October 30, 2004 | Unknown

Reclaiming the Night

With the concept of Reclaim the Night (RTN) first emerging in the late 1970s, it has become an annual opportunity for Brisbane women to protest against the violence which confines and damages their lives.
A couple of banners flourished during last night’s rally exclaimed, “Expecting to get respect” and “Silence is not the answer”.
Although the number of participants fluctuates each year, 2004’s RTN managed to attract a reasonable turn out of around two hundred and fifty, and featured such mainstays as singers, fire-twirlers and an “altercation” between a feisty young feminist (Hi Lucy!) and a male socialist she felt was “being arrogant (trying) to dominate our space”.
Lucy’s minor melee recalls ideological conflicts that have dogged RTN since its inception, including whether men should be allowed to be involved or only offer support from the sidelines. Her identification as a “queer” who believes in “radical love” would put her at odds with some lesbian separatists who attended.
Unfortunately, such differences of opinion, even if healthy for any movement, probably fail to make the event appealing to women who are not politically active.
In any instance, some women, such as my co-worker Leonie, were not aware that it is held in Brisbane, while my former colleague, Melanie, had not heard of it at all.
For those on Speakers’ Corner, issues like violence inflicted on indigenous women, family law reform, rape as a “terrorist” act and a recent legal action in Melbourne in which a man successfully claimed provocation to diminish his accountability for the death of his wife were important.
“Men”, claimed the speaker who raised the Victorian case, “are socially supported in their use of violence”.
That controversial trial may serve to illustrate some of the more complex issues surrounding incidents of spousal murder, even whilst acknowledging that women are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators and have wrongly borne responsibility for the behaviour of men.
Was, for example, the articulated opposition to the plea and the light sentence imposed no different to the attitudes female defendants with a similar justification have put up with for years? That is, was it reverse sexism?
Even if others may disagree, speeches have never been RTN’s strong point, and, paradoxically since empowerment is one of its goals, they felt more debilitating than strengthening to at least one woman I know who experienced domestic violence and abuse as a child.
One of the more interesting aspects of RTN is its pagan-like feel, with lanterns, dancing and women adorned with painted messages or t-shirts emblazoned with stars and moons.
When a recent conversation addressed the issue of why “Reclaim” is in the title even though women probably never had the “Night”, my friend June suggested that it harks back to a mythological time.
With this in mind, the ‘feminine’ creativity on display in King George Square stands in contrast to the city’s infrastructure, which surrounded marchers as they made their way from the Square to West End.
Those big buildings and endless shops could be argued to represent the ‘masculine’ world of repressing the imagination in favour of a weekly wage and consumerism.
An element of goddess worship was injected with the presence of a multi-coloured papier-mâché woman, who was held aloft by a small group and seemed to inspire a kind of reverential awe, not the least for the time it would have taken to make her.
June, who has never been to RTN, was not far off the mark when she, “…imagined that there would be candles and singing…sandals, noisy anklets and lots of the colour purple”.
Although RTN is not without its political and promotional problems, it remains an important way for women to make a statement against the violence that limits and harms their lives.
Darlene can be contacted at darlene@onlineopinion.com.au or go to http://darlenetaylor.blogspot.com

Posted by Unknown at 12:26 pm | Comments (7) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I’ve always considered those marches extremely sexist and offensive. They seek to portray women as victims of male violence, which is a way of whipping up hatred of men.
    Men are also victims of violence — more often than women, if statistics are to be believed. Yet, to these marchers, only women are important.
    “Reclaim the Night” marches are simply the feminist equivalent of KKK rallies.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — October 30, 2004 @ 11:43 pm

  2. I apologise if the comments above are a bit too rough. But I’ve always been deeply offended by those rallies.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — October 31, 2004 @ 1:28 am

  3. No offence taken. Well, that KKK reference was a tad strong.
    Well, Evil, women are sometimes the victims of male violence.
    Yes, men are victims of violence too; would you agree that the majority of that violence they inflict on each other (for example, drunken brawls in pubs, which, partially at least, is caused by men trying to live up to some awful Australian idea of what it is to be a man)?
    Men should talk about being the victims of violence, but they don’t need to minimise their role in violence against women, or the level of violence inflicted on women in the process.
    Anyway, I don’t know what I am doing up at this time in the morning.

    Comment by Darlene — October 31, 2004 @ 5:14 am

  4. The only men who consider themselves victims of violence in our community are those too naive or stupid to get out of the way. Yes, homosexual men are subjected to the discrimination and violence borne of discrimination, but in the huge majority, it’s women who are subjected to male violence which is generally downplayed or simply ignored by the community at large. The attitude seems to be “it happens, it’s always happened and probably always will”. It’s an unacceptable attitude in my estimation.

    Comment by Niall — October 31, 2004 @ 5:49 am

  5. Darlene, as far as violence between men and women goes, it’s about equal each way. Violence against children is mostly perpetrated by women. Yet feminists persist in pretending that men are mostly to blame for something that comes from both sexes.
    I refuse to support any effort against violence that doesn’t cover both sexes fairly. Such campaigns as we see from the feminist camp are not anti-violence, but anti-men.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — October 31, 2004 @ 1:08 pm

