By Mallory Long
In my time at Ohio University, Take Back the Night week has always been accompanied by heated debates about the role of men in such events. The week always ends with the Take Back the Night Rally and March, with the march traditionally being a women-only event and often the point of controversy in these debates.
Although I’m all for inclusion (and for everyone getting along), I have to admit: I’d rather not see men march in Take Back the Night. I understand why people would like to include men in the march, and that’s why I say I’m not opposed to men marching but only that I’d rather the event remain for women only, if for nothing more than a symbol of solidarity. The Take Back the Night March has been a women’s event for more than 30 years in Athens, and I believe there is a reason the event was created for women only, and a reason why that hasn’t changed in three decades.
I’m fully aware that men can be victims of sexual assault, and I do think their voices need to be heard. However, for the most part, women are the victims of sexual assaults. Women are the ones who are always told never to walk alone at night and women are the ones who are always looking over their shoulders for the stranger in the bushes who will pull them into an alley when no one’s looking. Men might have concerns about safety at night, but typically men are not walking around in pairs at night to avoid being raped, or groped, or flashed on the street. Women are the ones who need to be taking back the night.
As things stand now at OU, men don’t march but can participate as sideline support to the women in the march. I think this is the perfect way for men to become involved in Take Back the Night. I like the male sideline support for a few reasons: particularly because it’s great to see the men who support women and take a stand against sexual assault. By inviting men to talk with the women at Take Back the Night, we aren’t able to see each other. The women marching can’t see all of men who support their cause, which has been one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen as a Take Back the Night participant. More importantly, when men are integrated into the march, they aren’t able to see the women. It might not sound that important, but I think (and hope) that watching the march leaves a lasting impression on men, as they are able to see the faces of the women taking a stand against sexual assault. I hope that by watching women march for their rights inspires these men to be more aware of sexual assault because they will see the faces of women they know and remember that their friends, sisters and mothers have all been or could become victims of sexual assault.
Lastly, while I support men and women working together on all occasions, I do think it’s nice to have something just for women, planned by women. Although we need all the support we can get, it’s empowering for women to have this opportunity to take charge and use their own voices – and only their voices – loudly, working together and building solidarity with the women around them.