A crowd of women began to form in Bosco Student Plaza around 8 p.m. last night. Many of them were holding signs, others wearing matching T-shirts. Both of these items had the same common theme and agenda: Take Back the Night.
In its 12th annual existence, Take Back the Night is a rally and a march that only women can participate in, though men are encouraged to cheer from the sidelines to symbolize the space between the genders, said Madeline Wetta, junior in English literature and women’s studies and vice president of Ordinary Women, a student-community feminist organization that sponsored last night’s event. The marchy is typically followed by a concert. This year’s musical talent was Samantha Clemons, former K-State Idol winner, who performed in Triangle Park after the rally and march through the streets of Aggieville.
Before the 80 women, including a few small children, started their march, they listened to speakers Jesse Haymaker, K-State alum; Laura Thacker, junior in English and women’s studies; and Gabriela Sabates, women’s studies instructor.
Haymaker sent a message of solidarity. She spoke about the absent voices of women serving our country and the treatment they endure every day in doing so. Everyone clapped, honoring those unable to speak up and thanking them for fighting for our protection.
Thacker used her time on the podium to share her personal story as a disabled woman with the crowd. After deciding to go to college and live on her own, her grandmother warned her never to be out alone or at night. That piece of advice bothered her and came back to haunt her in a later encounter with a female security guard on campus.
After leaving the library, walking behind another lone female, the guard stopped Thacker and asked if someone was picking her up. The guard said nothing but “Have a nice night” to the other women, but because of Thacker’s disability, which causes one leg to drag behind the other, she felt the need single out and warn the apparently vulnerable Thacker, who in fact had driven herself to the library, parking in the front-row handicap section.
Somewhat offended, although understanding, Thacker finds it sad that we live in a world where women feel they need to warn other girls who appear more likely to get attacked. Thacker does not feel she should be warned. Society, she said, likes to place part of the blame on women in cases of attack. Victims might hear, “Oh, you shouldn’t have been out at night,” or “You should not have worn that outfit,” when women are not the problem.
Gabriela Sabates played off that idea. She mentioned how our culture assumes violence is inevitable and that is why people continue to warn girls about their clothes, words and actions. Sabates asks, “But why?”
She is a survivor of the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she is from. During her youth, women feared being raped, impregnanted to give birth to future corrupt soldiers and killed. Many families were separated. Every day, people were kidnapped, disappearing right and left. Sabates said it took years to get over the fear instilled in her, and she never wants to be afraid like that again.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that women have to feel fear when being out at night,” said Jamie Gehring, freshman in women’s studies. “They should be able to go wherever, whenever.”
Outside of Kite’s Bar and Grille and across from Texas Star Café, Manhattan resident Michael Mann and Rebecca Dyer were taken aback by the mob of seemingly angry women.
“It’s a great message,” Dyer said. But she agreed with Mann when it came to some of the word choice in the chants.
“It is not necessary to have children involved,” Mann said.
A friend of theirs, who wished to remain nameless, said he refused to have the rape talk with his daughter until she is 11. Other older men outside of Radina’s, who refused to be interviewed, appeared uncomfortable with the cries of the passing women and handful of kids.
On the other hand, men like Nicholas Burrows, sophomore in open option, thought Take Back the Night was a great cause.
“My mother was attacked by a man when leaving work who tried to steal her purse, so this is really close to my heart,” he said. “I have also had other friends affected by this, so watching the women march and chant was very cool.”
During Clemons’ musical performance, shirts telling the true stories of women who were sexually assaulted were hung on a clothesline. Emily Santacroce-Kennedy, attendee and megaphone-wielder, said this ceremony is a national sort of memorial.
Ordinary Women shows films, hosts guest lecturers and organizes the Be Bold Be Red campaign, a fight to stop the violence women of color face that white women do not.
Clare Nderagakura, junior in social work and holder of the main banner during the march, said she loved the rally and march and “absolutely” wants to get involved, stating she has personal stake in this program.