Should ‘Take Back the Night’ march include men?

Originally, the march at the end of “Take Back the Night,” a week of events aimed to raise awareness about violence toward women, only included women. Now, more of these marches are now including men, which has a mixed response from women — the question is, should men be allowed to march alongside women during TBTN?

TBTN events are designed to empower women and family and friends of women who have survived sexual assault, violence, and abuse. There are events open to anyone — such as painting T-shirts as an artistic catharsis or burning the names of abuser(s) round a fire. 

TBTN events typically culminate in a march, where female survivors of sexual assault and abuse, as well as female allies, march together and unite as a voice for sexual violence awareness, as sexual violence is often not talked about or swept under the rug. Originally, men were asked not to march with women, but rather to show support by cheering along the sidelines.

Some women support men marching in the march, others think it’s best if men stay out of the march and on the sidelines as supporters from afar. The two opposing arguments both make good points:

 1. Men SHOULD NOT march 

This is the default mode for the march, as it was originally women-only to create a safe place for women to feel comfortable together, uniting for the same cause and creating a non-threatening space to march confidently, yell chants loudly, and feel comfortable doing both.

This makes sense, as the march was a way to create solidarity among women without feeling uneasy around men, who most of the time are the ones who sexually assault and abuse women. It might also have been a failsafe against misogynistic men who wanted to get into the march just so they could cause trouble for the entire event. By banning men outright, it was easier to ensure the safety of the women marching.

Of course, the men could still stand on the sidelines, cheering women and showing support, which is really helpful to the women marching. I marched in the TBTN at Ohio University last spring, and it was really great to be surrounded by women and chanting at the top of my lungs, while also seeing lots of men holding signs and cheering along the sides of the street. It’s nice to not only be able to send a message, but to know that someone is receiving it.

2. Men SHOULD march

When Take Back the Night started in 1976, the atmosphere for equal rights was different. Sexism was more rampant, and a woman couldn’t guarantee that she’d be safe if she reported sexual violence. The march was a way that women could really create a voice for themselves  in a world that wanted to ignore or downplay sexual violence against women.

In 2010, sexism still exists, but many men are progressive and actively support women’s rights. People are starting to realize that instead of blaming women for being sexually assaulted, they should instead focus their attention on men and get through to them about consent and preventing male peers from sexually assaulting women.

Men, as the predominant perpetrators of sexual violence, need to be involved in the solution, whether they themselves need to stop being violent or they need to intervene with friends and family so people they know stop being violent toward women. Guys have a lot of influence on each other, and positive peer pressure to not take advantage of women or abuse them goes a long way.


Especially after discussing the topic with my feminist male friend, I think the latter is the way to go for true success. You can’t address crime without focusing on the criminals, and you can’t address sexual assault without focusing on the assailants.

As a woman, I don’t want men to just watch from the sidelines. I want them to know that we want their help — don’t ignore it when you see your buddy forcing himself on a woman or be afraid that you’ll look uncool if you step between your male friend (or even a stranger) and someone who is obviously too drunk to consent or is unwillingly in the situation.

Men aren’t going to think they’re doing something wrong until they are confronted with it, and I guarantee it’s always more likely to get through to him if it’s coming from another man. I don’t want men getting the impression that I don’t want all the support and help they can offer when it comes to stopping sexual violence — I don’t want men to think that we, as women, want them to stand on the sidelines and cheer us on without getting involved themselves.

This march would still be about women, regardless of who is marching. There’s nothing like marching alongside empowered women, but I think I’d say the same thing about marching alongside empowered women and men, men who are making a public statement and acknowledging that sexual violence is a problem and they will help prevent it.

In fact, I think the survivors of sexual violence — and their allies — would benefit from march with men in a space that is non-threatening. I think it would be great if they could see that the men marching aren’t going to be bystanders to sexual violence, and I think it would be great for men to experience the march and realize how important their role is in sexual violence prevention.


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: