Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Invitation to Take Back the Night

Originally printed in the BG News on Thursday, October 21, 2010.

Did you hear what happened at Yale?  About a week ago, pledges for the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity surrounded the Women’s Center on their Ivy League campus, chanting “no means yes,” and, “yes means anal.”  And guess what—people are outraged.  But it’s not just feminists.  There’s been a consensus of disapproval and a frenzy of media coverage because sexual assault is a serious issue.
The actions of these young men seemed to be channeling an important event meant to end violence against women.  I’m talking about Take Back the Night. 
There, you will see men and women gathering to assert that everyone has the right to occupy public space, no matter what time of day, without fear.  There is where you will hear the original “yes means yes,” as opposed to the Yale remix.
“No means yes,” and, “yes means anal,” shouted outside the Women’s Center, is offensive, to say the least.  Sociologist and masculinity expert Michael Kimmel found those words in that place to be sending a very specific message about women’s safety and men’s domination. 
In his response to Yale, Kimmel said their antics are reactionary to advances feminism has made with things like consent laws and women’s sexual autonomy. 
He reminds us that “Thanks to feminism, women have claimed the ability to say both “no” and “yes.” Not only have women come to believe that “No Means No,” that they have a right to not be assaulted and raped, but also that they have a right to say “yes” to their own desires, their own sexual agency. Feminism enabled women to find their own sexual voice.” 
So file this last episode under predictable backlash.
Is it any wonder why we still need Take Back the Night?  A masculine attitude of conquest and entitlement, not to mention privileging one’s pleasure over another’s, is still prevalent in our society.  What hopes are there for have equal rights if we can’t even have equal sex?
If you looked at the front page of the BG News yesterday, you know Bowling Green’s Take Back the Night will be this Friday at 6pm, brought to you by the Organization for Women’s Issues (OWI) and it’s many co-sponsors who share a commitment to a more egalitarian society.  The rally will be held on the lawn of University Hall, kicking things off with some entertainment and education. 
But what this event is really known for is the marching and chanting that Yale was imitating.  Members of the Bowling Green community are invited to bring a sign, or borrow one provided by OWI, and join us as we reclaim what is rightfully everyone’s, one street at a time. 
Afterword, a speak-out will be held in the Women’s Center, where victims can share their stories with supportive company or speak privately with a victim advocate.
A rally, march and speak-out to raise awareness?  Is all that really necessary?  Umm, YES!
There were three instances of sexual assault on University property in September alone.  Three times last month I received an e-mail from campus police explaining that another young woman had been victimized in her dorm.  McDonald, Offenhauer and Harshman; each building has seen violence against women already this year.  Isn’t it time to do something about it?
Take Back the Night has a long tradition of raising awareness about all forms of violence against women.  The first was held in 1975, when Philadelphians pulled together to protest the murder of a young woman that occurred just one block from where she lived.  Susan Alexander Speeth was walking home, alone, and she was stabbed. 
But it was not her responsibility to take a cab, walk with a friend or any of the other advice we offer women about preventing violence.  It was the responsibility of her attacker not to stab her, because women have a right to live, no strings, mase, or rape whistles attached.
Makes sense, right?  Then come out and support this event on Friday.  And let’s show the world that our University is far more progressive than Yale.

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