Take Back the Night

Edit: This blog post was going to be about comparing the way stories are taken and changed. I was going to look at UBC and the sexual assaults as a case study, but I was stopped by the TBTN website. Perhaps later.

Recently, I was inspired by Makoto’s post on the “take back the night” campaign and the sexual assaults occurring at UBC, to write my own post on Take Back the Night and the commodification of the name and people’s stories at UBC.

On October 30 2013, 200 students took to the streets of UBC to demand that the university step up it’s game in protecting student safety and dealing with rape culture on campus. The group held a “take back the night” event, which is an internationally held protest and rally against sexual assault and rape:

“Take Back The Night has become internationally known, as a way to take a stand against sexual violence and speak out against these horrible crimes. The first documented Take Back The Night event in the United States took place in October of 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Citizens rallied together after the murder of young microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death by a stranger no more than a block away from her home while walking the streets, alone.

The first international Take Back The Night event occurred at The International Tribunal on Crimes against Women. The Tribunal took place March 4-8, 1976 in Brussels, Belgium. Over 2000 women, representing 40 countries, attended the event. In other parts of Europe, Take Back The Night began under the name “Reclaim the Night“. In 1976 there were roughly 16,000 rapes reported in Rome which fueled the “Reclaim the Night” movement in Italy. The movement expanded from Rome to West Germany, where women were harassed and assaulted both day and night. Women in West Germany held their first “Reclaim the Night” on April 30, 1977.” – Take Back The Night Foundation

While I was doing research on this campaign and it’s roots, I came across the website for the Take Back The Night Foundation®. The group was founded in 1999, in the USA, and has subsequently trademarked the name that came 24 years before them. The website has links for people to buy TBTN apparel and kits that include banners. A majority of the website is dedicated for people to buy things. There is page for people to sign a pledge that says

“I believe in what the Take Back The Night ® Foundation stands for, and support their cause to end sexual violence.”

Additionally the website has 50 pages dedicated for survivors (read: not victims) to share their stories anonymously. The stories are of people who have sexually assaulted in some way or another. The only thing that identifies the person is their age and their location. The stories are brutal and honest, and they provide a big wow-factor. Their purpose however is lost in the website. Surrounded by sign to buy wristbands and shirts and to sponsor the foundation, the stories become something else that we can “buy” and “consume.”

I think it is interesting to see how an idea or movement can be comidified into a trademarked organization that sell’s products and merchandise as well as stories. I wonder who this relates to Whitlock…


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