But can you reclaim something that was never yours? Not that anybody has a monopoly on the English language (strictly speaking...). I don't think slut has any kind of proud history. Unless you're really into insults, or misogyny. But I suppose you can turn it around. Now we can accuse those who imply a woman is some how to blame for a crime, or those who recoil at the idea of a woman discussing her sex life of slut-shaming. Is that a reclaim or a confiscation?
If this were an essay* I was struggling to get going with on the subject of 'reclaiming' (which I suppose it is) I'd tell you that the Oxford English Dictionary definition of 'Reclaim' is this: v. 1. Retrieve or recover. 2 bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation. Recycle. 3 dated redeem from a state of vice. Archaic tame or civilize (an animal or person). n. the action or reclaiming or being reclaimed...ORIGIN ME: from Ofr. Reclamer, from L. Reclamare 'cry out against'...
Cry out against. Isn't that perfect? Goodness but I love dictionaries. As the nights draw in Reclaim the Night marches come out. The 17th of November saw Brighton Reclaim the Night, led by The Brighton Feminist Collective. Queer, trans, cis, all of Brighton was invited to cry out against. Against rape, against violence, against domestic abuse, against, against, against! The object was to retrieve, recover, 'redeem from a state of vice' as it were.
are we just afraid to say it's a power grab? A Coup.
Now, because I was in a group – a huge group of over 500 – I was able to point, report the men to the police, I'll even admit I laughed. Had I been alone I would have been frightened. Because you know what flashing is? It's an act of (attempted – no one was going to have their eye out that night) intimidation.
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I would wager that these men heard us, saw us and were frightened. They so took against a misunderstood idea of feminism and Reclaim the Night that they wanted to cause distress and laugh at us. When I was 17 walking home on a foggy afternoon through the deserted Tervuren Park I was flashed. On telling the story to friends the next day they laughed. Ha-ha willies. But I have to tell you at the time I was very frightened. And then angry because there is nothing more annoying then someone who has never been in the same situation telling you what witty thing they would have done.
When the march was covered in the local paper the following week comments predictably ranged from remarks on our looks (because we all know one thing about rapists is how very discerning they are) to how Brighton doesn't need a Reclaim the Night because Brighton's a hippy town (in the early hours following the march a woman was attacked on the Level and that's an attack we know about). We are used to seeing women being dismissed, unfortunately. But you can't dismiss a mass of people with a comment on their looks. That's not a woman's whine that's an intersectional holler. It is a mass of people driven to cry out against!
This is what makes an inclusive march so much more powerful, so much more meaningful than a woman only march, or a segregated march. This is why as I mentioned earlier I did not attend other Reclaim marches because they weren't mixed. I understand the sentiment but this hands power to those people shouting you down. It blurs the message. It isn't Us versus Them, it's Right versus Wrong.
Is this reclaiming? Or are we just afraid to say it's a power grab? A coup. A 'This is why we can't have nice things!' scolding. You abused the night, so we revolted. We should all be Proud Revolting Feminists.
*Any students reading – sorry, everybody and your marker knows that dictionary definition trick.
The Naked Feminist
This isn't what a Feminist looks like
Who to Believe?