Last Saturday, November 21, Newcastle University Feminist Society walked through the streets of Newcastle with the annual Reclaim the Night march.
The marches protest violence against women.
Reclaim the night marches began in the UK on the 12th November 1977, as the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group coordinated torchlight marches in many cities across Britain.
The campaign raises awareness of rape and the fear of women to walk the streets alone at night because of this threat.
Femsoc met at 5.30pm outside the Students Union to come together and joined the rest of the campaigners in Old Eldon Square.
The march began at 6.30pm and despite the cold weather more than 80 people turned out for the event.
Many women handed out signs that read ‘This Is Our Night’ and ‘This Is A Dress Not A Yes’ as the Bangshees, a female samba drumming band with brightly lit drums, began to play loudly.
The society gathered and talked with other members of the public as the march started to form; an opportunity to meet some of the many feminists involved.
Lucy Morgan, the vice president of Femsoc and the Gender Equality Officer of the Student Union said: “It is really important for Femsoc to be involved in local activism to raise a profile of student activism in general, specifically with regards to feminism to ensure that everyone hears our voice.”
The united group marched from the square onto Northumberland Street, chanting slogans such as “who’s streets? Our streets” to loud drumming music.
The march continued throughout Newcastle city centre.
The march turned right onto Northumbria campus with the enthusiasm of the women and men still high despite the temperature falling to below freezing.
Reghan Mitchell-Casey, a first year Psychology student at Newcastle University and member of the Feminist Society said: “The march confronts a serious issue that is not addressed enough in our society.
“It is accepted that girls should be scared of walking home after dark, and the real fear of harassment or rape when walking home alone is an everyday struggle that I and many of my friends face.
“This needs to be changed, and the Reclaim the Night march allows our voice to be heard.”
Hufty, a woman who has been involved in the Reclaim the Night for 30 years said: “As long as women continue to be abused and raped and unsafe on the streets it remains important that we take part in Reclaim the Night marches to reclaim the streets for women and girls.
“We hope to make the streets safer for women and make a point to members of the public that the streets are not currently safe for women and that we need them to be.”
While walking along Northumbria Universities’ main campus the march turned into the university sports centre where its route ended.
The night of protest was not over, however, as people gathered into one of the sport’s halls conference rooms to hear prominent feminist speakers come forward to talk about the cause Reclaim the Night supports.
Julia Charlton, Chair of the TUC Women’s Group began the conference.
Leading the discussion she spoke of how women shouldn’t be scared to go out after dark.
Her speech emphasised the importance of the history for women’s struggle for equality, through the formation and protests of the 20th century Suffragette movement. She also spoke of the future of the struggle for equality, explaining how it is estimated that the gender pay gap will not be closed until 2033.
Dr Ruth Lewis, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader in Sociology at Northumbria University, continued the discussion, expanding the focus to the concept of ‘lad culture.’ Dr Lewis commented on how ladism could be defined as violence against, and the objectification of women, subtly within society.
Criticising pact mentality within groups of young privileged men, Lewis provided the statistic that 1 in 7 female students are subbjected to serious sexual or physical violence throughout their time at university.
The speakers also emphasised the positive effects events such as Reclaim the Night are having on these issues. Compulsory education classes about consent are now being held in universities such as Cambridge along with the encouragement of bystander intervention against harassment of women.
Jenni Yuill speaker for the NoMorePage3 Campaign also spoke of success in the fight for gender equality.
On January the 22nd 2015 their campaign and 215,000 signature petition against The Sun newspaper led to the abolition of the page 3 topless model feature of the paper.
Concluding the discussion Julia Charlton thanked everyone for their participation and expressed the desire that next year Reclaim the Night could only become a more larger and influential event.
Reclaim the Night marches have experienced an annual revival throughout November, as a result of the impending government cuts threatening the refuge and rape crisis movements in the UK.
The marches take place all over the county not only in Newcastle but in cities such as London, Birmingham, Leeds and Oxford.
Their purpose is to demand justice for survivors and raise awareness of the persistent problem of male violence against women.
The turnout for the march both from Newcastle University Feminist Society and the general public evidences the real desire of these women to reclaim the night.
For more information and support visit http://www.reclaimthenight.co.uk/
Last modified: 30th November 2015