In August of 2013 we, along with our organizers Hollaback Boston and the Cambridge Women’s Center, started Take Back The Bar. Take Back The Bar is a monthly nightlife event to foster a safe space. The idea was to occupy public space known to be particularly unwelcoming to women, queer-identified folks, people of color, gender non-conforming folks, and anyone else who has been made to feel unsafe when going out.
I’ll admit. I like to go to the bar. Sometimes I go with my friends to laugh out loud and make new friends. Sometimes I just want to sit by myself and people watch. Sometimes I want to have a serious one-on-one catch up session with a close friend. Sometimes I want to go on an online date with a stranger. Sometimes I want whiskey. Sometimes I want to dance. Sometimes I want Buffalo wings and to watch the Red Sox. Sometimes the bar is the only place for me to get my favorite beer. Whatever the reason I go, it’s up to me.
So why do I Take Back the Bar? Because going to the bar just isn’t that simple.
When I was an undergraduate student of legal drinking age, I went into a bar. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans because, frankly, it was cold outside and that seemed logical to me. I had an empty flask in my purse. I was happy, respectful and ready to pay for my Guinness when I accidentally dropped the empty flask. While I scrambled to put it back in my purse, a police officer came over to inform me that I had to leave the bar. I explained that the flask was empty, I was perfectly legal and that I was compliant with bar rules. His stern response told me again that I had to leave. Knowing well that many customers at the bar we underage, I asked to officer why I had to leave and the 19 year old women did not. His response, filled with condescending laughter, was, “When you dress like that with those displayed for me” he said gesturing to her large breasts, “maybe you’ll have it easier getting into places you shouldn’t be, too.”
I want to wear what I want and I want others to be able to wear what they want. I want all people to dress how they want and in the outfit they feel most confident. I want it understood that we dress for ourselves, and I want respect from authority figures. For these reasons, I will Take Back the Bar.
Later, as a working professional, I went to a bar by myself after work. I wanted to unwind, and I wanted a scotch. So, I ordered one. “Where’s your boyfriend, honey,” the bartender asked. “Huh?” I said. “Your boyfriend” he replied, “Sweet of you to order his drink first. What can I get for you?” I gave him an incredulous look, and still to this day, I struggle discerning how serious he was.
I want to go places by myself and order the drink I want. I want all genders to be able to order the drink they want from- water to whiskey - and not be judged. I don't want to be called "honey". For this, I will Take Back the Bar.
I don’t want to admit it, but I love dancing like a maniac to 80s music. Turns out, there are plenty of bars to gather with friends and dance to all 8 minutes of Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Sometimes, I enjoy dancing with a good looking stranger when we both consent to do so. I did not, however, like the experience I had dancing with a stranger who felt free to unzip my jeans in public without my permission. I did not like when he continued to slide his hand into my underwear. Worse, I did not like it when he laughed with his friends as I ran away.
I want to dance and not be sexually assaulted. For this, I will Take Back the Bar.
Take Back the Bar seeks to empower people to reclaim space that is traditionally unwelcoming. So much of our movement through space is dominated by other people and the way we’re treated—we change our routes, avoid certain streets and neighborhoods, don’t go to specific clubs or venues—and we think that’s not okay. We want people to feel like they have the ability and the right to occupy whatever public space exists, and we’re doing our best to facilitate a safe and supportive space for people to do that.
We invite you to join us in taking back the bar the 3rd Friday of every month, with our next event being January 17th. Here’s how it works:
Step 2. Encourage your friends to join, too, Send them these FAQs
Step 3. The night before the event, you will receive the location announcement
Step 4. Meet us there!
Step 5. Feel safe, be yourself and have fun!
We hope to see you on January 17, 2014!