“Women, LGBTQ, and some religious and ethnic minorities have zero interest in self-defence even thought they’re at-risk groups! They’re bloody idiots!”
“Women, LGBTQ, and some religious and ethnic minorities suddenly have an interest in self-defence because they feel at risk! They’re bloody idiots!”
Every time I think I’ve got a handle on my swearing, something like this happens.
For those who missed it, there has been a surge in the number of women, LGBTQ people, and minorities making enquiries about self-defence training in the US and Canada (maybe elsewhere too, and I haven’t heard about it) in the last few weeks. This surge has been sparked by fear. Whether the fear is purely theoretical, caused by reports of actual events, or caused by fake or exaggerated reports, it matters very little. The bottom line is that some people are now afraid, or more afraid than they were before, and that has spurred them to take steps to improve their ability to self-defend.
This is something that every damn self-defence instructor I know has been trying to achieve since forever.
[If you know of any instructor who has taken steps to convince people that no, their lives are actually so safe that there’s no possible need for them to learn self-defence and they should spend their money on something else, please send them to my house. I’ll buy a circus wagon and tour around the country as a public show.]
Self-defence instructors are keen as mustard to explain to anyone who’ll listen that it’s important to evaluate one’s risks, that it’s critical to know one’s victim profile, that it’s crucial to have situational awareness, that it’s vital to stay abreast of anything that could radically change the game. More than that, some instructors’ entire business model revolves around fear-based marketing. It’s such a ubiquitous, despicable trend that Randy King did a rant about it (click the link! it’s worth it, I swear).
Yet, the vast majority of this pleading, preaching, and awfulising has thus far fallen on deaf ears. Way too many self-defence gyms are still overwhelmingly populated by strong, fit, young, straight, often white, males. This routinely angered a lot of self-defence instructors, who shouted loudly and proudly that a lot of people must clearly be bloody stupid. Don’t women realise that they’re more at risk than men because they’re on average smaller and weaker, plus they have squishy bits? Don’t LGBTQ people and minorities realise that bigots may seek to victimise them? What is wrong with these people? Do they want to get hurt?!
That was last month, though. Now, that’s all changed. Now, so many of the same people who’ve been screaming in my face that I am in dreadful danger what with being ostensibly female and small and foreign and not-always-traditionally-gender-conforming-looking… The same people who insisted that I must buy their self-defence system because it’s the only thing that could keep me alive… Now they don’t want to teach me, or those like me, or those very much unlike me but in a similar boat. And they’ve got a very good reason for it: my fears of victimisation are baseless. I’m being paranoid. I don’t need self-defence; I need to readjust my view of the world, and realise what a safe, pleasant, welcoming place it is for me.
I’ve got a lot to say about this, but 90% of it is swearwords. I’ll spare you that, and give you the only logical explanations for this behaviour I could find:
- Those instructors don’t know what to say to the affected groups. The approaches often used for what passes for “women self-defence” become blatantly ludicrous when applied to any other at-risk group. “Do you have to go out looking so Muslim?” “If you’re going to walk around at night being gay, you’ve only got yourself to blame.” “Black people just need to learn to avoid the places where they’re in danger.” They couldn’t sell that shit, and that’s all they’ve got.
- Those instructors don’t have anything worth teaching to anyone who’s not a fit, strong, young male. A lot of systems, despite their protestations to the contrary, rely on strength, size, and speed. Having an individual like me try to use those techniques and fail can be brushed under the carpet; it’s just me being useless. But having five or ten or twenty people like me all failing together… that’s going to look bad.
- Those instructors are scared at the prospect of actually teaching students who may be targeted for serious violence. There’s a lot of mental onanism associated with male-on-male fighting. It’s super-epic, particularly if you haven’t seen or gone through it. Assaults, however, aren’t epic in the least. If one or more people decide to rape me, or to beat the hell out of me because I’m in the wrong country, that’s not going to be a story I brag about at the bar later on. I’ll be lucky if it doesn’t become part of my obituary. Teaching at-risk people is taking on a huge responsibility.
- Those instructors are choosing political narrative over student well-being. To them it’s more important to assert that racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. are non-issues than to help affected people manage their risks. They have a need to deny that there’s any additional risk involved in having certain characteristics in certain areas. That throws off risk assessment pretty badly right out of the gate; which, for me, makes the rest of their self-defence instruction at the very least questionable.
- Those instructors realise that guys like them are the source their students’ fears. Instead of accepting that and doing some soul-searching, they go into flat-out denial that the issue is valid.
- Those instructors are actually sexist, racist, and/or various-phobic, and they don’t want that kind of student around.
This is all I’ve got. There could be other reasons. In all honesty, I don’t care: the entire phenomenon is so repugnant that I’m choking on it.
There’s a silver lining to this toxic cloud, though. As a friend of mine said, “If you have political or philosophical reasons not to want to see what your students fear and judge them for fearing it, then the best you’ve got is a few good moves for bar fights.”
Instructors who go out of their way to trivialise your concerns right off the bat are communicating a very clear message: that they are useless to you. They might be ok teaching other students, but with you they’re being dogmatic, disrespectful, or arrogant. Those are not tolerable qualities in a self-defence instructor. Well, they’re not tolerable qualities in any instructor; it’s just potentially more dangerous in this field.
This has the potential to save a whole load of people a whole load of time and bother. No further information is needed. Just take your money elsewhere. And in the middle of this huge trainwreck, this makes me nearly happy.
[Oh, and before anyone tries to sell me the “but self-defence should focus on those attacks that are statistically most likely, and hate crimes are not very likely”… I’m willing to buy that an instructors believes that if and only if their curriculum reflects the statistical likelihood of various types of attacks. Given that the bulk of women self-defence is about stranger rapes, which are nowhere near the most statistically likely attacks for women to encounter, generally speaking I’m calling shenanigans.]