TBTN- A queer- feminist protest march to Take Back The Night

note to content: the following text talks about rape and sexual assault. Explanations continually interrupt the text.

From March 8th to March 10th 2015 the us company „Real Social Dynamics“ (RSD) is going to organize a course to teach „the Art of Pick Up“ in Hamburg. One of their coaches and self- proclaimed Pick Up Artist is Julien Blanc. He is known for his abusive behavior and promotion of rape. During the courses the participants – mostly male*- are supposed to learn how to seduce womyn* (called Hot Babes by the Pick Up Community). This is supposingly achieved through manipulation by the Pick Up Artist (PUA). A manipulation with the goal to coax womyn* to have sex with the PUA. Part of the manipulation is the use of force and humiliation.

Our understanding of men*/ womyn*

People are put into exactly two different gender categories. For us, those categories are nothing natural but social constructions. This construction gives people different spaces to maneuver. The asterisk ought to show the social construction of the categories men* and womyn*. Furthermore it ought to make people visible who do not want to be put into these categories.

The Pick Up community is rather big and spread all around the world. In their teachings they refer to a pseudoscientific method. This method has a clear structure. First the looks of the womyn* in question are put on a scale on 1 to 10 by the PUA. Afterwards methods like “push and pull” are used to weaken the confidence of the womyn*. By changing his attitude from extremely interested to cold and rejecting, the PUA tries to make the womyn* insecure, so she will not trust her feelings anymore and is henceforth pushed in a position of subjection. The “neuro-linguist programming” (NLP) is the basis for the methods of Pick UP, promoted through courses and books. NLP assumes controllability through the use of body language and language. The Pick UP technique had a world wide break through with the debut of the book “The Game” by Neil Strauss in 2005.

PUA are mostly connected through social media. Through out the world exist forums about Pick Up. The biggest german(speaking) forum has about 100.000 members alone. The forums have different threads about different techniques and “achievements”. Here womyn* are only seen as trophies and objects that want to be used. What the PUAs want to achieve is dominance and authority over womyn*. Characteristics typically seen as manly*. The manipulation of the PUA is emotional/ physiological violence which can easily turn into assault.

The (hetero) sexist Pick Up community has its source in a patriarchal society, which turns womyn* constantly into objects. The PUA are only the very top of a very big mountain called rape culture.

Our understanding of Heterosexism

Heterosexism means that even though a lot of typs of relationships, desire and love exist, only one typ is accepted by society: 1 cis-men + 1 cis-womyn = love = the norm. This norm means, that every other typ is discriminated, sanctioned and made invisible.

What is rape culture?

Rape Culture describes social conditions which enable rape, make it normal and promote it. It is part of our every day life and infiltrates our perception and actions. Rape Culture is rooted in binary gender roles. The cis-man*, portrayed as strong and active, and the cis-womyn*, supposedly weak and passive. Rape Culture and its effects are entangled with our everyday life. This is best explained through five aspects, all interconnected.

Our understanding of rape

By rape we mean every act which is done against another’s persons will and uses the means of sexuality. Therefore it includes all forms of sexual assault. Rape is used to control and suppress another person, to exercise control, power and authority over another person or to keep control, power and authority over another person.

Our understanding of Cis-man/ cis-womyn

You are cis-gender if you identify with the same gender that was given to you postnatal. You are still cis-gender if you never had to question your gender identity, because someone else read your gender differently than you want to be read. We use the term cis-gender to mark the invisible norm.

Rape is part of our everyday life! Official statistics say, from the age of 16 onwards, every 7th womyn* has experienced rape. Trans* and Inter* persons are not recognized in these statistics- henceforth made invisible. This also means that even more people are directly affected. But we always talk about rape as if it does not affect us or the people surraounding us. We are supposed to ignore the daily presence of rape, this is promoted e.g. through our justice system. Only individual cases are made public, mostly those who feature an unknown “Other”.

Our understanding of Trans* and Inter*

You are a Trans*person, if you don’t identify with the gender given to you at birth. You are a Inter*person if your body doesn’t match the (medical) norm of the sexes. Both terms are also empowering self-descriptions.

