Speak out.

There’s a conversational set piece that happens so routinely in the self-defence world that it’s become a trope. It goes as follows:

  • Someone posts a self-defence video showing a woman defending against a man. The techniques shown are appalling and likely to get women injured or killed.
  • People jeer at the video, pointing out its uselessness.
  • One or more men decide to make sexually explicit comments about the woman in the video.
  • One or more women speak out against that kind of behaviour, objecting to it in general but particularly in that setting.
  • One or more men speak up to defend the guys who made those comments. They’re good guys, they’re just joking, etc. The rest ignore the conversation or contribute only mocking remarks.
  • The conflict becomes polarised. On one side, a small number of guys staunchly defending the honour and intentions of the guys who made the remarks. On the other side, a greater number of women trying to explain how that’s not the issue at hand; the problem is that this kind of behaviour is interwoven with the attitude underlying the bulk of violence against women.
  • Eventually everyone becomes exhausted and leaves, or the thread degenerates so badly that it gets pulled down.
  • Nobody wins, nobody changes their mind, and nothing gets better.
  • We do it all over again.

 

I’ve been involved in this kind of conversation so often that by now I can run both sides of it. I’ve exhausted myself with it. I’ve watched other women exhaust themselves with it. I’m now starting to think that we, the women speaking out, are dead wrong. We’ve been trying to convince those guys to try and act as if they believed women to be deserving of respect and consideration. We shouldn’t. We should encourage them to express their views about women precisely as they are.

I want all the men who look at a small woman failing to defend herself from a large guy and think of her as a hole to fuck to say so. I want all the instructors who believe that this behaviour is ok to stand up publicly and defend those men. I don’t want those guys to learn to pretend to be decent human beings: I want them to unleash their inner asshole for everyone to see. I want it all out there: loud, clear, blatant, as graphic as they can make it, because it’s such a red flag that it will hopefully keep women away from those guys, those clubs, those instructors.

Avoidance, when it’s an option, is the best self-defence option there is. If an environment is toxic or dangerous we should do our best to stay out of it – that’s the lesson and all of the lesson. There’s no small print stating “unless it’s a self-defence seminar, in which case you should ignore your instincts and observations and put up with alllllll the crap”. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise does not have your best interest in mind and should be avoided, too.

If women turned away from every self-defence club or forum that fosters their objectification, that would undoubtedly make them miss out on training under some very capable instructors. Capable, however, doesn’t necessarily correlate with “clued up”. I’m not sure if an instructor who fails to understand the nature of the most common problems women face has any business teaching them self-defence. How can they provide valid solutions if they don’t grasp the questions?

And there’s more. How would these instructors react if the problems escalated? If I can’t trust someone to back me up when someone is making unwarranted sexual remarks right in front of them, can I trust them to believe me and support me if that same person purposefully slips a hand in my no-no area while we’re training? Would they back me up if I didn’t want to train with someone because of a thousand small-but-not-insignificant misbehaviors I’ve noticed? If their theory teaches me to trust my intuition and set boundaries, and their practice teaches me that doing so is either futile or carries heavy social costs, what lesson would I be learning?

Oracle

The Oracle sat upon the mountain. Billy and I had walked a long way to get there, which was bloody hard work if you don’t mind me saying, so we sat our respective asses down and listened. And thus the Oracle spake:

“If thou want to live a long and fulfilling life, thou shalt avoid violence and abuse. Thou need to learn to use the skills of the violent and abusive person, just in case thou need them, but thou shalt remember that the best response is avoidance, always. The only way to really win the game is not to play it.”

I nodded, because that sounded good to me. I’ve always found pain painful and paperwork boring, and it seems to me that violence and abuse have a tendency to lead to at least one of the two. The Oracle carried on:

“Thou must think ahead and avoid situations where violence is likely. Not doing so is extremely foolish, and if thou find thyself hurt as a result you’ve only got thyself to blame. The same applies to abusive situations. When thou see an abusive situation developing, thou need to get the hell out of there. Otherwise it’s a case of play stupid games, win stupid prizes, yo.”

I kinda got that, but I also kinda didn’t, so I raised my hand. The Oracle gazed upon me and said:

“Toilets are the second tree down the left-hand path.”

“I don’t need to go. I’ve actually got a question.”

The Oracle blinked a few times. “I don’t normally do this, but ok.”

“I’m having a problem at home…”

“Then thou must raise it! Thou must make the problem known, so that it can be resolved!”

“Yeah, well, I did that, and it didn’t really help. I was told to shut it and stop making shit up.”

“Then thou must bring it up to the authorities!”

“I tried that too. The authorities don’t seem too interested. You see, I’m managing not to get beaten up or fucked, so nothing much is effectively happening, and apparently they don’t have a great deal of power in that kind of situation. It’s like I’m doing too well to get help. But it’s exhausting, it makes me feel like shit, and I don’t know how long I can keep it up for.”

“Then thou shalt leave your home!” boomed the Oracle. “If thy community does not support you, thou shalt find one that does!”

“Yeah, but, it’s not that simple. I can’t just…”

“Oh yes thou can! Thou just choose to make excuses for thyself instead of taking action!”

