Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Street Hauntings: Outlaw Mothers Taking Back the Night

The title of this post  alludes to several themes. 
Of course, as it is being written the day after Halloween, it is meant to incite “spooky” interest about a night that celebrates dressing up in “costumes” that may or may not reflect our “other” selves. The title also is an ode to Virgina Woolf’s famous essay   about a woman  who, in the quest to buy a pencil, enjoys a day of carefree  street sauntering in the city.
And finally, the subtitle refers to : the empowering process of being a “mother outlaw” and and the need for all women (and their children)  to reclaim “the night” and “the streets” as their own without a fear of violence.

I have been a proud supporter of “Take Back the Night” events in Toronto since I was a teenager. The idea  that all women should feel confident and safe walking  in their neighbourhoods and city streets without worrying about dangerous “boogie men” who lurk in the darkness, was a powerful message for me as a young feminist.
I  proudly reclaimed the streets with other women and did it with an empowered sense of bold defiance that only  comes with those moments of feminist activism when you know “you are not alone” . I also took my neice  to these events for many years-from the ages of 8-13- and she fondly remembers them now as a young woman, as being the consciousness-raising moments for her own feminism.

HOWEVER, it saddens me that, in 2011- women (and children)  still cannot walk our city streets without fearing for their safety. I am angered that, in 2011, women and young girls are still told that they should refrain from dressing in a certain way , more specicifically,  not dressing like “sluts”, to avoid rape and sexual harassment.

Although, the global movement of the Slutwalks   this year  has  continued to raise  both media attention and  individual awareness to the continued issue of violence against women, I remain disheartened about continued patriarchal dictates regarding safety issues for women; whereby the blame  for  potential sexual harrassment (and possible rape) is placed on what a woman wears  versus the onus and focus  being placed on the actual perpretrators of such crimes.  I also find  it quite disheartening  that  a  healthy divisional faction within the feminist movement itself on this issue -  ie. how activism regarding violence against women should be publically  addressed- is being used in the media to further a discrediting and silencing on such an important topic.

YET......here is my truth....

I am still walking the streets alone as an independent woman , yet contine to look over my shoulder for concerns regarding my safety.
I continue to  receive  critical comments from others regarding my decisions to  allow my ten year old son his own  freedom - for example,  this year I supported my son to  go trick and treating alone with his friends -albeit with a 15 year old elder sister that did accompany  them.  Some how, I was being a "bad mother" in allowing my son this opportunity to roam his neighbourhood without the surveillance of his parents as chaperones.
Furthermore, women are  still being told that if they dress in certain "costumes" for Halloween, they can guarantee that their "trickster" performativity  can only guarantee one thing...a really "bad treat".

This Mother Outlaw has to wonder: When will our streets be truly safe for everyone to “saunter” and “street haunt” without such  worry?

I attended the Toronto Slut Walk in April 2011 as a proud Mother Outlaw….I plan on attending again next year.
BUT-  I have to say.... this is one feminist  community  mobilizing event, I wish wasn’t even in need of my support or  attendance . 


  1. I really like this post-- great example of the "intersections" I always find in the blogs I like best.

  2. Very well expressed, Linn! Right on the money (as always)! This boils my blood - this continual investment in fear culture that our misogynist/capitalist/"neo-liberal" society is plugging..to keep us all afraid (especially women and children)...to keep us off the streets and living only marginal, non-critical, tepid lives so we aren't looking for the real boogey MEN who, more often than not, as we know, are our partners, are related to us, or are friends or acquaintances. Other noteworthy, dangerous boogey MEN are, of course, the ones who run our country (and all countries). I'll always be at your side reclaiming the streets sister! They CANNOT keep us locked away, silent, and under control. I ain't ascared!