Every September, the women and allies of Ottawa take to the streets to rally for safer streets for women. But it’s not just about taking back the night. It’s about coming together and showing everyone just how powerful we have become. We demand safety, we demand an end to violence against women, we demand justice, and hell, we want it NOW.
This year, I was late. Yep, that’s right, missed the rally at Minto park because I got the time wrong lol. Thankfully, marches like this don’t usually go very fast, so a light jog is enough to catch up. It was kind of funny, jogging along Rideau Street. I had feminist buttons pinned to my jeans, and was wearing an old white t-shirt I had cut the neck out of and turned inside out with ‘RIOTS not DIETS!’ scrawled on with a red marker (inspired by Val: THANKS!). I was clearly late for the giant march that had just gone by. As I joined the ranks of the march it was wonderful to see such a crowd! The male allies were respectfully holding up the rear guard, and the very large, diverse group of women were yelling “WOMEN! UNITED! WE’LL NEVER BE DEFEATED!” as they rattled cans, banged drums, shook tambourines and screamed about women’s rights with smiles on their faces. I was really happy to see some First Nations women leading the drums at the front. I found some friends quickly, exchanged hellos and joined the chant.
And then they handed me a megaphone.
My thought process went something like this: WOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
I missed my megaphone. I had used it often while working/volunteering for my student union. It’s an interesting phenomenon, going from a rather shy girl to leading chants and cheers in the loudest way possible. (For those curious, it’s a beautiful Thunderpower 400 with a range of 1500yds. We have the Thun-1000 too!)
Anyways, I was happy to help lead the chants and cheers! My favourite is the call and response ones (‘Tell me what a feminist looks like!’ ‘THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE!!!’), and the Take Back the Night cheer – in English and French of course, this is Ottawa after all! (‘Women Unite! Take Back the Night!’, ‘La rue, La nuit, les femmes sans peur!’). But the absolute most awesome part is getting to empower others. By the end of the march, it was something along the lines of “Let me hear all the strong, beautiful, smart, successful women out there say Yeah!” “YEAH!!!”, but it started with a woman in a wheelchair, who was wheeling along and chanting. I caught her eye as I led the cheers, as I had been doing with many, but then I reached over and put the hand mic in front of her so she could lead the cheer. She was so happy, her friend took a pic for her.
I did this for many different women throughout the march. Some would get right into it, others would shy away at first, but then pluck up their courage and shout into it. I found this extremely empowering because so often we are schooled into quietness, into not taking up space or being too loud. And these women and I shattered that quietness by yelling, screaming, taking up space, taking back the streets and claiming our RIGHT to be present and safe in this world. And I love that moment when we overpower our schooling. When we reclaim our right to be seen and heard. Great work ladies. Take back our night.