Guest blog. I borrowed this from Kaja Sadowski of Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly.
I’ve never been able to vocalise this before, and I doubt I could do it any better. Enjoy.
I’ve seen this image going around again, often accompanied by comments on how expecting women to learn self-defense is unreasonable and ineffective anyway, because men are bigger and stronger than us.
I get the original post’s sentiment. We can’t put the entire onus of preventing sexual assault on the victims (or potential victims), and things will not get better without widespread social change that addresses perpetrators (and potential perpetrators), and the cultural attitudes that make this shit so much more widespread and easy to get away with.
But as we build a better world that is safer for all of us, we need to live in this one. We need to survive day-to-day, and deal with the threats that exist now, and not the reduced ones that may exist decades down the road. And right now, knowing how to defend yourself won’t prevent all rape, but it might prevent yours.
It’s not a zero-sum game. Keeping yourself safe doesn’t put another in danger, and learning self-defense isn’t some betrayal of the sisterhood because another woman may not have access to the same training. If we really want to keep all women safer, then we lobby for cultural, legislative, and legal change on the one hand, and we make sure as many women as possible have access to good self-defense training on the other. There’s no earthly reason to choose between the two.
It’s hard enough for many women to step into a self-defense class. There’s already stigma attached to women fighting, fear of being hurt or – worse – of hurting someone else, and uncertainty about how safe you’ll be in a given school or with a given instructor. I’ve had women show up to my classes that spent a year working up to coming in, because it was that fucking daunting. Let’s not make it even worse by suggesting that wanting to protect yourself undermines the social progress of your entire gender.
Additional points raised from the resulting discussion:
- I don’t believe there are any statistics as to how many assaults are prevented by capable, willing women stepping in to other women’s aid. From anecdotal evidence, it happens. I’ve done it. I’ve seen other women do it. Learning self-defence skills is like learning first-aid in one respect: maybe you’ll need it for yourself or your loved ones, but maybe you’ll end up using it to save a perfect stranger.
- A self defense scenario doesn’t always end with a predator sneaking off to assault someone else. It can end with an arrest or investigation which can actively prevent another assault.
- It is considered not only acceptable but desirable for parents to educate their young children about “stranger danger”. No suggestion is made that this causes someone else’s kid to be molested or kidnapped. So at which age does this change? Is it for a 12 yr old girl to learn self-defense, but not for a 15 yr old? 16? Where is that line drawn, by whom, and based on what theory?
- While any individual learning to defend themselves doesn’t solve any social problems, a critical mass of women and others with the skills and willingness to defend against predators could shift the social balance as well.
- Do women’s responsibility to others always overrides personal concerns, and if so, why?