Not With a Bang but a Whimper: Toronto's "Take Back the Night" Rally 2010

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T.S. Elliot, The Hollow Men

Can a photo capture sound?

The thought crossed my mind Friday night as I negotiated camera and coffee cup. Like many journalists covering the 30th annual Take Back the Night March, I wanted a picture that would portray the vibe of the crowd, the roar and color that pulsed through the more than 2,000 woman who came to Yonge-Dundas square to protest violence against women.

Take Back The Night, a march organized by the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (TRCC) and the association for Multicultural Women Against Rape (MWAR), started in Toronto in 1980 as a means for women to reclaim city streets. Since then, feminists and activists from all over the GTA gather annually to draw attention to one of the most predominant problems facing women and children: violence.

As the crowd congregated, the noise grew louder. We came ready to rally, ready to shout. We wore t-shirts and carried signs  (OUR WOMEN, OUR STREETS!), we chanted (Hey-hey, ho-ho, Patriarchy is got to go!). The night was about occupying space, finding strength in numbers, and making noise. A lot of noise. Our noise. We  cried the sounds we’ve silenced, we blared the howls we’ve bellied

My camera can not capture sound, nor can it replace the experience of being somewhere, being present in a panoramic moment.I learned this lesson two years ago, when I climbed the Rocky Mountains on horseback.

Breathlessness and blue sky.

Clear air in my lungs and hair.

Land. Endless land.

I wanted a picture to remember the moment, but every picture I shot seemed an understated and miniature version to the mountaintop engrained in my mind’s eye. I got the same feeling Friday night. As I tried to stretch my camera lens to fit the crowd into one frame, each photo I took foregrounded a few women and left out the thousands before and behind them.

Perhaps I don’t know enough about photography, as I’m sure a skilled photographer can evoke, allude or suggest sound. Or, perhaps I was after the wrong picture. It occurred to me later, after the crowd had dispersed and the noise died down, that the real photo capturing the impetus of the march could not be taken; it’s a picture of me in the neon light of the Queen west streetcar stop along Bathurst: I am alone, sitting, waiting for the 511 streetcar southbound. The sign I wore all night, which reads “Status for all,” rests at my feet, the corners worn and peeling. Though I contemplated walking the rest of the way home, I decided against it to avoid the underpass, the dark kilometer stretching from Front Street to the lake beneath the Gardner Expressway along Bathurst Street.

Thirty years after the inception of Take Back the Night, a single female cannot enjoy the luxury of a walk home without worrying about the consequences that lurch in shadows. Together we march, together we howl, yet alone, all we can do is ride public transit home, our posters tucked beneath our arms, our voices hoarse.


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