Williamsburg’s Take Back the Night Ninjas

I AM NOT A SEX OBJECT?A parade of lady ninjas tore down Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn last week, smashing the window of a local tea shop on the way. Today, a press release:

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Dressed in matching black skirts and masks, dozens gathered on Saturday evening for an anti-capitalist Take Back the Night march, stopping traffic on Bedford Avenue, overturning trashcans, and breaking windows. Tired of tamely shouting slogans on campus sidewalks, we took the night back by taking it, refusing the structural mechanisms that create rapists and their victims.

Although in recent years Take Back the Night has been co-opted by liberal feminists, it has its roots in the widespread unrest of Italy in the late seventies. In 1976, a seventeen-year-old was gang-raped in Rome. A year later, when her case went to trial, she was gang-raped again by the same men: and this time, her whole body was slashed with razors in an attempt to keep her silent. Within hours, fifteen thousand women mobilized, uniformly dressed like the sex workers common to the district; “NO MORE MOTHERS, WIVES AND DAUGHTERS: LET’S DESTROY THE FAMILIES!” was the cry heard in the street. They came just short of burning the neighborhood to the ground.

Forty years later, we marched again, to refuse the violence that continues to force us to be housewives and fuck-toys and mothers and daddy’s girls, to refuse to understand women’s oppression in the private sphere as a simple cultural or ideological matter. We address capitalism and patriarchy as one intrinsically interconnected system. We are not asking for rights: we are demanding something else entirely.

A woman on the street stopped and attempted to begin an argument: “Why are you doing this?” A swift reply: “Because we have grown tired of rape and makeup.” The woman responds: “Just get drunk and get laid – deal with it.” But this is no longer enough for us. We are not asking for a right to the streets, we are taking them; we are not asking for advertisements that do not objectify women, we’re destroying the commercial mechanisms that objectify women; we are not appealing to male power for an end to rape, but threatening: “If you touch me, I will fucking kill you.”

For once, the mechanisms that create and maintain identities of womanhood were refused, and our desires were our own, our bodies were our own, and our violence was our own.

Gothamist is quickly critical of the fems, and wonders how “fighting violence with confusing, misdirected, messy, violent outbursts,” will help women resist becoming housewives and sex toys.

Their commenters are even more harsh on the lady warriors, writing things like, “Feminism makes me want to die. It all-too-often has the opposite of the intended effect. This just makes women look crazy and irrational,” and, “Were they wearing tight skirts? Any legwear?”

While I don’t plan to strap on a bandana and topple an American Apparel maniquin with the ninjas, and I definitely disagree with their use of violence, I am feeling a lot of empathy for their situation. It must be devastating to put so much fury into a statement only to have NYC point at you, laughing, “ha, another thing women can’t do right!”

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