A male perspective on Take Back the Night

I never thought that I would be praised for attending Take Back the Night.

For some reason I assumed that we were past the point in our collective pursuit of gender equality that a public demonstration against domestic abuse and sexual assault would be normal for both men and women to attend. With the generation of youth that apparently care about poverty homelessness and all those other trendy issues growing up I imagined that males would be almost expected to come to show solidarity with all the women that have been impacted by the tragic grip of patriarchy upon the world.

But I was wrong. Friends and family expressed admiration that I would go to such an event. At the sacred event itself which was held on the evening of Friday Sept. 23 perhaps a dozen men were scattered amidst the hundreds of women. I absolutely understand that the purpose of the rally was for women to express their right to be able to walk the streets at night alone without being victimized (which is why men are asked to walk on the sidewalk rather than the street during the actual march). But where were all the men to show support for this?

Perhaps we are secretly afraid that a bunch of radical feminists will verbally abuse us for being a man. Or maybe we’re wary of the fact that the power that we’ve held for thousands of years because we have a penis is being challenged. Or perhaps we’re all just oblivious to the victim-blaming and systematic oppression that goes on every single day around us. But all of those are totally bullshit excuses for not being there.

Such reasons might contribute to the shock that people not-so-subtly express when I mention that I’m taking a women’s studies class. For some the notion is absurd. “Why do women need to have a class of their own?” some ask. Because sexual assault and domestic abuse is normalized in our culture. “Isn’t it weird being the only guy in the class?” others question. Occasionally yes. But as the undeserving wielder of power in this world as male I need to unlearn the socialization that has taken place in my mind that says men are for some reason better than women.

On that warm Friday night a triumphant expression of freedom and liberation for women took place amidst flashing police lights native drums balloons and candles. Sobbing could be heard throughout the crowd as girls as young as 15 recounted their victimization at the hands of family members. Cries of “bullshit” erupted as another woman spoke of how her she has been disowned by her family for speaking out about being raped (yet another example of victim-blaming).

And although the night was about coming together to share the grief and tragedy that girls and women have experienced it was so much more than that. As one woman’s T-shirt said boldly “I’ll be a post-feminist when I live in a post-patriarchy.” The organizers of the rally mentioned a couple of times that they want to ensure that one day they don’t have hold the event.

This fight for women’s rights will reach its goal because of the strength and determination of women. But as men – who are the perpetrators of this injustice – we must be present alongside them not to defend them but to proclaim that we will not buy into a male-dominated world any longer. It might be uncomfortable but a world where a woman can walk the streets alone at night without being victimized is one that I want to live in. Period.