Reclaiming Bristol and fighting back against sexual violence

flyerA report from Octobers Reclaim the Path march from one of our members, and a reminder that Reclaim the Night will be taking place in central Bristol on Friday November the 27th. Contains reference to assault.

The cycle path between Bath and Bristol has seen a lot of sexual violence and harassment over its history. Including several friends of mine who have been attacked by men, with threats of rape. There has also been a lot of street harassment around Easton, including of a  friend who challenged her harassers and was then knocked to the floor and threatened at knife point.

Unfortunately this and other forms of gender based discrimination are common for a lot of people of oppressed genders*, across Bristol and world wide. Whether it be in a bar, street or in our homes we are often treated like objects. It has become part of our sick and twisted culture. We are constantly portrayed in all forms of media as sex toys for men, and accused of being humorless or uptight if we object.

A Marcher reclaiming the path

A Marcher reclaiming the path

Outside of the world of media, services in Bristol for those subject to sexual violence have seen drastic cuts in the last 5 years, including the closures of safe houses. Police continue to show little interest to calls from those who have been threatened or attacked. They rarely treat harassment or even gender based assault seriously, preferring to just note down the incidents.

Luckily recent years have seen a steady increase of interest in feminist and LGBTQ groups, theories and action. This has seen some great work from Bristol University Feminist Society and spawned new radical grass-roots groups such as BS5 Against Street Harassment (B*A*S*H), LaDIYfest and Bored of Patriarchy (BOP). All of whom are working to eliminate all forms of gender based oppression and inequality.

Friday the 9th of October saw the teaming up of these activists under the name Reclaim the Path, to raise awareness and combat gender based street harassment. In Owen square, Easton around 100 people (mostly oppressed genders) had gathered on the cycle path. With high vis vests, whistles, placards and a sound system we set out to literally and symbolically reclaim the path from those who would attack us – or have us locked indoors for our own ‘safety’.

The march headed towards the centre, handing out leaflets and singing chants such as “yes means yes, no means no, sexual violence has got to go!”. The lively group then headed along Stapleton road, holding up buses and cars, while dancing their way back to an after party with food and cocktails.

Last year's reclaim the night protest

Last year’s reclaim the night protest

Most people along the route appreciated the march, and there were lots of positive interactions (including some women joining in as it went past). Some men made jeering remarks, their masculinity apparently threatened by a confident group of women. Luckily their attempts at insults were mostly drowned out by empowered chants, singing, and music from the sound system. One man who was persistently hassling the group ended up having to be led away by a few of the marchers and told to F Off in no uncertain terms.

Reclaim the Path launched a weekend of gigs, workshops, talks and other events for LaDIYfest Bristol, which was a massive success.

No single action or event will end harassment, we have an entire culture to change. We can only hope we will inspire and empower more oppressed gendered people to stand up for themselves and demand respect and equality.

To get involved or find out more see:
B*A*S*H
Hollaback
Bristol University Feminist Society
Bored of Patriarchy
and LaDIYfest

*Glossary:
Patriarchy: a system in which men are given the majority of political, economic and social power and hold both informal and formal positions of authority. Enforces gender roles that negatively impact on everyone, although the negative affects are often mitigated by privilege in the case of men.

Oppressed genders: those who experience oppression based on their gender identity. They include Women (Cis and Transgender), Transgender people in general, Intersex People, Gender Fluid and non Binary people. Pretty much everyone who doesn’t conform to the standard of a masculine cis man.

For more on oppression, privilege and how they relate to anarchism read this analysis by the AFed Women’s Caucus.

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