Sunday, 26 February 2017

Reclaim the Night

The woman dressed as a human-sized glow-in-the-dark vagina walks backwards, yelling into the megaphone.

“What do we want?”

“Safe Streets!” the crowd shouts back.

“When do we want it?”


The crowd is around a thousand-strong, and consists mostly of students with signs reading VALUE MY VAGINA, QUEEF ON THE PATRIACHY and, debatably off-topic, DONALD TRUMP IS A PIECE OF SHIT.

It's a dismal Thursday evening in Fallowfield on the outskirts of Manchester- the student area. Storm Doris is battering the city, but there's a minor lull in the gale and it's only spitting, thankfully. The crowd, which is growing all the time, is here for Reclaim the Night 2017, a march highlighting- and campaigning against- sexual violence. We're walking out of the accommodation area and onto the street towards the city centre.

One of the girls holds a sign saying DON'T HONK YOUR HORN AT ME. The then proceeds to cheer when drivers defy her.

The Vagina is chanting again, and the crowd that are close enough to hear her amplified voice join in.

“Said hey!”
And together, “Sexual Violence has got to go!”

I'm scuttling ahead of people trying to get their signs in my camera's frame. The pavement's pretty empty, but the road is stuffed with people, causing no end of disruption to traffic- which is the point.

The crowd chants on- people covered in glitter, girls in fishnets, but mostly people wearing warm coats. “Blame the system, not the victim!” The call is echoed by those who can hear the megaphone.

“Show me what a feminist looks like!”
“This is what a feminist looks like!”

The march treks north from Fallowfield, through the Curry Mile and into the Contact Theatre on Oxford Road where another woman gets onto the speakerphone, but there are that many people in the crowd that most of us can't hear her. The location is stuffed with the people on the march. The people they want to convince, though- the general public- aren't in great numbers there. They're all further down the road and into the city centre. It would have been interesting to see how the early-doors drinkers would have reacted to hundreds of student feminists telling them that “This pussy grabs back.”

It's been eventful, and I want to say 'fun.' But it's worth remembering that the USA has a president who brags about sexual assault, and here in the UK two women a week die due to domestic violence. That's what Reclaim the Night is hoping you'll stand against whether you're a man or a woman, and I don't think that's an unreasonable ask.

It does make you a woman with terrible taste in music, but that's okay.

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