As two midwifery students coming into SACHA for placement, we were thrilled to take part in the Take Back the Night preparations; part of that included going to CHCH 11 to watch Lenore the director at SACHA speak on “Square Off” to inform the community about this historic night.
We were expecting Lenore to inform the community about what Take Back the Night is all about, but instead, she was left defending women’s right to create a women-identified only space. From our perspective, Lenore was unfairly cornered by two news anchors and a columnist from Ottawa. The part that really surprised me was that as media, you would expect CHCH 11 to have a responsibility to bring up why this event exists, what it was for and to help promote this cause to the community – allowing more people to be aware and get involved.
Instead of these topics, the one and only topic of “why weren’t men allowed to march” was brought up, which caused the whole discussion to be taken away from the true meaning of Take Back the Night.
If the news anchors actually took time to discuss the history of the event, they may have understood why it is a women-identified only march. Instead of doing this, the tactic of badgering and repeating the same thoughts by the anchors was used in order to create an unfair debate. The history behind why the march is a women-identified only space is that the marches were created in response to notion that women required male protection to be safe to walk at night. Women wanted to show that they did not need to follow these rules to be safe, and that being escorted by a man shouldn’t be the only way they are allowed to walk in public spaces. To respect and honour these roots, SACHA continues to support a women-identified only march.
The news anchors and columnist failed to appropriately discuss how men could actually get involved with the event. Take Back the Night does include male-identified allies: there is a separate event held at Sky Dragon for them. They are also welcome to cheer on all participants in the march. So, there is definitely a space created for men to support women who have been victims of sexual assault.
From the debate brought on by the anchors there was no depth to what they were saying, instead an “argumentative” atmosphere was created causing more distress than discussion. The anchors only skimmed the topic, which made us think: “ Was this tactic used just to create a good show instead of actually bringing to the viewer’s attention the idea that this is a night of peace and sisterhood, strength and solidarity?” The anchors did a great job of making Lenore and the organization she represents seem to be discriminatory towards men. Instead of focusing on what Take Back the Night represents, the news anchors focused on who could attend the march.
The real issue at hand is that 30 years after this night was created, why is this march still happening? Why are women still being sexually assaulted? How can we put an end to this? How can we help solve these problems? Today, there is an even greater need for women to stand along side each other and say NO to violence. These are the real concerns at hand. These are the real issues that the community needs to hear about.
I felt like this news station labeled Take Back the Night more like a rally that wants to leave men out, instead of a night where a strong group of women will be marching while being cheered on by their male counterparts into a future with less sexual assault and more awareness against it.
— Hardeep Fervaha and Sita Mistry