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Why Am I Still Protesting For The Rights My Mother Fought For Forty-Four Years Ago?

Hannah Penny

On Saturday, I took to the streets of Nottingham with hundreds of other women and girls in order to ‘Reclaim The Night’. Together we pounded the pavement. Together we shouted, chanted, whistled, screamed, and laughed. There were glow sticks and drums, fairy lights and blowhorns. In other words: we came to make noise.

The annual Reclaim The Night marches offer women and other minority genders the chance to walk the streets with their hearts pounding with passion, rather than fear. Maybe we did become exactly what we were once burned at the stake for…you could say we were joyously hysterical.

It seems they had forgotten in our riotous performance that we would prefer if we didn’t need to march the streets in freezing conditions to see change

Finally, we could each see other women taking up space in Nottingham. Not stepping out of peoples’ way, not being apologetic or submissive for our own safety. We stopped traffic and forced people to look our way.

They read our signs that called for justice and heard our chants that portrayed our frustration. People stopped to cheer us. Other men stopped to show their anger at the inconvenience that their violence towards us caused. It seemed they had forgotten in our riotous performance that we would prefer if we didn’t need to march the streets in freezing conditions to see some change.

The mood became solemn as we remembered the reality that lay outside of that night 

That fleeting community we forged was so divinely feminine. Groups of ladies adopted solo women into their conversations; cold hands found stranger’s gloves being passed to them; outfits were adored, and stories of assault fell on compassionate ears. Young and old we stomped together hoping to spark some change.

The conclusion of our march led us to a marquee. There we listened to brave and harrowing stories of sexual assault and rape, of everyday misogyny and setbacks. The mood became solemn as we remembered the reality that lay outside of that night. The reality of trauma, harassment, the things we miss out on and the constant navigating of our own safety. It was a stark reminder that women live everyday distinctly aware of their gender, there are few reminders for men.

On their website, Reclaim The Night declare the reason for the marches every year: ‘In every sphere of life we negotiate the threat or reality of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. We cannot claim equal citizenship while this threat restricts our lives as it does. We demand the right to use public space without fear. We demand this right as a civil liberty, we demand this as a human right.’

The dawning of winter for women is not only reminiscent of mulled wine and gifts, but also a sentence to live out your life before the hour of four-thirty pm

These marches originated for the UK in 1977. Their prominence was palpable after Peter Sutcliffe also known as ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’ sexually assaulted and killed thirteen women. The police response was held back by unchecked misogynistic values and their solution was to tell women to not go out after nightfall.

Hundreds of those attending the protest were not even born when these orders were given yet this unspoken curfew limits us still. The dawning of winter for women is not only reminiscent of mulled wine and gifts, but also a sentence to live out your life before the hour of four-thirty pm.

Last night I felt empowered, but after the music turned off, I saw hundreds of women scurry off in large groups and order taxis home for fear of reclaiming the night alone.

Hannah Penny


Featured Image courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of Hannah Penny. Permission for use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

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