My Experience With Take Back the Night 2012 and Radical Cheerleading
Submitted by: Amal Mohamed
To write about my experiences at the Take Back the Night Windsor 2012, and as my role as a Radical Cheerleader has been quite an interesting one. The reason is that while I am quite the talker, I feel like I can never really articulate myself in words; so bear with me on this as I try express my many feelings about my experiences.
The first time I came into contact with the whole Take Back the Night movement and Radical Cheerleading was when my dearest friend and soul sister, Ayan, introduce me to it. At that point I was two years into my studies as a Women’s Studies major and loving and questioning ever minute of it. I honestly didn’t even plan on attending the event and had gone because of my promise to her and the fact that I was bored out of my mind. However, my experience that night changed my life – so much that I remember every minute of it, as if it were engrained into my being. I remember the speakers and the countless faces, and the fact that no matter how close Ayan, her sisters, and I huddle we could not fight off the cold of that night. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of power; nothing I had experienced in my 20 years of life could ever amount to it. I don’t know what the feeling was particularly, but it felt like I was coming home.
And that night, I knew that whatever I did from that moment on would mean something for myself and every woman that came before or after me. The speeches left me humbled, sadden, and angry, but also hopeful. I was humbled for being privileged to those stories and lives, sadden and angry for all the women and children that were taken from us, and the many who were still with us, and hopeful that we could change as a society.
The moment the speaker introduce the Radical Cheerleaders, I was hooked. And that says a lot because to say I was very skeptical of cheerleading was a big understatement. I could rant and rave you into the next millennium on how oppressive I thought it was as an institution, and to have it be connected to my feminism was mind-blowing; but my God did those ladies rock that night. Their voices were so undeniable real, funny, and all shade of badass…how could someone not want to be a part of it? The march itself was validation of everything I, as a woman, had experienced. It was big ‘screw you’ to every moment that I had to hide within myself because I was scared and fearful of the threat of rape or violence. And I can’t even begin to explain how that can make you go insane as a person; to have to calculate every moment of your life from x to z because of that fear. Yet, fear was the last thing I felt that night. How come I wasn’t scared like I used to be? Simple: I wasn’t allowed. Those women, those survivors, those taken from us; none of those people would let me be scared anymore. I wouldn’t let me. So I screamed and screamed, for myself and for every woman I knew and for everyone woman I’ll never meet. And when my voice started to crack, I screamed louder because I would not be silenced. We wouldn’t be silenced.
And I am so thankful for that courage. By the end of that night (and every night since the first time I went), I was electrified. I felt unstoppable and it took everything in me not to fly out of my own skin from the excitement and the exhilaration of the chants, of the footsteps, as we marched to reclaim what was rightful ours. The basic right to walk our streets and to live life without the fear, threat, and reality of violence. I found home that night in the dark streets. I found home in all shades of pink and black.
Since that moment, I have been going to this event with as much as enthusiasm as the previous year, and the last two years I have been a radical cheerleader and loving every minute as I cheer, kick, and pompom my way through the backwards maze of patriarchy. It is like I was destined to be a radical cheerleader as cheesy as it may sound, but the SHE inside me knew that I needed it. The morning after TBTN always feels different from any other day. I feel like a superhero, like Wonder Woman.
It doesn’t get any less awesome. The women and children who come out give me as much life as the previous year, as I run up and down the crowd yelling out chants. The honking and support is always welcomed and at times reduces you tears. It is so awesome to see our marshals out there as they keep us safe and go head to head with traffic. To see the faces of strangers, friends, family, professors, and doggies in solidarity: it is an insanely intense moment. To have women from off the street jump into the march and be welcomed by the voices and cheers of other women is beautiful. You need to live it, you need to see the lights, hear the voices, feel the energy in your bones and core; you will never, ever, feel the same way again, I promise you that.
So go out to your local Take Back the Night or even start one in your community. Beside the fact that it is all kinds of crazy fun, it has meaning and truth behind it. Because violence does not happen to one person, it happens to all of us. So use your voice to stop the cycle, to bring awareness to what has been happening and continues to happen. We are all accountable. We have lost so many and continue to lose so many: it is time we make it right. We need to have an honest dialogue. We need to look at how racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, ableism, colonialism and all other isms and oppressions have resulted in the violence against women and children that continues to mark the lives of countless individuals. We need to say that we will not take it any more and create the proper measures to eradicate it from all sectors of society.
While it is my last year, I don’t think I will be hanging up the pompoms just yet. I got some more cheer in me and the struggle is long and hard, but I know the fight is worth it. So I leave you with one thing:
What do we say ladies? Sisters Unite, We are Taking Back the Night!
editor’s note: amal is a fun, energetic and opinionated women’s studies/social work student in her final year. she is highly active in the WSSA (women’s studies student alliance). her vibrancy and energy is contagious, and she tends to light up the room every time she walks in late.