“But if I just take my shit and go I’ll literally end up living in a cardboard box somewhere, for a while at least. That strikes me as a situation that is pretty likely to put me in the path of violence and abuse. Things are bad now, but at least I know I can manage them. And, like, I won’t die of hypothermia.”

“Whatever. If thou doesn’t want to listen, then thou can continue making excuses. I shalt not waste my precious time over thee until thou gets thy shit sorted out!”

My friend Billy raised his hand next. I like Billy. We go back a long way.

“Oh, go on, then!” sputtered the Oracle. “I’ve completely lost my flow anyway!”

“I’m having a problem in school…”

The Oracle sat up and suddenly looked really keen. “Then thou shalt face it!”

“Say whut?” said Billy.

“Thou cans’t run away from thy problems! Thou must face them, because only in resolving them there is growth! Also,” the Oracle whispered conspiratorially, “thou will gain a lot of experience in the process. A few years down the line thou’ll be bloody glad of it. The chicks dig men with experience.”

“Yeah, but, like, you just said that the best thing to do with violence and abuse was to avoid them. So if I changed school…”

“NO!” shouted the Oracle. “If thou start running, thou shalt never stop! These problems are to be conquered!”

“But you literally just said that if we have a problem at home or in the street we should just up and leave.”

The Oracle leaned forward to stare into Billy’s eyes. “Look, man, thou need to get this, because it’s really important. School is thy assigned place of responsibility. If thou have a problem there, thou need to resolve it. Thou can’t just leg it.”

“But I’m paying to be in school. My family and the taxpayers are paying for the privilege of having me spend a ton of hours there, day after day, for the purpose of my personal development. And what it’s boiling down to is that all that money is buying me the privilege of being forced to interact with people who seek to harm me.”

“Wherever thou go, thou will find people who seek to harm thee. Thou needs to learn to deal with them by thine own self.”

“But while I’m in school I can’t. When I’m there I’m under someone’s supervision. Each and every interaction I have is covered by a strict behavioural code. So not only going to school is putting me in the path of harm, but my school is failing in its stated obligations to me.”

“That’s not the point. The point is that thou can’t learn to deal with thy problems by avoiding them or farming them out to third parties. Running away from those problems makes thee a weakling and a fool.”

“But if they were at home, or in the street…”

“Then it’d be totally different. Then thou’d be a weakling and a fool for not running away.”

Billy pressed his thumbs against the bridge of his nose. He does that when he gets confused. “So, if I have a problem at home, I need to learn to leave it. If I have a problem in the street, I need to learn to walk away from it. But if I have a problem in school, I need to learn to face it? Even knowing from the onset that chances are that I won’t manage, and that if I do I will be punished for doing so?”

“Yes.”

“And if I left home, as you advised, and found myself in another difficult living situation, because it’s not as if I’m overburdened with good options, then I should learn to leave that, too?”

“Yes!”

“But if I got a job to support my new life, and that job put me in the way of harm, then…” Billy squinted, “then I should stick with it?”

“Precisely!” beamed the Oracle. “I’m so glad thou get it!”

“To be honest, I don’t. I don’t understand why you’re applying different criteria to different situations.”

The Oracle started to look pissed off. “Because those situations are different! Some things thou gets to choose, and some thou don’t!”

I piped up. “That doesn’t cut it. I’ve got more of a chance of choosing my school and my job than my parents or my neighbours. And with partners half the time you only get to know what you’ve chosen after you’ve chosen, it seems.”

“Thy job and thy school are thy assigned places of responsibility! They’re not meant to be fun!”

Billy folded his arms. “My cousin has a kid with her partner. Seems like her home is her assigned place of responsibility, too.”

“Then she needs to take the kid with her and start a new life for them both.”

“That’d be, like, illegal?”

“One must do what is right, regardless of what society dictates.”

“But I can’t cut school to avoid getting my head beaten to a bloody pulp against a toilet, because going to school is my socially dictated responsibility?”

“Yes! Thou shalt learn to manage that!”

“And my sister should try to change her life completely, regardless of the consequences, apart from her job? She should stick with that even if it sucks?”

“Yes!”

“But why? There isn’t just one single, monolithic Job. There are tons of jobs. Some suck more than others.”

The Oracle looked too pissed off to speak.

I leaned over towards Billy and muttered in his ear. “Dude, are you getting this?”

He muttered back. “Nope. It makes fuck-all sense to me. I’ve only got one life. I figured I should take every step I can to make it as good a life as I can, regardless of the setting.”

“Yeah dude. I thought oracles would be, like, more holistic and shit.”

“Me too. Hey, did you spot those bushes we passed coming up the path? Those were blackberries.”

“Really? I love blackberries.”

“Fancy getting some?”

“Yeah man. I’m peckish.”

So me and Billy got up, said our thanks to the Oracle, and made our way back down the path to pick some blackberries. For a long while we could hear the Oracle talk about us, explaining to people that we’re what’s wrong with our generation, that we’re quitters, that we don’t know what’s good for us, that we don’t want to listen to our elders and betters, and so on and so forth. But in all honesty we didn’t give a fuck, because between an Oracle spouting bullshit and a bellyful of blackberries it ain’t even a competition.

