By Nina Freedman, Second Year English
“2, 4, 6, 8, Stop the Violence, Stop the Rape!” These words rang in my ears as I marched up Park Street alongside hundreds of other women. Cars and people parted for us as we made our defiant march through the city centre.
Only a week earlier, I had sprinted back from Spoons at 10pm because none of my male friends were around to walk me home. Only yesterday, I changed my route home because I was convinced someone was following me. Every day I still implore my friends to text me when they get home so my fears for their safety can be alleviated.
Walking in solidarity with countless other women felt so far removed from these fear-filled experiences. For once, people were actually scared of us. We had power and influence over all the roads and we were, quite literally, traffic stoppers.
For once, people were actually scared of us
As feminist discourse has evolved and developed, so too the conversations around Reclaim have transformed. Whereas 40 years ago, at the start of the march, women were worrying about the Yorkshire ripper, our conversations turned to intersectionality and the UCU strikes. It was wonderful to hear feminists from all different backgrounds unite against a common threat.
I believe that this shows the importance of the continuation of this march. As long as sexual violence and gender inequality permeate our society, this march remains vital. If women cannot feel comfortable walking alone at night time then how can we say our job as feminists is done?
In a post #MeToo era, issues of sexual violence are very much in the public consciousness.
While this is a great thing, it does little to prevent the despicable rape culture that permeates our society. Young boys are still mimicking the same disgusting behaviour and speech of older men and cases of rape are still grossly under-reported.
This march was a fat middle finger to this rape culture and to the misogyny still entrenched within our society.
Not only was it a great opportunity for women to come together and share their experiences, but it was a demonstration of discontent and a call for things in society to change. The people who attended the march weren’t just there to make a point, we were angry and we wanted our voices to be heard.
This march was a fat middle finger to this rape culture
The terms ‘sisterhood’ and ‘girl power’ have been appropriated and thrown around a lot in contemporary culture but it was only through this march that I experienced them properly.
During and after the march, we were presented with a variety of speeches and performances which reflected experiences surrounding sexual violence and misogyny. Though some of them were jarring or potentially triggering, it was amazing to see the lived experiences of so many different women represented. From discussions of intersectionality and transgender issues to poignant spoken word pieces and pole dancing, the event was a true celebration of what it means for all of us to be women.
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the women’s network for organising this march and all those involved in marshalling or performing. You all helped contribute to an amazing atmosphere that allowed us to feel empowered and liberated in a safe environment.
I only hope that someday women will be able to feel equally safe and empowered in all aspects of their lives. It is a sad reality that it takes hundreds of other women for me to feel comfortable walking at night-time.
One day, when sexual violence and prejudice against women has ended, I hope to feel that comfortable in my own right and then we can say that we have truly reclaimed the night.
Featured image: Bristol SU
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