Monday, November 14, 2011

Strong. Resilient. Spirited. United

Book review of Erin Weed’s Girls Fight Back!
The College Girl's Guide to Protecting Herself

 It's that time in the school year where the excitement from moving in and figuring out where your classes are is winding down and the threat of finals hasn't solidified quite yet. Homecoming has just passed or is coming up and maybe the fraternities and sororities on campus are planning huge blow outs to celebrate the latest home team victory. In short: it's a social whirlwind!

Enter Erin Weed, author of Girls Fight Back: The College Girl's Guide to Protecting Herself. After her sorority sister, Shannon, was murdered, Erin studied with experts in campus security, personal safety, violence prevention and self-defense. During this extensive research and training, she formed a movement called Girls Fight Back. Not only is this an organization which teaches women self-defense, but the author calls it a “conscious choice to reclaim our security in the world.” She says that this is the book that she wished she and Shannon had in college.

At first glance Girls Fight Back starts out like any other “how-to” book; here is the background information and how to use it. However, as soon as you dive into the first chapter, you realize that you're reading something you're never going to forget. The book reaffirms that being a college-aged woman is supposed to be exciting and the experience full of “outrageous adventure.” We have the right to enjoy our independence and be safe while doing so. Then she takes the next 100 pages to outline exactly how to prepare yourself the best way you can. How do you trust your intuition? Who are the bad guys? (Surprising to most young women: he's 4 times more likely to be someone you know.) What kind of roommate should you choose to live with? What if your boyfriend is too possessive? And included in it's own chapter: how do I keep myself safe on Spring Break?

Erin's take on what modern college-aged women need to know is refreshing, current and above all, practical. (There is an entire chapter on navigating the online world.) She knows that experiencing new things, people and situations is part of the college life. And yet, she explains how to do all of those things while discovering your adult identity in a safe way.

Girls Fight Back includes an entire chapter on getting to a self-defense class. Without mentioning IMPACT by name, the author heartily recommends a class that offers “scenario-based training against a guy in a padded suit.” Also, just like IMPACT, the author reiterates that while knowing self-defense doesn't offer any guarantees, knowing it at least gives you a fighting chance.

This book represents a frank and open discussion of intimate topics that a lot of young women haven't ever broached before. It removes the mystery around date rape as well as assuring young women that assertiveness is critical in being safe, even if it may portray you in a light that others find uncomfortable. Your comfort is paramount. This book should be distributed to all freshman women right alongside their class schedule and dorm assignment.

Erin Weed wants to know, “which girlfriend could you not live without?” Read this book, come to IMPACT, and pass it on.

Molly Norris, IMPACT Chicago workshop instructor and Core Program instructor-in-training

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