Last night in Barcelona women, lesbians and trans* people marched together in solidarity exclaiming “la nit es nostra (the night is ours)”, in protest against gender violences and patriarchy. In the recent few years that I have attended this march, this was the largest I have seen. Friends of mine from Barcelona agreed that this year we saw so many more people, compañeras, particularly the young, come out and march side by side. At one point along the way, as we walked together and chanted “si en toquen a una, ens toquen a totes (if they touch one of us, they touch all of us)” someone threw a bucket of water down from high up in one of the apartment buildings we passed, hitting a small group of us. The whole section of the march stopped and turned to face the building, continued chanting and daring the perpetrator to show their face. As our cry of solidarity grew louder, looking around at all of the faces before we marched on, it struck me that we were yelling for each other against an incident that was no different from what happens everyday. Everyday we face some sort of disrespect or violence, whether it is simply for being a woman, lesbian, transperson, minority or for proudly calling ourselves Feminists. Acts that show our feminism seem to incite even more violence and discomfort from the world we live in, the men and the privileged who are threatened by our chants. I myself have realized that I have normalized when these things happen, and there are so many instances and moments when I do not show my own resistence. We tend to internalize our resistence, and I think many of us begin to think it is normal to turn away when someone calls us a “puta (bitch)”, when a stranger in the park sits down next to us to comment on our appearance and we move to another bench, or when our work is undervalued or our voices are ignored.
I think that this march and all the marches that will happen today are a form of self-defense. It is the self-defense of group solidarity and coming together to speak out. In addition to defending ourselves and fighting as a group I also think that we all need more ways of defending ourselves individually. This year I enrolled in my first self-defense course. It is hard to explain how at the age of 32 I have not yet taken a self-defense course, as it seems so essential and logical for all women. The course does not just teach techniques to physically defend myself against aggressions, but has been an exercise in how to recognize a violent situation and how to psychologically and verbally protect myself and act. It has been an eye-opening experience to realize how deeply I have internalized to not yell out or speak up when I feel uncomfortable, or that I should move away or give ground when someone is inappropriately speaking to me or encroaching on my personal space. This is what I reflected on last night in the march. As an athlete who plays soccer, it is interesting to me that physically defending myself and standing up for myself when playing against boys and men who are much bigger and more aggressive, has come naturally when I am on the pitch since I was very young. Somehow this has not translated into my everyday life, and I have tolerated too many instances when I should have resisted and defended myself and my space. I have been thinking, why do I so vehemently fight back when playing soccer with men who dominate the game, and then in my everyday life let the same forms of dominance happen without defending myself?
Through the self-defense course, and practicing with the other women in the course I have felt empowered by watching myself and them gain confidence in holding our ground and addressing aggressive situations with the knowledge of how to handle the situation. When I close my eyes and think of the last time I was touched or spoken to in a way I did not like in public, I now feel that I know how I want to react, I think of the faces of the friends around me in the march last night and I feel I can react the way I want to.
The solidarity of walking hand in hand in the march with friends who we know share our daily experiences, shouting together the slogans and chants that we often don’t yell at misogynist bosses or when we are harassed on the subway, or in a bar, is our our collective self-defense. For me, it was a reminder that we need spaces to feel such solidarity with each other, to recognize the shared experience of the violence and disrespect we face daily and to continue to build our strength to fight back.
SI EN TOQUEN A UNA, ENS TOQUEN A TOTES