TBTN Interview: Mother Tareka


Take Back the Night, an annual event organized by SACHA, is a powerful opportunity for survivors and their supporters to actively build connections, assertively reclaim our right to safety, and courageously stand up against violence.

TBTN centers the experiences of women and gender non-conforming folks. We invite men to cheer the march on from Gore Park.

mother-tarekaSax blasting, direct acting, flute tooting, pedal pumping MC Mother Tareka is an adopted Hamilton son. One part activist, one part musician, all parts amazing. Tarek is musically best known as the front man for the Hamilton Hip-Hop-fusion outfit Mother Tareka & The Greezy Steez. Made for anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, anti-sexism, anarchist, and environmentalist movements!

Why do you think it is important to create space for women and gender non-conforming folks?

The toxic masculinity that men carry with them makes it impossible for women and gender non-conforming folks to operate in truly stress free atmospheres. We all deserve a stress free place we can gather. This toxic masculinity displays itself in terms of men starring at women in coffeeshops, coming up to them when they’re trying to do work or minding their own biz. It looks like women having to be careful what they say (lest the wrong man hear it and turn aggressive because they don’t like what they heard, people of color also feel this way about white folks), it looks like them censoring their experiences in “public spaces” about their experience as a woman, and the difficulties women face due to men taking up space, energy, or time of people around them.

There’s a need for women to debrief with other women, who they know don’t perpetuate that gender violence they are complaining/venting about. No one can feel safe venting about their oppressors with their oppressors present. There’s no space in society that women control, very few spaces really, so just out of that equation alone there should be more spaces for trans folks, non binary folks, and women to get away from the stresses of patriarchy for one moment. I feel this way about it because i know how it feels to have to hide how you feel as a person of color that is constantly not sure what to say to white folks about racism, I imagine this is a similar experience for people who have cis-males as the oppressor in their lives.

What do you think male allies can do to create more space for women and gender non-conforming folks?

They can start by stopping other men from taking up space/exerting power over women.

I’ll give an example: Women I know complain that when they go to a coffeeshop, there’s dudes there trying to flirt with them, constantly. I as an ally can see this happening and redirect the convo so its less weird for the person being hit on if i know or can sense they are uncomfortable. Obviously there’s lots of room for error here, allyship is constant work and self awareness is key.

I don’t think you ever really arrive as an ally. You’re always working on it. Considering the benefits you get as a man from the maintained culture of patriarchy, then you’re pretty much constantly becoming less of an ally, due to the benefits of it, unless you are actively maintaining that status by challenging the structures that men exist within. Bars, offices, schools, restaurants, coffee shops, streets, all have this dynamic play out. This dynamic is women like my wife having to think about what time it is if shes going to walk home alone. The power that men exert can be interrupted by other men, pretty easily actually. Most the time theres a way to do it without threat of violence. I think the key is knowing if the people around you are actually in need of a person to derail the efforts of said man imposing his presence on others.

I went to a workshop recently called LGBTQ allyship 101. Basically the idea that alot of people focused on was to ask the person, that you are perceiving to be facing a threat, usually by a man, to ask them, ‘Hey is everything ok? Can i sit here for a bit?’ and to know when to do so and when not to do so. Sometimes the presence of another man as an interrupter can escalate the situation or the likelyhood of violence. I guess its a hard answer to give, but basically i think men know what they need to do: They need to stop that rape joke, and explain to their friend that joking about rape means you don’t think its a big enough deal to not joke about it. It means that someone else’s trauma and pain is funny to you, simply because you are unlikely to experience it, or on a deeper darker level because some men are sadists about this and enjoy reminding each other of rape culture and the dominance of men over women.

Men need to set up a higher standard for men around them, and call out shit when they see it, in a constructuive way, becuase sometimes you’re the only one that can reach that misogynistic dude who may be one discussion away from dropping/unlearning alot of B.S.

What do you think male allies can do to end gendered violence?

I think there’s a lot that can be done and I think its going to take a bit of more urgency on men’s part in terms of responding to rape culture.

A lot of men operate based on what they think other men find acceptable or cool. If men collectively stopped endorsing whackness, in the form of pushy sexually aggressive coming onto women, in the form of rape, in the form of cat calling. If they took a hard stance against that stuff, the same way that we take a stand in general against racism – at least most of us.

I think they can also do more dishes and make sure that gendered labour is not a part of the way they live their lives. Do some gat damn dishes.

What inspires/motivates you to be a male ally?

Growing up I had 9 cousins around me, most of them were women. The men got a different treatment than the girls. I got a bit of the treatment girls got, being a smaller dude, and got to see what it might feel like to be told i’m not strong enough, i’m not quick enough, if I’m not a leader enough, etc.

I wouldn’t want anyone to have to live life this way, hearing that kind of B.S. every day will affect your self esteem. I don’t want to live in a world where that’s the case. I dont want people to treat my mother a certain way. I dont want them to treat my cousins a certain way, myself a certain way. I want to be able to wear what I want and express myself without being told that’s not appropriate. I want to honour femininity instead of having it be a put-down.

I wish people can see what a limiting thing gender roles are. I also know that 1 in 4 women has been sexually assaulted in her life and that’s disgusting. Also, I’m driven by this idea of incrementalism as a driving force behind a lot of social change. We didn’t get to a place where we can talk about proper gender nouns and etiquette when meeting someone new, over night. We got there by first problematizing certain things like overt homophobic physical attacks, and building out from there. However this problematizing doesn’t necessarily involve peaceful means. I think its important to remember the role of violence and threat of civil disobedience in terms of getting the cultural narrative to change. If Stonewall wasn’t a riot and didn’t promise the threat of more riots, would we be where we are now? I doubt it.

As far as we’ve come far, there’s still lots of work to do in terms of making streets safe, in terms of equity and justice in labour, and in terms of creating a new standard for whats expected of males.


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