  6. Niall, you are correct in saying that violence against women is still downplayed or ignored.
    Of course, we should not do the same thing when it comes to men and boys, some of whom are victimised not just because they are part of the GLBTI community, but also because they are perceived to be queer even if they are not, aren’t sporty or are academic etc.
    A fellow told me he was pushed down the stairs on his first day at school for whatever reason. Of course, the perpetrators of a lot of these offences are other boys and men.
    It is about time men confronted the “drunk biffo boofhead heterosexist” culture that is so much a part of this country.
    I am sure there are men who are the victims of domestic violence, and I believe dimishing their suffering is as bad as when we diminish women’s. Given the traditional structure of society it is difficult to believe that it is fifty-fifty as Evil claims, but I am always interested to find out more.
    Violence in homes can contain a lot of different dynamics. What would be great would be to see a reassessment of male/female relationships, or single-sex ones which aren’t immune from these issues either.
    Evil, I got this quote from a Men’s Rights site:
    “In investigating domestic violence, three different types of data have been used, each with limitations, each leading to somewhat different accounts. First, crime statistics focus on the extreme end of the spectrum: homicides committed by a husband, wife, or lover. There, the preponderance of male perpetrators is clear. In Australia, 3.6 times as many women as men are killed by their partners (James and Carcach 1997). The same pattern holds in North America, although the gender difference is smaller (Straus 1986).” (Bruce Headey, Dorothy Scott, David de Vaus).
    That quote only relates to one aspect of violence, but, even though the writers would no doubt disagree, I am sure you can extrapolate something about other forms of violence from it.
    Given that women remain the primary care-givers of children, what you say about women, violence and children does not surprise me. We should be anti-violence without being anti-men, but men’s rights groups should also aspire to be anti-violence without being anti-women or trying to return to our more patriarchal past.

    Comment by Darlene — October 31, 2004 @ 6:26 pm

  7. KKK comment = offensive. Clearly no males have been lynched& had their genitals cut off KKK style at RTN, clearly for all it’s faults RTN is a event MANY female survivors of incest etc have found enjoyable/therapuetic. Yet because they (selfish bad girls) focussed on their own healing, and didn’t centre white males for just one night, you need to liken them to lych mobs & trivialise racist violence too? Check your priviledge, really. Extremely unfeminist sources, such as the Federal Police & ABS, show that males commit violence more than women, being about 90 % of offenders. Leaving 10% of violence still female & a serious problem, much violence men suffer is by men still, so perhaps to equally address gendered violence we need a male equivalent of RTN, a all male forum for addressing interpretations of masculinity & violence. Rather than getting furious at women for taking sexual violence seriously enought to have a volunteer run event around it , which men haven’t done yet.
    FYI, 4 things you should know about RTN’s all women policy if it bothers you that much 1) It isn’t always all women. In many cities they now invite men who are concerned about these issues also. When in Brisbane they invited men to join the main event (& sometimes when they haven’t) crowds of men have came along to be abusive to the women ie. just to yell “slut” at speakers, harrass dykes in the crowd etc. No responses were received from community men’s groups in years when they were formally invited. By contrast, about only 1- 10 men each year come along to be genuinely supportive. Men are invited to line the march route or march at the end of the march in support in Brisbane, which IS a way for men to symbolically address violence because it is a way of saying, as males, they are not obliged to be the “strong tough protector” type at night or around women. 2) the all women tradition originated, not to imply that men are the sole perpetrators of violence, but in response to a 1970’s UK judge calling for women to stay in doors at night in response to a series of sexual assualts. As that direction to AVOID the night was aimed ONLY at women – hence the tradition for ONLY women to “RECLAIM the night”. As with so many misunderstood feminist concepts, centering women in this event is NOT ABOUT men at all but because it’s responding to mysoginystic things targetted EXPLICTLY at women. 3) IT is ONE night in a year of 365 nights, it is A event about sexual abuse not THE ONLY event, it is a SMALL BAND of women supporting female sex abuse survivors vs. THE ENTIRE courts, media, religion, government, social taboos, football clubs all silencing the reality that women are grossly over represented as survivors. Women survivors are calling them sluts, liars, victims or damaged goods while there’s no male equivalent to being called these things merely for merely having a healthy sexuality or admitting abuse. The sexual objectification of female vs male bodies in the public realm is not the same. The experiences of survivors do therefore differ along socially imposed gender expectations – so why not have ONE gender specific event for survivors? While it’s sad that men haven’t made events for male sex abuse survivors WHY BLAME WOMEN & begrudge them their event. No men EVER volunteer to help run such an event, the few male run sexual assualt services are welcome at many other entirely female created events/places eg. conferences & sometimes even using womens shelters to the exclusion of women ( it happens). DV & sexual violence support services are about 99% female staff and volunteer run, we will get more gender equal events when men start prioritising acting to prevent sexual violence as much as women already do. It may be hard being a male who cares about sexual violence & finding other men don’t but that overall societal trend says more about masculity than RTN. 4)I am not at all a “pagan” type feminist women & can relate to some of Darlenes’ comments in the origional text about RTN’s atmosphere. However RTN is (here we go again) a VOLUNTEER run festival, & as I found when I decided to put my action where my criticism was by volunteering in the past, female pagan types of people are the type of people who turn up most when free labour is required to keep events around sexual violence running. Consequently the final event reflects their culture, because without funding they rely on their & their friends own skills, hence fire twirlers, hand drawn “stars & moons” posters, folk musicians & body paint. I don’t dig that myself but I accept now that I’m grateful to those women for keeping the event going for everyone, and that they can’t cater to everyone on such small resources, so I can abide by their taste in art for a night in exchange for them giving so much more than me to make it happen. Again, it says more about non pagan women, that we all believe in events around sexual violence yet we leave it to the pagans to deliver.
    Ok. major rant over. Felt the need to say all that because I’m sick of people attacking RTN rather that realising that Sexual violence is socially epidemic so the RTN collective is being asked to cater to a society wide diversity of tastes / needs with only a tiny, tiny female subculture’s worth of resources. We need MORE events supporting survivors, not to be attacking one of the few ones managing to keep existing as it is.

    Comment by Foxymoron — October 31, 2004 @ 8:04 pm

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