 

Puzzlers

Three things I routinely see/hear and can’t quite fit in my head.

 

“Anger isn’t really an emotion, it’s a mask for other emotions.” According to this theory, anger is never a reaction to an event, but the result of your thoughts/feelings about said event. The corollary is that, instead of dealing with your feeling of anger, you should spend time disentangling your real feelings on the issue.

What puzzles me about this theory, aside from the fact that it’s entered the dogma and it’s now treated as unassailable,  is that we’re singling anger out. We don’t apply the same criteria to any other emotion, even though they’re blatantly in play.

For instance, fear is not a direct reaction to a situation, but the result of our assessment of that situation. That’s why some people find a situations scary, while other people find the exact same situations exciting, boring, etc. That’s why a person can become “immunised” against a specific fear by successfully dealing with its source. Yet fear, under the same theory, is a “root” emotion, a real emotion, one of the emotions we should look for in the hidden recesses of our minds when we’re feeling pissed off.

We could make the same kind of assessment about pretty much any other emotion/feeling. We could disembowel our fear, joy, sexual attraction, love, and anything else that passes through us. We could simply say that human reactions are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for, and that by exploiting the gap between experience and emotion we can better regulate our responses, regardless of how we feel. But we don’t. We only do that with anger.

I wonder whether the real issue here is that anger is socially inconvenient, so we’re trying to pretend to ourselves that it’s not real, trying to marginalise it into nonexistence.

 

“You can’t say that consent must be ‘reversible’, because that will be willfully misinterpreted to give people the right to change their mind after the fact and cry rape.”

I appreciate that the term ‘reversible’, as applied to consent, can be misused and misinterpreted. Surely, though, the way to deal with this kind of problem is to make the term and its contextual meaning more widely known, rather than refusing to talk about it. Making everyone aware of exactly what the concept encompasses would reduce its misuse. I can’t see how ignorance, in this instance, can help anyone – apart from those people who want sexual consent to be in fact irreversible.

 

People who mansplain mansplaining, and still don’t see it.

I personally hate the term mansplaining, partly because it’s unhelpfully divisive, and partly because it seems to ignore the fact that being a patronising know-it-all is not endearing regardless of gender. What really tickles me, however, are recent efforts in some quarters to popularise the theory that mansplaining is simply not a thing.

Men never, ever talk down to women. What is actually happening is that women are incapable of parsing the technical register that men use when talking shop, and as a result get unnecessarily offended. Every single woman who complains of having being mansplained to is simply misinterpreting her own experiences and having an unnecessary, excessive emotional reaction to a non-event.

No prizes will be available for guessing the gender of the people expounding the above theory. A medal, however, will be provided to anyone who manage to explain to them that the reason they can’t see mansplaining is that they’re too busy doing it.

 

 

Creepsponses.

The most amusing aspect of writing about creeps was watching the responses roll in. There were many, mostly sent privately (which doesn’t mean that I feel obliged to keep them so – consider this your only warning).

The responses could be broadly classified into four groups:

  • “Ohmygawd I had no idea I was doing a creepy thing, why didn’t anyone tell me sooner” quickly followed by “but actually I will continue doing the creepy thing, because there’s a chance, however slim, that it will result in me getting laid.”

I have a lot of patience for those who don’t know How Things Are Done Here. It kinda comes with the territory, what with having been a foreigner all my adult life and not being good at peopling. However, if I tell you that something is almost certainly going to creep the fuck out of someone, literally, and you carry on because heeeeey you never know, you might get lucky, and it’s just too bad about all those people negatively affected by your behaviour… then maybe you’re not a creep, but you’re 100% an asshole.

  • “Stop writing about this, it’s boring/it’s sexist/it makes you sound obsessed.”

No prizes for those able to guess the gender of the people telling me this. Surprisingly (though perhaps not very), some of them were self-defence instructors.

Yeah, I wrote about creeps a lot. I found there was quite a bit to say on the subject, it being non-simple, and people asked me questions I saw value in answering. Besides, dealing with creeps is quite possibly the most frequent self-defence/conflict management problem women face. I have thus far met 1 woman who has never dealt with one, and she’s pretty damn fierce. I’m sure there are more, but my experience thus far suggests that this is a seriously widespread issue, and that it’s not innocuous. A bunch of ‘not-quite-rape-rapes’ start with a case of the creeps. Why so many self-defence instructors elect to ignore this problem is an interest subject in and of itself. That some would actively push back against it being discussed is frankly depressing.

  • “You shouldn’t say what you’re saying because SociallyAwkward™ people will be unfairly punished.”

A. No. The first thing I’ve banged on about is how to tell socially awkward from creepy, because that’s what worries people the most, and often what keeps them from reacting or causes them to over-react later on.

B. No. What I’m saying is going to give people the skills to negotiate the situation in a non-confrontational manner, with the proviso that if that doesn’t work then confrontational is definitely on the menu. Those people who don’t respond to being told clearly and calmly that something is not appropriate or is simply unpleasant to the person at the receiving end are not just socially awkward.

C. Seriously, no. Genuinely socially awkward people don’t want to be. Their awkwardness is a problem, not a lifestyle choice. Having people talk to them about problems with their behaviour in a calm and clear manner is doubtlessly unpleasant, but it helps them long term.

D. Socially awkward people are actually more at risk of being picked on by creeps than the average person, and usually less able to deal with this kind of situation. So if your goal is to protect them, for real and no shit, you should want this information shouted from the rooftops, not suppressed.

If your goal is to continue creeping people out without getting called out on it, that’s a whole other story.

  • Nopeologies. These are a bit like apologies, but mostly not, and have been hilarious.

It’s amazing, really. Start talking about creeps in a vaguely popular forum and every Tom, Dick, and Harry comes out of the woodwork to apologise to you about past misdeeds. It could be that, moved by my stirring prose, those people realised the error of their ways. It could be that those people knew full well at the time that they were misbehaving, and grew alarmed at the prospect of being publicly called out on it. Hmm. How can we possibly tell? Let’s look at my favourite examples.

A. “It just so happens that I make inappropriate sexual remarks to all my female friends, and though you’re barely an acquaintance, I just like you so much that I do that with you too because you’re so very special.”

This ‘apology’ is actually a demand for my continued tolerance of the behaviour.

Yeah… Nope. Don’t pee down my back and tell me that it’s raining. If you do something inappropriate, and you know it’s inappropriate, and you know I find it inappropriate, and you carry on doing it, this isn’t some kind of endearing quirk of yours I should just learn to live with. Cut that shit out.

B. “I’m sorry if I came across as a creep.”

This ‘apology’ doesn’t even try. It doesn’t address the behaviour (‘I’m sorry if I acted like a creep’). It doesn’t address the impact of the behaviour (‘I’m sorry if what I did creeped you out’). It doesn’t in fact admit that anything the person did was wrong – all it is addressing is how they might have come across, which is merely a miscommunication issue. At best, the only thing they’re worried about is my opinion of them. At worst, they’re trying to cast doubts in my mind as to my interpretation of their behaviour, which is more than a little bit gaslighty.

C. “I’m sorry if these terrible things happen to you and yours but actually you are wrong and all women are wrong all the time because I keep being called out for creeping when actually I am not, ever, and this is so unfair, poor me.”

Which brings to mind the joke:

A man was driving down the freeway when his wife called him:

“Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on Route 280.”

“Hell,” said Herman, “It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!”

If you keep getting called out for a behaviour by different people, at different times, in different settings, and you manage to convince yourself that this is the sign of a conspiracy against you, then you’ve got problems beyond my ability to manage. If those people mysteriously happen to be all of one gender, because your inability to parse social interactions only seems to manifest itself with people who sport a certain style of genitalia, I’m going to grow suspicious. Mostly, though, I’m just going.

Apology

It’s funny, really. It’s particularly funny because the people in questions apparently failed to realise that they’ve blown their own cover. The reason people get away with creeping is that the people around them give them the benefit of the doubt. If the creeps are aware enough of what they’re doing to volunteer an apology for it… coincidentally at a time when I’m publicly blogging on the subject… then there’s absolutely no shadow of a doubt as to the game they’re playing.

Oh, guys, if you’re reading this and decide to get unpleasant about it:

I kept your messages in a special folder I made just for you, just in case I ever feel like publishing them. ♥ ♥ ♥

Boys

All my life, I’ve been mostly into “boys’ stuff'”, and not so much into what girls are supposed to like. I was born in the 70s, so that was a big deal. Hell, it still is now, if we care to admit it. I have never given a damn about it, though, because that part of my brain is happily missing. As a result, I’ve followed my inclinations with glorious disregard to gender and found myself surrounded by guys most of my life. They were in the places where I wanted to be doing the things I wanted to do. I’ve worked, played, and lived mostly with guys. Most of my friends are guys. I get on with guys just fine, and better than I do with women.

Every now and then, I think I could expand my guy-related activities. I’m not entirely adverse to the concept of dating some of them. Alas, the inclination never lasts more than three days. Never.

I can work, play, and live with guys, but I can’t date them. I can’t manage the interactions that are designed to lead to dating. I can’t go to the places where people go to meet for dating purposes, either in real life or online. Hell, I can’t even go places where people go for entirely different purposes and out myself as a single woman because of the resulting fallout. Every  time I try, within three days I’ve lost a large proportion of my faith in humanity and I’m spending a lot of energy reminding myself that #notallmen are giant douchebags.

#notallmen. I know. I know better than most women, because my studies and my work and my hobbies and my life in general have brought me into contact with splendid guys. I just struggle to remember it when I’m having to navigate what passes for courting behaviour in this place and time. It only takes so many dick pics, so many “I want to eat your ass” in lieu  of “hello, how are you”, so many ignored nos, so many temper tantrums in reaction to rejection or boundary setting or simply not being available enough, and I can’t even. I can’t even with the guys in question, and I can’t even with guys in general.

I know that my reaction is unfair. Men are no more uniform than women are, and shouldn’t all be lumped together. If you get bit by a dog and that’s made you dog-averse, that doesn’t mean that all dogs are bad. Positive interactions with pooches will help you get over your negative experience.

…except that what I’m talking about isn’t a one-off, an unfortunate exception in an otherwise positive environment. It’s not the one odd dog biting you: it’s getting bitten day in, day out, and being told that you’ve got to keep petting mutts because there are good ones out there, believe me, and one day, if you’re lucky, you’re gonna find the right one for you. You may not have any fingers by then, but it’ll be totally worth it.

It’s a matter of taste, of course, but to me the modern dating world is a stream of shit that I’m expected to wade through in the hope of finding someone who doesn’t suck. And the conclusion I keep coming to, time and time again, is that it’s just not worth it. I’m not unhappy enough on my own to justify the energy, time, and revulsion involved in trying to date guys. The numbers just don’t stack up.

It’s at this point in my rant that I’m normally told what I should do. I should shrug off the assholes. I should accept that that’s how it is. I should remember that it used to be much worse in the Bad Old Days or lament that I don’t live in the Good Old Days. Either way, it’s just one of those things and I should get on with it.

The people doing the shoulding are mostly guys, perhaps purely because of how my life is structured. That’s the bit that surprises me, though. It’s not the pressure on me to fix and accomodate and carry on regardless and generally make everything niiiiiice for everyone: that seems to come as a stock feature when one is even remotely female. What really surprises me is that some of those guys are also having terrible difficulties navigating the dating world, and they seem to think that the fault lies with women like me.

Dude: what if I told you that the reason you can’t give your end away is not the iniquity of women, but the antics of men? What if that woman didn’t give you her number because of the scores of guys who used that opportunity to send her unsolicited dick pics? What if that woman told you to fuck off when you complimented her because the last umpteenth times someone did that he treated it as entitling him to an evening of her undivided attention? What if you can’t buy a nice woman a drink because, in her experience, it never bloody ends there and it never bloody goes well? What if the problem wasn’t that she, they, didn’t like you, specifically, but that they’re just primed for conflict, because conflict is what they get all the damn time? And what if the source of that conflict wasn’t them, or other women, or sociopolitical theories, but guys – guys you see, maybe even guys you know – guys who are pissing in the dating pool to the point that only the most resilient, determined, or desperate are bothered to swim in it?

Obviously, feminism is the root cause of all these evils. I won’t deny it. If I didn’t have access to education, like my grandma; if I was forced to marry the man who made me pregnant, regardless of whose idea the sex was, like my other grandma; if I couldn’t earn enough as a woman to support myself, like my aunt; if I got treated like a fallen woman for moving out of my parents’ home without getting married, like my mother; then I’d probably plug my nose and wade in. I’d need a guy, so I’d have to put up with whatever was thrown at me in the dating process until I snagged one, and pray that it was a good one. But I don’t. Here and now, a partner for me is an enhancement to my life. If I have to put up with a constant stream of harassment, pressure, insults, threats, and general unpleasantness in order to find one, then sorry, I’ll pass. And it’s not about you, dude, or even about me: it’s about them, the douchebags.

I would like to find someone whose company I enjoy more than my solitude, I really would; I just don’t like it enough to put up with all the attending  crap. And I’m not alone in this: I speak to other women who are single and not looking, and we are all saying the same things. We say them loud and clear, in private and in public, and in response we’re invariably told that it’s our fault or at least our responsibility. Our standards are unrealistic, our expectations too high, we chose to muddle up the gender roles and now we’re reaping our just deserts, we did and do this and that, and now dating is a minefield that only a few can successfully negotiate. Our bad.

Ok, dude. So you think the problem isn’t that men send dick pics; it’s that women are so quick to take offence. Whatever. But I’m telling you, your friend Steve who does that, and you know it, and you shrug it off because he’s a nice guy, really, and it’s not as if he’s hurting anyone; he’s the reason I didn’t give you my number. Your cousin Michael who responds to every no with a “don’t be like that” is the reason I didn’t talk to you in that bar. Your uncle Bob who likes to dress formal and talk dirty to strangers half his age is why I don’t trust ‘old-fashioned gentlemen’. It’s not feminism, Hollywood myths about romance, Channing Tatum, or the articles in Cosmo putting me off you: it’s the men I have to deal with every goddamn day. They stand between us, and I’m too fed up with their shit to be bothered pushing my way through. And maybe, just maybe, if you put a fraction of the effort you spend lecturing me on how it’s on to me to get over it into getting Steve and Michael and Bob to cut their fucking crap, in five months or five years we may reach a place where the prospect of trying to find someone like you wouldn’t fill me with dread.

 

[For all those men who are upset by my rant because men have horrible dating experiences too, and I’m ignoring their plight:

How about you write your own?

Blogging is not a zero-sum game. I’m not filling up the internets and leaving no room for you. If you have a problem you want to air, write it out and press “publish”. And I promise you, if you do it well I’ll link you on here. But don’t you dare tell me that I shouldn’t talk about my shit because you can’t be bothered to talk about your own.]

Slabs.

Every now and then I entertain an outlandish notion. I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, if more self-defence instructors stood up when people make sexually objectifying comments, particularly when those comments are made on their premises or through their platforms, and exponentially so when the context they’re made in is women self-defence, then we could inch infinitesimally towards living in a culture where women have a little bit less to defend themselves from.

I’m not saying that clean talking would make rapists disappear. But moving away from a mentality where openly treating women like slabs of meat gets a laugh would almost certainly reduce the number of people who find themselves committing “not-quite-rape-rapes” through being utterly clueless as to what “respect” actually means, and to the fact that it’s important.

Oh, you don’t want to speak out? You’re worried about losing customers, antagonising your friends and associate, getting punched inna face for your troubles? Really? That’s fascinating. It’s particularly fascinating when you’re selling “assertiveness” as a cure-all for women’s problems, when you’re preaching oh-so-very loudly that what women need to do first and foremost is to stop acting like victims, to learn to stand up for themselves, to set some boundaries, dammit. I mean, it’s not as if modelling were an essential component of a teaching methodology, but, yannow, I find it kinda hard to listen to you tell me that I should stand up to someone bigger and stronger, someone who believes in my inferiority, someone who’s selected me as a prey item, when you can’t or won’t do it because the repercussions concern you.

Yeahbut, this is not your problem, is it? It’s not your problem and it’s not your place to act. Hell, it’d be disrespectful for you to do so. Women don’t need men like you to sort their shit out for them. Women just need men like you to teach them out to sort their shit out, which is of course completely different and empowering and only $50 per month if you sign up to the yearly plan.

It’s not about the money, though. You actually care. Which is why you’re making all that effort in preparing those seminars and workshops and writing all those articles and so on and so forth. You care, and women don’t care back. You’re putting all that work in, and nobody’s buying, which conclusively proves that women are, well, just a little bit silly. The fact that you’re visibly hanging out with some the people they’re having to defend themselves from day in day out, that you let those people misbehave unchallenged, that the environment you’re fostering is no better than the one that’s causing them to have a need for self-defence, none of that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.

You’re right, and I’m wrong. And if only I had the patience to sit down and listen to you explain to me my experience, then I may be able to understand it. There is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that my complaints are accurate, that my issues are relevant, that you’re part of my problem and that’s why I’m not coming to you for a solution, and that other women feel the same. That just can’t be the case. Fuck do I know? I’m just some woman.

Don’t try this at home

Every now and then I make sure that I go and do something that’s going to result in me getting punched hard on a scar, metaphorically or not. In my head this makes sense at a number of levels. You can’t really tell how healed you are without testing yourself. That could cause you to get caught by surprise and crumble to bits in a situation where doing so is not safe, which I find worrisome. Alternatively, you could find yourself living your life with a THIS SCAR IS HEALED DON’T TOUCH IT attitude, which I find limiting. I’m way too stubborn to let anyone dictate to me what I can and can’t do, even if that person is me.

In all honesty, maybe I just do it because I like getting up again after I got hit hard. It makes me feel all badass and shit. Not everything I do is clever. I’m ok with that.

At the same time, I would never, ever recommend to another soul that they try the same. I try really hard not to advise people because I’m visibly unqualified, but if I did “Hey, why don’t you go and see how badly hurt you have to get to keel over!” would not be the kind of advice I’d give. Yet I do precisely that, repeatedly, and consider it a perfectly good thing for me. Formative, like.

It could be hypocrisy, exceptionalism, or selective braining. Maybe I can only think sensibly when other people are involved. Whatever it is, it gets even better when I look at the next stage of the process.

Getting whacked on a scar can reveal that the damn thing doesn’t hurt in the least. Could be it’s healed properly. Could be it’s gone numb, and that may or may not be a problem, depending on what feeling has been lost. It can also reveal that the underlying injury is still pretty messed up; that the scar tissue was covering up a whole bunch of festering issues. That’s a useful discovery, but not a pleasant one, and can result in a whole bunch of recovery work being both necessary and urgent. More often than not, what I find is that the scar is as healed as it’s gonna get, but it still hurts like a motherfucker. No injury, just pain. Shit happens, traces are left, that’s how it goes, ho hum.

The last sentence in that paragraph is also one I only apply to myself. There’s no way in hell I’d go up to anyone and tell them to ‘just suck it up’ when they’re dealing with the aftermath of a genuine, serious injury. I might think it, if I thought that their recovery was impeded by an excess of self-pity, but I’d be unlikely to say it. It’s not that I’m overly nice; it’s that I don’t get on with people for whom self-pity is a normalised response, so I don’t tend to befriend them. They don’t befriend me either, because they think I’m a flaming asshole, so it’s all good. ‘My’ people, the people who operate like me, only say that they’ve got a bad ouchy if they’ve damn well got a bad ouchy. It’s real and it’s an issue, or they wouldn’t be bringing it up. The sum total of this renders bullying my people through an injury terminally unclever. Unless those people are me, obvs. For me, different rules apply, because.

It all goes up another notch when we get to the next stage: how to deal with the ouchy. It turns out that I have a personal two-tier approach to this. If the ouchy is minor it should not impede function. I must perform as normal, or else I’m a total waste of skin, and words will be said to that effect. If the ouchy is in fact big enough to impede normal function, then I must find the nearest porch and crawl under it. I must stay under said porch until I’ve either gotten better or died. While under the porch, I must avoid all human interaction, particularly with people I care about and who care about me. I may return to my people when and only when I’m absolutely sure that the ouchy I’m carrying has been contained enough that I can perform as normal, enough that it’s not going to impact them in any way.

That’s how I roll. It would be spectacularly ridiculous were I just a random fuckwit, but I’m not. I’m a tried-and-tested fuckwit, a kinda-quasi-expert fuckwit, a fuckwit who wrote a damn book about recovery. And, lo and behold, this is not what I consider best practice in that kind of situation. Rather the opposite, in fact.

If anyone else was spewing this kind of bullshit, I’d tear them a new one. If anyone else was doing this, I’d go under the damn porch, kick them out of there, and then quite possibly continue to kick them until my legs got sore. It may seem like adding injury to injury, but in all honesty, if someone was being that self-damaging, I don’t think I could hurt them worse than they are hurting themselves, anyway.

What I do is terminally unclever, yet it works for me. It has worked for me. I’m still here. What I don’t know, because I’ve never bothered trying, is whether taking a less brutal approach would work better. I know it works better on hooman people, and sometimes I suspect I may belong to that species. It may sound like a simple case of me needing to absorb this and change tack, but there’s a catch.

I know that my approach works for me because I’ve done it plenty of times. More significantly than that, I’ve done it under adrenaline, and it worked. I’ve done it when it was the only option I had, or the most sensible thing to do. I’ve done it when the stakes were high, and I didn’t get horribly mangled. And as Rory says, “The habits implanted under adrenaline or fear of death are really strong. They rarely change.”

I know there are better ways of doing things, but I only know that in my head. Knowledge doesn’t trump habits developed under fire. Those are in my bones.

Usually I move towards most fears, because I’m a coward. I cannot hear a bump in the night and leave it alone, so I pick any available tools appropriate to the purpose and move forth. It turns out that the fear of letting go of something that’s kept you alive is a different kind of animal altogether. It doesn’t matter if that something is not great, or it’s actively damaging. You just don’t wanna let go.

I might be writing this as a cautionary tale for other people affected by similar brainworms. I may just be washing my dirty linen in public – now that I have talked about it, I am obliged to deal with it post-haste. All I know is that this is A Thing for me, and it may be A Thing for other people, and it’s definitely not A Good Thing. But I choose to believe that it’s not an insurmountable problem, either. Identify your monster, and you’ve got a better chance of slaying it; or, at the very least, teach it to sit and stay and not tear your throat out quite so often.

Beyond Stranger Danger – by Carol Watson

 

Guest blog by Carol Watson – bio at the bottom.

 

In the early ‘80s when I first asked to do an abduction prevention and personal safety program for young children,

I started with what I had been told as a child. “Don’t talk to strangers, don’t take candy from strangers, stranger=danger. What I very quickly realized was that it simply did not work. No matter how creative I was (I’m pretty creative!) I could not communicate what a stranger was to 3-7 year olds let alone what to do if confronted with one.

There was no internet available to mere mortals, there was no Google, no smart phones. I had the public library to try to find what I was supposed to. I found nothing useful. I was literally ready to give up when I had one of those light bulb moments. I was trying to communicate who the bad guys are, but that’s an impossible task. My child and most of the children I was helping to look for were not taken by strangers. As it turns out most of the sexual abuse of children isn’t perpetrated by strangers either. Dad is not a stranger, the coach is not a stranger, the next door neighbor, the pastor of the church is not a stranger. Instead of trying to tell kids who the bad guys are (some of them aren’t even guys) I realized I could tell them what dangerous people do. If I focused on behaviors and situations that should trigger a protective response in our children, I could begin to try to create an effective program.

The program I created is called Run, Yell & Tell! Over the years of teaching parents and educators about this program I realized many were still skeptical about the lack of the word stranger in such programming so I created a handout that explains why stranger=danger doesn’t work. I came up with the information by basically reverse engineering. I didn’t start with statistics and information about child development. I started with what worked. Here are the main points.

Beyond Stranger Danger

Five Reasons Why Telling Your Kids About Strangers Will NOT Keep Them Safe

  • Little kids don’t get it! The word stranger is hard to explain to a small child and your definition of stranger may be quite different from someone else’s.
  • Kids are much more at risk for abduction and sexual abuse with people they know. At least 19% of children who are taken by non-family members are abducted by someone they know, an acquaintance. The largest category of abducted children, over 200,000 each year in the US, are taken by family members – usually a non-custodial parent.
  • In some emergency situations a child may need to go to someone they don’t know for help. If we have taught them to be afraid of everyone they don’t know we have cut them off from help in these situations. We need to tell them how to find a safe person to go to for help. Some suggestions are: 1) look for a Mom with kids. 2) look for a Grandma. 3) look for a Dad with kids. 4) in a store, go to the person at the cash register.
  • Children who are given stranger danger instruction tend to get a distorted picture of what a dangerous person looks like. They say things like ‘A stranger is a man with a dark face.” Or “He wasn’t a stranger, he was really nice to me.” The fact is you can’t tell who is dangerous by the way they look.
  • Children who are taught to fear strangers react strangely in normal situations. They may become hysterical in the grocery store because Mom is talking to a stranger (the gal at the check out counter) and others might refuse to get on the bus because its full of strangers. 

Instead of teaching our kids about strangers we need to tell them about behavior that may signal danger and what to do when approached by ANYONEThe Bad Guys don’t wear black hats anymore and some of them aren’t guys!

When we deal with safety for young children we don’t give them guidelines or suggestions, we give the RULES. You have to hold my hand when we cross the street. You may not get out of your car seat and wander about the car! The rules are simple and unambiguous! 

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #1:
If anyone wants to give you something you’re supposed to say: “I HAVE TO ASK FIRST!” And run right away to the person who is taking care of you and ask if it is okay.

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #2:
If anyone wants you to go somewhere with them, you’re supposed to say: “I HAVE TO ASK FIRST!” And run right away to the person who is taking care of you and ask if it is okay.

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #3:
There is touch that’s okay, and touch that’s sometimes okay and sometimes not okay. All kinds of touch, especially hugging and kissing have to be okay with both people.

The Private Zone:

Everything that is covered up by your swimsuit is called The Private Zone.
Private means it’s just for you; it’s not okay for anyone to touch you there – – the only exceptions are medical and hygiene. And it’s never okay for anyone to ask you to touch them in their private zone.

What is a Dangerous Situation? If someone tries to grab you, tries to make you go away with them, tries to touch you in a way that’s not okay, makes you feel scared or makes you feel icky…

Dangerous Situation – Response #1: RUN!

RUN to where there are people. Don’t run to a lonely place. RUN to the closest place there are people who can help you!

Dangerous Situation – Response #2: YELL!

YELL for help with your tummy to your toes. That is in loud, deep-pitched voice using diaphragmatic breathing. It’s better to yell than to scream because people consider screaming normal kid-play noise.

Dangerous Situation – Response #3: TELL!

Tell a grown-up you trust what happened to you. There are lots of different grown-ups you can tell.

I have personally delivered this program to 10s of thousands of children. In 1992 I was persuaded to write a children’s book of the same name based on the program. Thousands of copies have been sold and given away to families and early childhood programs all over the US and Canada. I know it works. I have letters and emails and crayon drawings that say it works and children have gotten out of dangerous situations. Run, Yell & Tell! is a copyrighted, trademarked program of Missing Children Minnesota. For more information contact us at: general.info@MissingChildrenMinnesota.org

 

 

Carol Watson was the Executive Director of Missing Children Minnesota (MCM) for over three decades. MCM the oldest non-profit child search organization in the mid-west. Carol’s eldest son was abducted by her ex-husband in 1983 and during the thirteen months he was missing, she participated in the founding of MCM. Carol was a member of the founding board of the Association of Missing and Exploited Children organizations (AMECO) and is currently board chair. She has serves on the board of Community Shares Minnesota. She still works for MCM part time having left the E.D. position to become the assistant E.D. when she turned 65.

In her role as public education coordinator for MCM, Ms. Watson has developed prevention programs for children from age 3 through high school, as well as a program for adults. The response to these programs has been so positive that in 1993 MCM published Run, Yell & Tell! A Safety Book For Children. In 1996, Erica’s Choices Alternatives to Running Away was published. Both books, authored my Ms. Watson have received excellent reviews and endorsements. The third book in the series I Want To Be S.A.F.E.R. for 3rd – 6th graders was published in 2004. She has testified as an expert witness on parental child abduction in court and at the state legislature. She was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Missing Children in 1990, and in 1992, she assisted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the development of Minnesota Guidelines to Missing Children Investigations: A Resource book. She has worked with the BCA on law enforcement training on parental abduction.

In 1988 Ms. Watson completed the “Mini MBA” for Non-profit Managers at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. In 2001 she received a National Service Award from the Washington Times Foundation and she and her husband Richard Olson were named Minnesota Parents of the Year by the American Family Counsel.

Ms. Watson has provided MCM’s prevention programs for tens of thousands of children parents and professionals over the last 32 years.

 

 

 

One of the coolest things about a comprehensive head-unfucking process is that you can spend an age or two chip-chip-chipping away at stubborn clogs, spending yourself, and seeing no durned progress. Then something, anything, or nothing much happens, and a whole giant chunk – maybe a chunk so big that you’d not even been able to see it, so big that you thought it was a feature, rather than a clog – comes unstuck. All that chipping wasn’t for nothing, after all. All the small fractures you created over painful weeks or months or years led up to a giant, spectacular release. Next thing you know, you’re rolling around in an avalanche, with no idea whatsoever of where you’re headed, or who you’ll be where you get there.

If you enjoy getting lost, it’s about the best trip anyone’s head can afford.

 

Corollary: Nobody can begin to guess what will be important to anyone else. I’ve got cheap paperback sci-fi books I picked up at a train station nearly three decades ago because I happened to have some spare change and nothing better to do that I’ve dragged with me through 18+ house moves (some intercontinental) and a year on a travelling show because, yes, they made that much of an impact. They’re a part of my software.

Corollary 2: If you put something out there, make it true.