In anticipation of Reclaim the Night - an annual march through Manchester to say no to violence against women - we’ve interviewed two members of MMU Feminist Society, Mia Sheperd and Wynne Taffinder, to tell us a little more about the event, and other activities taking place. Mia is a 3rd year Politics Student and the Chair of the Feminist Society, Wynne is a 2nd year History Student and is the treasurer. Both are enthusiastic about their work with the society, connecting with other groups and making change.
Wynne: Reclaim the Night started in the 1970’s, in Leeds when the Yorkshire Ripper was murdering people. A curfew was put on the women and so Reclaim the Night was born out of and from those women saying no. Now a march happens in most major cities that’s aimed at combating sexual violence at night, street harassment and victim blaming.
Wynne: They can come along to the activities we’ve organised!
On 17th February between 18:15–19:15pm, we’ve joined up with MMU Sport to hold a Self-Defense workshop for women and non-binary students, at the Sugden Sports Centre. This class is open to self-identifying women and non-binary students.
On 20th February we’ll be holding a banner and lantern making workhshop in collaboration with the LightUp Collective, where you can get creative and meet other students attending Reclaim the Night. This will take place between 4-6pm in Conference room 1, the Union.
Anyone interested should also attend the Reclaim the Night march - it’s a tonne of fun and there’s an after party. Join us for our pre-Reclaim event at Font, 17:30-19:00. MMU Feminist Society and Humanity Hallows will be on hand with face painting, last minute sign making and fundraising for Manchester Rape Crisis. There may be some extra treats! Be sure to come join us in preparation for a fantastic night. If they want to get involved in planning the march in the future, you can attend organising meetings at Manchester Students’ Union, and get as involved as you want in organising the whole march.
Mia: I’ve been told a lot that marching doesn’t change anything, but there’s something so empowering about being there in solidarity just slowly making changes even if it’s not in my lifetime but someone else's.
Wynne: You hear a lot about marching not being relevant, especially with something like Reclaim the Night, because it’s an annual event and doesn’t happen in reaction to a specific political thing. But if you talk to any woman on campus or just generally, everyone has some sort of scary story, or you start talking about being yelled at in the street by men and suddenly everyone can go around and say this happened to me, this happened to me and I got called this and it made me feel really uncomfortable. Especially for university students, with feeling unsafe in the Fallowfield area; it’s nice to have an outlet to express frustration about that, and see a large group of women who feel the same way as you, it’s quite fulfilling in that way. Even if it doesn’t directly change anything, if it makes you feel better that’s enough.
Wynne: Just do it! I think with campaigning you need to drum up that interest to have an effect, but you can drum up that interest whilst doing whatever you think is important. All those connections you might need to be successful will come in time - you can see that with the LightUp Collective; they saw a problem and created an event and it was really popular and now they’re working with us and a bunch of other people and that’s pretty cool!
Mia: Being involved in the Feminist Society has changed a lot for me, you end up speaking to a lot more people and find connections you never realised, there’s a lot more help out there than you might realise. Sometimes you can sit there alone and think, “ah the world is awful and I’m just one person!” It doesn’t have to be one person to save the world it needs to be a community.
The Reclaim the Night march will gather in Owen's Park outside The Tower, Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield at 19:00 on 23rd February, ready to loudly and proudly reclaim the right to feel safe.
If you would like to support or advice concerning sexual violence, assault or abuse you can visit our Advice Centre or University Counselling, Health and Wellbeing.