I've recently been involved with some campus political drama (weird right?), about the Take Back the Night March. The march, which has been happening here at OU for over 30 years, is a rally/march to raise awareness of sexual assault and to empower women to feel comfortable to walk home alone at night. At OU- men can't march. Personally, I see this as incredibly misguided and have said many times that I won't march until men can march with me.
And as I try to read an article for class on microbes- I keep thinking about this. Am I being stubborn beyond need be, am I failing to compromise on the issue and failing to work towards the goals of sexual assault prevention?
See- I think the problem is- I don't only see this as misguided and exclusionary, but as harmful. Harmful not only to a 'movement' but also to women who may be battling with sexual assault issues, or may in the future. For me, the exclusion of men from the march sends a few messages, but the one that is most perturbing to me is this: By having a womens only march, it seems that the ball has been put into the womans field (so to speak). If it were up to women to empower themselves to say No to sexual assault and to feel safe walking home alone tonight, I can't say I think we'd still be having this issue. Sexual assault would be a thing of the past.
But, it's not up to women. Generally, men are the ones making unwanted sexual advances and doing the assaulting. This is not to say that men cannot be attacked, or that women cannot sexually assault someone, but speaking to the norms- it's men. Men are choosing to sexually assault others. So, to hold a march where women come together and act out of sisterhood to make their streets safer, seems really harmful. I think this allows the idea that women can make choices to not be attacked (a blaming the victim of sorts) to be perpetuated. Saying No, knowing self defense, and feeling confident certainly can help- but ultimately it is up the the person doing the attaching to stop sexual assault.
As someone who has dealt with these issues myself, I know it was not a choice I made. I chose to say no, i know how to defend myself, and generally feel pretty confident. I can't say I couldn't have acted differently and had a different outcome, but what I do know is- I didn't make a choice. He did. And in the process, I always felt it was my fault. I didn't push away hard enough, didn't say no loud enough, and didn't avoid compromising situations well enough. it took me a long time to realize, it wasn't my fault.
it seems to me, that a womens only march tells women they can choose to stop sexual assault. they can choose to take back the night, to feel and to be safe walking home at night. but i don't think they can. men have to make that choice.
either way- the question remains, at what point to i compromise my views in order to act in solidarity with others trying to achieve the same things as I am, and when do i hold my group because i see their efforts as harmful to what we're trying to achieve?