May 24, 2012

Marching for gender equality

Capitalizing on increased student engagement following the Jessica Valenti talk, the Take Back the Night march aimed to raise awareness of the role of feminism in combating sexual assault.

Students Against Sexism in Society member freshman Paige Lee recognized the positive impact of Valenti’s talk prior to the march.

“Having someone as influential and as prominent as Jessica Valenti reminded people that feminism plays a role in prevention. The topics that she addressed reminded people that there are still issues that need to be brought forward and paid attention to,” Lee said.

The march started later than anticipated due to an extended question and answer session following Valenti’s talk. Freshman SASS member Allie Fry took the high degree of student interaction to be a positive reflection of interest.

“I think what was great is that Jessica Valenti stayed for two hours because she was answering so many questions,” Fry said. “The fact that there were that many questions, and people cared enough to stay that long to ask questions about a broad range of topics showed that people are curious about feminism and its role in stopping sexual violence, I think that showed a lot of promise for our campus.”

Though the march itself did not maintain the same attendance as the talk, a group of approximately 30 people was passionate and audible. The marchers carried posters displaying messages of gender equality and anti-assault, some of which were provided by the sponsoring organizations though students also brought their own.

Chants like “People unite, take back the night” and “Yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear wherever we go” were exclaimed by the group. Initially intended to be a short march around campus, ending at a “speak out” session in the Taylor Student Lounge, positive spirit extended the march.

“The initial plan had been to make a quick trip around the campus and then go to the Rog Lodge, but it was going really well, so we decided to continue going on with it. We wanted to go by places that people would be so that they could see what was going on,” Lee said.

The march through the quads was particularly well-received, with students coming to their windows as the group passed. Many of the buildings had onlookers filling the windows of multiple floors.

The march served as a sobering reminder of the presence of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses.

“Oftentimes, students have never in their lives been asked about it or have been in an environment that would support them if they wanted to take a vocal stand against sexual assault. With how pervasive sexual assault is on college campuses, it is very important that Knox be aware that we are not an exception to that statistic,” Fry said. “The goal of the night was to open dialogue for other people to learn and get a different perspective.”

Though Take Back the Night is geared towards sexual assault in particular, the discourse followed by the march was also effective in making students aware that feminist challenges are present.

“It was important in reminding people of the prominence of feminism. In recent years, people have been trying to say that feminism is dead, feminism isn’t relevant anymore, that it’s not important — people saying we’re equal, just get over it, move on,” Lee said.

“But feminism isn’t dead, and it’s still an important movement.”

Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.

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