Take Back The Night and Men
There will be times in feminist activism when men are respectfully asked to understand the need for women/trans* people-only space or events. Some men may experience this as a sort of “reverse discrimination.” What is important to remember, however, is that by virtue of the real and continuing power differences in our society between men and women as groups,the occasional exclusion of men by women has a very different meaning then the historical exclusion of women by men. In other words, to suggest that there is no need for women/trans people-only space or events is to ignore the ongoing reality of male privilege. The fact remains that domination and victimization are not distributed equally - across all class and ethnic boundaries women suffer disproportionately at the hands of men. Fear of violence circumscribes the lives of women and trans* people in daily, subtle, and not-so-subtle ways.
Despite our best intentions, all of us are still operating within a culture pervaded by patriarchy and misogyny, and we are inevitably put into unequal power positions to some degree. Without a doubt there are many men who have suffered sexual abuse and many more who support survivors of sexual violence. Our agency provides individual counselling to male survivors and we have a Male Allies Against Sexual Violence (MAASV) program that provides men with an opportunity to be engaged in the work of ending gendered violence. There are many events during the year where men are invited and welcomed, including the rally before the march and the time after the march. However, for one hour, men are asked to respect that the march itself is for women, trans* people and children only.
Take Back the Night is an event geared toward empowering women and trans* people to confront fears about rape and assault by reclaiming the evening streets en masse. The event calls for safety and equality for women and trans* people in all places, at all times. It is a far more powerful statement for those who face the highest risk and feel the least safe to be marching through the streets at night without any men to ‘protect’ them. It is also a chance to publicly celebrate our solidarity and symbolically underline the fact that we will not be passive and accept the violence against us but will instead speak out, educate and take action together for change.
Finally, it should be noted that the existence of a women/trans* only event such as TBTN does not delegitimize the violence that men experience or preclude men from organizing a similar event.