The myth of rape. Rape Culture promotes a very detailed picture who can rape whom, when and where. The racist and distorted myth tells us that a “dark, strong cis-men* jumps out of a bush and attacks a young, pretty white girl*.” Due to this myth assault against Trans* and Inter*, as well as against non-able-bodied persons, is made invisible. They don’t fit into the heterosexist picture, that is painted by the society. In general an assault is not recognized if the experienced assault does not reflect the myth. Opposing to the known picture rape occurs mainly inside ones close social circle, often in ones own apartment. The Betroffene (In Britain and North America usually the word surviver is used to name a formally assaulted person. We think the German word Betroffene is a better term. Sadly we know no adequate translation, so we decided to keep the German term. ) usually knows the offender. The offender uses rape to exercise power. Rape is part of every social background.

Our understanding of able-bodied

The terms able-bodied and non-able-bodied refer to the social understanding of a healthy and ideal body. If you are able-bodied you do not have to worry about being discriminated against because of physical appearance. We use the term able-bodied to mark the unnamed norm of a “healthy and ideal body” and to make this norm visible.

Victim Blaiming means that the Betroffene is held responsible for the assault instead of the offender. Part of the scheme of victim blaming is to put potential affected people in a position where they are held responsible to protect themselves. This leads to restriction of motion and freedom: don’t walk alone after nightfall, dress appropriate, never drink too much. If affected people do not follow these rules, it is supposedly their fault they got assaulted. Furthermore Betroffene are supposed to have certain reaction. A crying devastated person seems more authentic, then a person who recounts the assault cold and distanced. Another aspect of victim blaming is the accusation of wrongly accusing someone. This argument is not supported by any statistics but still Betroffene have to face this accusation and the offenders are freed of the blame. The more the assault differs from the myth, the more the severity of victim blaming increases.

Sexuality is equated/ identified with violence. Lots of words describe sexuality and violence at the same time. One example is “Fuck Cops”. We all know what is meant by this. Because of this language sexuality is put on the same level like a violent action. Sexuality then appears as an action through which one person humiliates and another is humiliated. This overshadows that sexuality is something all participants have to agree to and should be experienced as something pleasant.

Sexuality is linked with certain expectations. For years the image of sexuality hasn’t changed, neither have the extractions how men* and womyn* should practice sexuality. Men* are supposed to be the dominant part, womyn* are put in a passive position. Female* sexuality is only seen as the means to please men’s* sexuality. Other forms of sexuality shouldn’t exist. This concept supposes that womyn* should serve the male* desire. They are also sexualized and objectified. This legitimates rape.

Rape Culture strengthens structures of power and domination in our society. To oppose rape culture we need a revolutionary transformation of society. To fight against rape culture means to fight for a self-determined life.

The campaign “Pick Up Feminism- Take Down RSD” wants to fight rape culture on different levels of society: through all-gender events, direct action against a planned RSD course in Hamburg and a protest march on the 30th of April. We, a broad queer- feminist alliance, want to invite all womyn*, lesbian, Trans* and Inter* persons and everyone who does not identify as a cis-men* to the protest march.

This protest march picks up two traditions. The tradition of the Walpurgisnight on the 30th of April and the tradition of Take Back The Night protest marches, which happen all around the world and want to fight against the heterosexist norm and sexual assault. Both are part of a feminist history, to which we want to refer – even though we feel part of it is problematic. During the protest march in recent years (e.g. in Oldenburg, Bremen, Hannover, Hamburg) magical moments were created. The feeling of “in this place, in this moment” arouse. Those moments of empowerment and solidarity help us to cope with the shit that confronts us on a daily basis. Because of these moments we can remain militant.

On April 30th we want to conquer the night not just symbolically but actually. We will bring our protest into the party districts of Hamburg- the Schanze and St.Pauli. These nightly streets represent the myth described above and often turn into a shit place for womyn*, lesbian, Trans* and Inter* because they harbor assault. We will protest without cis-men* to illustrate the privileges tied to the category cis-men* (even though we know not all cis-men* have the same privileges).

Let’s take back the night and take back the space usually filled by cis-men*. Let`s create a night we desire. We want to been seen, we want to be loud. We want space for all our various identities, our characteristics, our skills and our needs. In solidarity and collectively we will conquer the night- LET’S TAKE BACK THE NIGHT!