Reclaim the Night demonstrations have historically been a point of contention within the women’s movement. Such marches are often anti-sex work and pro-bourgeois feminism; it has been the job of socialist feminists to fight for class-based, internationalist feminism against a sometimes hostile backdrop.
Cambridge’s second Reclaim the Night march since its re-launch last year was different. The demonstration consisted of a self-defining women’s demonstration, a vigil open to all genders and a series of talks and music in King’s College chapel.
Cambridge University Student’s Union women’s officer Natalie Szarek kicked off the women’s demonstration with a speech about the necessity of anger to the women’s movement, something often side-lined by the apologetic nature of post-feminism, keen to deny the radical feminist identity of 1980s feminism.
She commented on the need for women’s organisation in the workers’ movement, and the problematic question of the Policing and Crime Bill, that outlawed the purchase of sex in many situations form the first of April this year.
The demonstration was 300 strong, with a noisy, assertive demonstration shouting “sexist, racist, anti-gay, you can’t take my night away” and “Women, unite! Reclaim the night!”, and a men’s vigil under the auspices of the White Ribbon campaign which highlights men’s role in ending violence against women.
Speakers included one of the White Ribbon campaigner’s full-timers, a representative of Rape Crisis Uk and UK Feminista’s Kat Banyard — who gave an enlightening talk about the personal experience of those who suffer violence against women, as well as outlining her more problematic position on sex work. She was followed by Feminist Fightback and Workers’ Liberty activist Cathy Nugent, who, outlining an anti-capitalist vision, reminded us of the importance of women’s resource centres and inter-struggle solidarity.
The show was stolen by socialist-feminist Faith Taylor’s performance of American folk song ‘Caleb Meyer’, about a woman who fights off her attacker and holds him to justice. The event was passionate and truly empowering, and highlighted the potential for socialist ideas to take hold in the women’s movement as a whole.