First-Year Reflection: Take Back the Night and Gender

In the days leading up to Take Back the Night, I found myself at a table in Peirce, handing out flyers and bracelets and ribbons promoting the event. I hadn’t planned to be theremy roommate had mentioned they needed another person the day beforeso I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. I hadn’t noticed the tactics used by the people tabling on other days, although whether that has to do with my own obliviousness to my surroundings or their more calm, normal behavior is up for debate. As it was, my roommate and I spent our hour yelling at passersby and waving bracelets and ribbons around and generally being freshmen: very earnestly making cooler people uncomfortable and kind of embarrassed for us, when they noticed us at all.

Anyway, in the hour or so I spent sitting there, trying to unsuccessfully to eat lunch while using my hands to make really crappy purple ribbon loops and my mouth to harass people trying to get to class, I noticed a trend among the people whose attention we were trying to get.

Most people didn’t come over at all. That’s understandable; people have stuff to do and there’s emails with all the information available anyway and sometimes you just don’t want a rubber bracelet or a ribbon in your wardrobe for the day. But there was a pattern among the minority that did stop over.

The majorityI’d say two-thirds or moreof the people who even stopped and looked over, let alone asked a question or took a bracelet, were women. The vast majority of the ones who took Take Back the Night bracelets, or ribbons, or flyers advertising the events, were women as well. There were guys who came up, but it was rarer. Men even seemed less likely to look over at all. This was just a general trend; there were still a bunch of guys who did come over, many of them, and that was good. But there were far fewer of them than there were girls, and that was less good.

It goes without saying that men as well as women need to be educated about sexual assault and consent. And although women can also violate consent, I think many people would agree that in our culture, in the world we live in, it also goes without saying that men in particular need to be educated about these issues. It’s good to teach women what kind of behavior crosses a line, but it’s really good to teach men this. As the saying goes, don’t just teach women how to avoid getting raped, teach men not to rape.

And honestly, in a world where sexual assault is so common, not personally being a rapist is kind of a minimum requirement. There’s really a need for people of all genders, but especially cis men, who can have a greater influence on how other cis men actto not just practice good behavior around sex, but to preach it. I don’t mean to downplay the guys who did come overone of the nicest things about the experience was seeing both men and women writing down what Take Back the Night meant to them on whiteboards, (that was actually a more even split in terms of numbers, although there were still more girls). But it was still a little disheartening to see fewer men looking over or anything, to see that this issue is still so much easier for men to ignore.

It would have been really great to see as many if not more men as women taking ribbons or bracelets and kind of declaring or spreading support and awareness. It was great to see the guys who did come over. Those people were awesome, and I’m not trying to minimize that at all. But it would have been better if equal interest were the rule instead of the exception.


Image Credit: Facebook