ABOUT 200 women from the local Women’s Liberation groups, Women and Socialism and Women’s Voice supporters, held torchlight processions in Manchester on Saturday 12 November, to show Chief Superintendent Bowley that women will not be stopped from going out at night. Groups of women marched through gales and freezing cold at Levenshulme, Strangeways and Longsight with torches and placards chanting ‘Reclaim the Night’ and singing songs, escorted by groups of policewomen. When we got to Piccadilly Gardens, in the centre of Manchester, the police heavies and News of the World reporters suddenly appeared because a woman had had an argument with her husband when she wanted to join in! The march succeeded in getting a lot of local and national publicity.
WALKING through Soho on your own on a rainy Saturday night is usually a horrible experience – turned in on yourself with your eyes to the pavement, trying to avoid getting hustled.
Saturday 12 November was a different story; several hundred women some with exaggerated face paint – spilled through the streets, plastering strip-joints, porn-shops, ‘saunas’ and sleazy film-clubs with posters and stickers explaining what the pleasure-palaces are really about: ‘This degrades women’ and ‘This violates women’.
Seeing the horror on the faces of the nasty, leery jerks hastily locking the strip-club doors as their windows were redecorated was very enjoyable.
The demonstration was exhilarating and chaotic. We screamed and hollored and wolf-whistled and sang – and inevitably brought a reaction from all the small packs of would-be studs on the streets. ‘Who’d rape you’, ‘Call yourselves women? Ho, ho.’ I wished I’d brought a few spray-bottles of Devon Violets…
If there is a single image screaming at us from every hoarding, magazine and television screen that indicates possession, status, domination and cheap thrills it is the image of a luscious, passive, mindless woman – for women to aspire to be and men to aspire to have. Rape is one logical consequence of the image of woman as an object for men’s use. Yet many people, even some male socialists who don’t try hard enough, don’t yet understand why it is not trivial to attack the purveyors of this view – the adverts and the strip-joints.
Repetitions can knock a message through the thickest of skulls – so let’s make sure every advert and porn club gets regularly plastered with stickers (what else is a handbag for?) And let’s reclaim some more nights in some more towns.
Women’s Voice 12, December, 1977