst the crowd, activists traded t-shirt slogans, examined each others' signs, and introduced themselves, laughing and hugging people we barely knew.

Within third-wave feminist circles, there is constant debate over the direction of the movement (as there is within any movement, of course). And the voices of feminism that are chosen and displayed by the mainstream media are white, mostly straight, middle-class voices. Gloria Steinem, Jennifer Baumgardner, Jessica Valenti. Although these feminists are great women and great thinkers, many women of colour, transgendered people, and members of the gay/lesbian community have understandably felt marginalized by the media's presentation of mainstream feminism.

But the movement on the ground is different: everyone is welcome, and everyone can be represented. Grassroots activism is the core of feminism and should be represented in the mainstream media.

But for now, I'm happy to know that Take Back the Night is a safe space--and a fun space--for all feminists.

Stay tuned next week for an article about homophobia & competitive sports!

Peace & positivity,

Oh--and I can't write a post about feminism & those marginalized within feminism without giving a shout-out to: Racialicious, Womanist Musings, The Center, The F-Bomb, and The Native Women's Association.

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