Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reclaim the night

Just got back in from post event pubbing. The Ipswich Reclaim the Night event was really impressive and I'm full of admiration for the organisers. A small contingent of Cambridgoids made the journey like many others. London, Birmingham, Portsmouth and other places from all round the country were all represented.

Theresa McCay our glorious leader, whose name I can't spellI'm putting the attendance between two and three hundred, which for a Friday night the week of Christmas in a small Suffolk town is pretty bloody impressive in my view and it was good to see the TV, radio and papers all there reporting the news for a change. It was chilly but thankfully it didn't start raining until it was well and truly over, so we were lucky in that respect.

The event started with two really interesting speeches. The first was by Socialist Party stalwart and all round good egg Theresa (pictured) who gave a thorough discussion of the problems of the official policy towards prostitution and connected it with a number of other "women's issues" (I'm not a particular fan of that phrase but am three quarters cut so may well come back to it tomorrow).

"We will not accept the advice that women must not go out alone at night, for this stigmatises those who are attacked as somehow responsible and makes women who are out alone more of a target. Instead we believe safety must come from the community banding together and looking out for each other. Staying safe is not just an individual's responsibility, it is the responsibility of every single one of us to protect and care for those around us - our friends, family members and community members. We will not let the media hype scare and divide us, destroying our sense of community when we need it the most."

We can see banners from the English Collective of Prostitutes and a Birmingham women's organisation hereThe second speech was by Sarah from the English Collective of Prostitutes. She congratulated the organisers for making this an event for both men and women and said it was only through coming together that we would be able to address the issues.

She also said "some people argue that prostitution is in and of itself abuse - we don't agree..." she went on to say shifting the onus away from the worker was not enough "by targeting the clients it's the women who pay the price... zero tolerance and crackdowns... label women as undesirable" and leave them extremely vulnerable.

She also touched on the history of reclaim the night events and was rather critical of some of the politics around them in the past where a particular version of feminism had branded prostitutes as part of the problem, insisting on women only events, splitting the community, when we should be bringing people together. I thought that was interesting, but as this is the first RtN event I've been to don't feel qualified to comment further (please do in the comments box).

One slight niggle, which is probably just me, but when she said they have plenty of money for war so why can't they afford decent social programmes she got a rousing cheer (the first and only of the event). I'm sorry but the war can't pay for everything and frankly it is not the cost of the war that is the problem - if the war was right then so was the price, in both folding money and young lives, but it wasn't. I'm a bit fed up of this argument, which gets photocopied into every issue, as if the war is the only thing happening in the world. Hmpf.

We listen patiently to the speechesThe fact that these were the only two speakers was absolutely spot on as far as I'm concerned, we weren't there for long speeches but as an act of solidarity, coming together in the wake of terrible events, whose impact has only been exasperated by the actions of the tabloid press. Although having said that I should note the more 'serious' press, even on the right, has been notably progressive on the issue, I've been reading The Times which has had some particularly sensible articles (and possible some rubbish too).

After twenty minutes of speeches we set off across town to what we're now calling the "red light area" which I will continue to think of as "by the football ground". It is Ipswich you know, not Amsterdam.

It was also good to see the Green Party there serving up free soup and bread. Apparently the Ipswich branch is pretty young so it's good to see them playing such a positive roll and nice to see a few old faces, although I was surprised at the number of people I know from the area that weren't there that I had simply assumed would be attending. Just one SWPer... that's a bit odd isn't it?

Oh and before I forget - if you're reading this Sarah Sandford - hello!

For updates and official report go to Cambridge Indymedia (plus really good pics)


Louisefeminista said...

Yeah Jim, Sorry I couldn't make it. I was kinda sceptical about the demo as just the name "Reclaim the Night" fulls with cynicism. But I am pleased the English Collective of Prostitutes were involved as I was concerned they wouldn't be. There are problems with Reclaim the Night demos as they usually march around the sex industry (Soho) or picket a Spearmint Rhino.

My argument is this is counterproductive and have argued this. What message does this give sex workers? They are not included in these demos and I did ask this question to Ana Lopes (IUSW) who replied that it does indeed piss off sex workers. My position is that we should be working in solidarity in support for unionisation. I also heard that the "official" Reclaim the Night organisers were unhappy about it being used for a mixed demo. Frankly, I find that daft and on this occasion I think it was correct to make it open to men.

I attended a RtN demo way back in 1989 and we marched around B'ton (that's where I lived at the time). Unfortunately, we ended up by the multiplex that was showing the film "The Accused". The organiser was saying this film degraded women etc etc. I along with other women started to argue with the organiser as some had seen the film and we thought it was good as it shows rape is without sensationalising or romanicising it like other Hollywood productions had done in the past. I just found it bizarre and again counterproductive to be interested in picketing the film. Think I left the demo as I was annoyed.

Btw: Jim will link to your piece on Stroppyblog

badmatthew said...

On a day that started with the account of Saddam Hussein's execution infiltrating my dream it is really very good to read a warm, honest, humane account of a demonstration of love and solidarity. Good on yer.

Jim Jay said...

No probs L it was a very good RtN and its interesting to hear that perhaps other similar events have had real political problems that were, I think, absent from this one.

There were some sex workers present at this event, although the families of the victims were not.

Cheers BadM: execution has been all the more horrifying by the publication of the pictures by the media (what happened to the fuss about US and UK troops pics being published now the shoes on the other foot?)

a very public sociologist said...

Sounds like an excellent action. I'll c&p it to the UKLN if you don't mind.

Jim Jay said...

Sure - that's fine - it was good and am really glad we organisaed to get people down there

Jim Jay said...

Ellee Seymour has a really interesting post on this topic here - worth reading!