Reclaim the Night 2014 Speech

Reclaim the Night London 2014 Speech at closing rally

Here we are, 10 years of the revived Reclaim the Night march; and such a lot has changed, yet much remains depressingly the same.

In the news this week we hear that a quarter of sexual crimes are being non-recorded or no-crimed by the police. 1 in 4 of the tiny fraction that are even reported in the first place. Well, surprise surprise. And why? Why? Because women are not believed. Because a culture of disbelief surrounds women who report rape and sexual violence. As if Feminists haven’t been pointing this out for decades; only to have our systematic reviews, longitudinal studies and content analyses thrown back in our faces by cultural prejudices that are hard to shift.

Well, the police may not believe women, the CPS may not believe women, but I’ve said it before at the first revived Reclaim the Night in 2004 and I’ll say it again now on our tenth anniversary – tonight, all of you have marched to say: we believe you. We believe you. We believe you.

This protest matters. So many people have been part of its resurgence, there are so many people to thank. Becca who has been involved since the early days, Isobel at the Lilith Project, Gemma, Katie, Adrian, Alison, Em, Sarah, Bella, Julian and all the women on current and past organising committees for our revived London Reclaim the Night march. Thank you all for what you do for women.

Then there are all the organisations we have to thank who have supported this protest. BECTU, NASUWT, NUT, UNISON and the NUS. Since 2004 so many individuals and groups have built and sustained this event. And it matters.

Over the last ten years we have put Reclaim the Night on the map. You have united together a huge diversity of individuals and organisations in a broad and unified protest against rape and all forms of male violence against women and children. You have built this march from one or two to over twenty every year, taking place all over the UK.

And it is worth pointing out that almost every single one of these marches is bigger than the original marches in the 1970s.

You have inspired new towns and cities to hold their own events. Because of this march, women have met one another and shared ideas and built and founded new campaigns. They have even set up new Rape Crisis Centres and helplines all through meeting other motivated women at regional Reclaim the Night marches. So don’t let anyone tell you that this march doesn’t matter. Never believe that protest doesn’t make a difference, because it does.

Because Feminism is for life, not just for the internet and getting together like this means we can build solidarity, we can understand ourselves as part of a movement and we boost our morale to continue marching forwards, in protest, in work, in life.

And in the years since we revived this march we have seen a true uprising of Feminism. we see Feminist commentary and demands in a way we never did before. And it isn’t as if there isn’t plenty for us to comment on.

Because, as various crimes and scandals come to light it seems most of the time that the powers that be have gathered that they have to say something about it. So they voice how appalled they are at endemic violence against women and children, while managing never to really do anything about it, but order endless policy reports and endless investigations while pointedly and continuously ignoring the point.

The point that there will be no end to male violence unless we acknowledge its existence, call it what it is and set about changing the conducive context which allows it to flourish in the first place and that is male supremacy.

Meanwhile our politicians talk passionately vaguely about CSE, which stands for child sexual exploitation. They would rather use acronyms such as this than call it what it is, which is the pimping of children, which is the prostituting of children.

They would rather use acronyms and bleat about targets, data gathering and safeguarding, than acknowledge that if men in this country did not want to buy access to the bodies of women and young people and children then there would be no prostitution, there would be no trafficking, there would be no grooming, there would be no CSE.

And all the while professionals who do speak out are told to shut up. Girls are told to shut up; and a whole class of people is branded expendable.

While our politicians appear in the media and talk about ‘cultural sensitivities’ in an insensitive culture which sexually objectifies girls and women quite universally.

Well we could do with some cultural sensitivity that’s for sure. We could do with a culture sensitive to the needs of the other half of the population for once. We could do with a humane culture that recognises women’s humanity.

We could do with a society that did not eroticise men’s dominance and women’s submission. We could do with a society that doesn’t divert attention from the brutal facts of structural inequality by treating as sexual fantasy what is actually a reality; a reality for far too many.

Ours is a society that is sick. And one where, with the twisted logic of the oppressor, men as a class actually construct themselves as victims and genuinely believe themselves to be victimised. Like those men who pay thousands of pounds to attend the seminars of so-called ‘pick up artists’. As if the world isn’t full of women who want to date men willingly. But we are told that women are bitches, that women need to be controlled and manipulated, lest they control and manipulate men.

In reality, outside of these men’s teenage brains, the real shocker is that women continue to persevere with men, continue to try at all, in the face of a tide of women-hating born out of the cultural shame of a society that for millennia has viewed women’s sexuality as base, that has treated women’s sexuality as the problem; rather than the problem being how men view women, rather than the problem being what men do to women.

And in yet another example of the backlash against Feminism, the attack against Feminism, some people are saying that there is too much Feminism around. That its gone too far, that it’s everywhere, that they are sick of hearing about it. With a readers poll in Time Magazine this month suggesting that the word ‘feminism’ should be banned. Well, buckle up, because if you think this is too much then you should know that we’ve only just begun, and we are far from done.

And to all those sick of hearing about Feminism, I say we are sick too. We are tired too. We are sick of our friends being raped and harassed. We are sick of hearing day after day about another woman murdered by a man. We are sick of newspapers blaming women by focussing on their clothing, or the hour of the day, or how much they had to drink when some criminal decided to rape them. We are sick of seeing White men in suits and in power droning on about change and scoring political points, churning out the same old spin while slashing refuges by over a third and taxing women for panic rooms.

If these people really are so sick and tired of women’s organised resistance then there is a simple solution. Stop attacking us. Call off your war. Because you are on borrowed time. Because it is only a matter of time before nature rights this imbalance of power, because justice is on our side. Because nothing lasts forever. Because the truth will out and because we will win.

All of you can see that day sooner by joining the oldest and most powerful justice movement the world has ever known – your own.

Take back the night and win the day.

 

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