The views in Standpoint do not necessarily reflect those of The Stand.
There is no doubt that though it might appear to be a sleepy seaside town in North East Fife, St Andrews is in fact a hive of social activity. Aside from our well known balls, there exists as plethora of less conspicuous events ranging from life drawing sessions to “gatherings” at remote houses you’ve never quite had the enthusiasm to find.
But a slightly different event recently took place in this little town. The so-called “Reclaim the Night” campaign, which has graced the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square, made an appearance here in St Andrews, as students marched down the political arena of our three streets.
Reclaim the Night was organised by the Feminist Society and Saints LGBT+ in order to raise awareness for violence against women and to stop “telling people how they can avoid being raped, and start telling people not to rape.”
While the movement may have lofty political ambitions, there is also a real underlying motivation for some people to take part. Many of us, myself included, have felt unsafe on nights out. Some of us may have experienced this sort of violence. It is possible to argue that, in some places, a fear of such violence is a regular reality for women whenever the sun goes down and the street lights turn on.
But in St Andrews? Really?
When we arrived here, it was not unusual to hear complaints about the nightlife; the only nightclub in the entire town is now shut down leaving limited options for a “wild night out.” But – and let’s be honest here – when was the last time anyone complained about a genuine and pervasive culture of male violence against women here? Or of, to use the now fashionable term, “rape culture” being spread across the populace?
That is not to say that St Andrews is a peaceful utopia where everybody alike feels safe and secure all of the time. Nowhere is. An example of male violence was cited in a related article; it detailed the story of two students who were “punched and left on the street outside our very own Dervish simply because they asked a ‘drunken idiot’ to stop harassing a girl.” However, the fact that this one callow bust-up was the only example found to illustrate the supposed perils of St Andrews demonstrates how weak their case truly is.
Is this violence endemic? Is it the product of rampant misogyny? It is rowdy students after one too many Pablos acting like cretins. Fights happen. Get over it.
And who are we reclaiming the night from? Men? Most of the men you will see on a typical night out are dressed in some sort of bizarre black-tie combination (a tuxedo jacket and swimming trunks was my latest find), gliding between various bars as they try to not to get frostbite. Is it these men who supposedly “own” the night? Are they a symbol of patriarchal oppression? Do they constitute a real and likely threat of violence towards women? The question is absurd.
Reclaim the Night has noble causes. As for all those marching through St Andrews, banners in hand, I have no doubt that they had good intentions and genuinely wanted to help a situation which is real and alive to millions of women worldwide.
But to uproot the campaign from its context and plant it in this small, safe and liberal town which we’ve come to call home is grossly inappropriate. To imply that the problem of male violence towards women in St Andrews is in any way comparable to the places which inspired this movement is not only a misrepresentation, but an insult to all the women across the globe who suffer from the fear of violence and sexual abuse on a daily basis.
If your feelings on this issue are as strong as the banners and chants you brought to North Street make out, I’d suggest taking your campaign to Karachi or Riyadh, maybe. But sure as hell, don’t take it to St Andrews.
You don’t need to “reclaim” the night. It is already yours.