Take Back the Night has been an annual protest for more than 30 years. Typically held in September, the first march was held in Philadelphia, in October 1975. Susan Alexander Speeth, a young microbiologist, was walking alone one night and stabbed only a block away from her home. Organizers led a candle lit march through the streets shortly after. In 1976, after the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Brussels, thousands of women from more than 40 different countries marched in the streets.
In the United States and Europe, Reclaim the Night protests continued to pop up throughout the 1970s, usually rallying around a publicized case of violence against women. The first march in Canada was held in 1978, by an ad-hoc group known as the Fly By Night Collective organized in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish Territory. Throughout the 1980s, Take Back the Night was organized by Canada’s first rape crisis centre, Vancouver Rape Relief. In 1981, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres declared the third Friday of September the evening for Take Back the Night marches nation wide.
The pervasive rates of sexual assault and rape have always been a rallying point for organizers of Take Back the Night. The march is meant to show that women and folks normally at the highest risk of violence at night can reclaim the streets as their own. Historically, the march has been limited to cis women, with cis men being encouraged to either march at the back or take on childcare, meal preparation on other “behind the scenes” duties so that cis women have the freedom to march. However, many marches now recognize the rate of violence also experienced by queer, 2 spirit and trans people as well and seek to actively include people of all genders other than cis men.
However, there have also been changes in some organizing responding to criticism that Take Back the Night is a settler’s concept of protest based in a colonial discourse. Take Back the Night Toronto has started to “decolonize gender” by allowing indigenous cis men to march and including issues of environmental justice and land sovereignty.
Thank you for reading this story...
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.
If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.
We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing.