Women shouldn’t have to be ‘reclaiming the night’ for their safety

We shouldn’t be made to feel we ever lost it

“Self-defining women, women with complex gender identities and people of all genders” are being invited to take part in an event called ‘Reclaim The Night’ on Friday the 25th of November, a procession against harassment in Sheffield followed by a public rally, the event is being promoted by the University of Sheffield and by Sheffield Hallam.

Whilst for some the march is a sign of strength and visibility, for me it is a sad admission that women are being made to feel they’ve lost their right to a night after a string of sexual harassment offences in the city.

I applauded the decision for the police to hand out free rape alarms to students in the diamond, I am a huge advocate of the women’s safety bus, and yes, I’ve applauded the ‘Ask Angela’ campaign. But I am saddened that it’s come to a rally like this in Sheffield. In a city erecting statues to women of steel, with such a strong feminist network we are having to rally to reclaim our right to be free from harassment.

The event promises to unite all women against threats of sexual violence.

In my third year of University I was grabbed off a bus as I got home from work in broad daylight in Crookesmoor, the man refused to let go and tried to follow me home and once I’d got free he told me he’d remember the ‘pretty girl’, I got in and sobbed, even if things hadn’t gone anywhere. I wasn’t being suggestive, I invited no conversation, and not that it matters what so ever, but I was not wearing something that would be ‘asking for it’.

This type of incident in Sheffield is one of many being reported, but this march, which claims to be against slut shaming and the asking for it mentality, is almost suggesting the women who face harassment are typically on their own walking late at night, its simply just not true and I think that mentality is exactly what leads to victim shaming. Events like these may not be something new to Universities but the timing of this event, in light of recent events makes it all the more worrying.

I will not totally slam the event, I agree that I want to live in a city where women are heard and seen at all hours, and one where women are safe. However, I think this is a harrowing admission women are living in fear in Sheffield  by saying come on and take back the night Kony 2012 style. Your implying those experiencing this problem lack assertiveness to do something they are trying to do everyday, walk alone through their city without fear.

We are loosing the night in this city. Sheffield was called the safest city to live in the UK, but more and more reports come in every day with Crookesmoor and Broomhall being some of the worst areas hit.

This Emily Pankhurst style approach is not what women of Sheffield need, we actually need more support as well as displays of solidarity such as marches. When I called the SU to report what happened to me and to ask some sort of warning be issued on social media my incident was logged and nobody ever offered me a personal alarm, or a chat or  the name of my local Councillor or MP to report the dangerous number of poorly lit areas in this City. I was told a ‘women’s safety officer’ would be in touch, I’m still waiting on that call.

After the march there will be an ‘open mic’ style rally at Coffee revs, where other genders will be encouraged. Will it discuss women being harassed in their own University despite a zero tolerance policy ? I highly doubt it. Will it treat an issue as serious as sexual harassment flippantly as it treats a ‘This House Hates Corbyn’ talk? Most definitely.  Women’s rights are not just this weeks talking point at a coffee house, that you can show up to because your mates reading poems, you actually have to give a damn.

I just can’t walk down the streets of Fargate holding a picket sign that says ‘I wasn’t asking for it’ or ‘I wan’t to be free to walk home alone’,  I think for an event saying it wants to stop women looking like ‘fair game’ is doing a pretty good job of perpetuating many of the feminist and victim stereotypes that stop claims of sexual harassment being taken seriously.