Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reclaim the Night (for white, cis, middle-class TAB people)

Caroline over at Dirty Silver Rings has written a post about how Reclaim the Night is not really what it purports to be: a night dedicated to the cause of ending violence against women. Recently, there was a despicable incident that occurred at one of the events.

A group of anti-capitalist feminists joined the Reclaim the Night march as a show of solidarity with the sex workers who were participating in order to bring attention to the need for efforts to end the exploitation that can occur within their industry. To the average person, this might seem like the perfect place for such advocacy. Unfortunately, many of the organizers of the march felt differently.
Unfortunately, we faced physical harassment and verbal abuse from some people on the march, and were told on a number of occasions that we were not welcome on it. Worse than this, however, was the fact that we were immediately approached and interrogated by the police on arrival – reportedly at the request of one of the stewards. We understand our support for the rights of sex workers to self-organise is at odds with the views of some other groupings in the women’s movement. Yet we were extremely surprised to find that one of the basic principles of feminism (and all social justice movements) was forgotten in this instance – namely, that we never resort to using police aggression to silence and intimidate members of our own movement, no matter how much we may disagree with them.
Now, anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of police interactions with sex workers can understand the potentially fatal consequences of unleashing them on a group of already vulnerable women. In fact, all those who call themselves feminists have a responsibility to understand the danger inherent in calling on the police to deal with women who are sex workers. You can't claim to love women and want to end violence against them, if you don't even know who's guilty of perpetrating it against them.

In her post, Caroline says, "This is what feminism is now - it's a nice, white, middle class movement for nice, white, middle class women. No freaks allowed, yes? Is that right? I think fucking so."

Actually it's not that this is what feminism is now. This is what feminism has always been. White, middle class, TAB, cis women didn't promote feminism as the answer because they have in mind the interests of all women. Feminism is just another tool they can use to try to validate their self-appointed role as the rightful spokespersons for the rest of the world. Feminism is nothing more than a fight between white, cis, TAB women and white, cis, TAB men for control over the lives of all those who are deemed less valuable by virtue of the fact that we are not like them.

Reclaim the night is exactly what it claims to be. The problem is, so many of us fail to see that feminism doesn't actually include us in the class of people who are truly women. They are reclaiming the night for them. The idea that sex workers, trans women, people with disabilities, et cetera deserve to be able to live without the threat of violence hanging on their head is bound to run into resistance at Reclaim the Night events. Given the fact that those organizing these events are the very same people who perpetrate or enable the violence against so many of us, should we expect any different?


Helen G said...

Thank you for this post. I need to seriously rethink a lot of things right now.

Caroline said...

"Feminism is just another tool they can use to try to validate their self-appointed role as the rightful spokespersons for the rest of the world."
- Yes.

And saying feminism has always been like this - yes I take your point and accept it. I was thinking this was new because it's new to me, though I see that sort of 'me-centric' attitude isn't helpful and is more like *their* attitude, which is what I'm trying to fight against.

Jessica Sideways said...

There are too many feminists that give feminism a bad name. It is a great cause but I am very ashamed by the execution...

Anonymous said...

just an fyi, the 1st and 3rd links arent working