By Nikki Allair, Women’s Program Coordinator, AS Gender and Sexuality Equity Center
Rape culture has permeated through our most blatant forms of communication these days. It is right before our very eyes and we do not even see it unless it’s screaming the word “RAPE” over the image. Our culture punishes those who are seeking asylum from a horrible experience and coddles and reassures those who are the creating this dark, scary world. I lock my door and window every night because I live on the first floor. I will not walk outside of a well-lit building at night without my keys in hand, protectively. I would never be caught alone on a street without my pepper spray out in the open, ready to go at a moment’s notice. I am on constant alert and it is exhausting.
I did not actually realize what it meant to be in a rape cultured society until I took a women’s studies class. It was then that I was exposed to how the world around functions to keep me in doors, on edge, and constantly trying to protect myself from possible threats. I just always accepted that it was stupid for me to be out past sundown in our city and I never examined why I believed that or where it all stemmed from. Then I took a women’s studies class with Elizabeth Renfro and we read an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. She was able to put into words what I had felt for years and could not understand fully. “The capacity to think independently, to take intellectual risks, to assert ourselves mentally, is inseparable from our physical way of being in the world, our feelings of personal integrity” (Rich 243).
The visual and verbal cues I receive from my surroundings tell me constantly to not go outside because it is dangerous for me as a woman. I am slight built, I should be indoors, and I have not always been out in the public sphere like men have been before me. However, this is not the life I wish to lead. “But long before entering college, the woman student has experienced her alien identity in a world which misnames her, turns her into its own uses, denying her the resources she needs to become self-confirming, self-defined” (Rich). The culture that engulfs my every move has defined the parameters in which I and other women are allowed to move in.
Take Back the Night is a way to combat this and rise against what society has told women for so long. The subtext of victim blaming is no more during this night. It is a time to embrace our survivors, to express our emotions, and to take a stand for what is right and just in this world. We deserve as women, as men, as human beings, to not feel fear while we are traveling through the streets to our destination. The anxiety, the pressure, the constant alert is unhealthy, unruly, and inhumane. We cannot continue on to live this life looking over our shoulder at every twist and turn.
We march silently on behalf of those who cannot speak. We march through a popular area of downtown for those who are too scared to join us. We hold candles to light the way. Never breaking our line, our connection, our bond. The patrons of this town take to the streets in protest against intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and rape. May we find hope and solidarity along the way for our silenced peers.