At the start of every class I enter, and often times when I talk about teaching women’s self-defense, I am asked, “Why do you do it?” Sometimes the question is asked with genuine sincerity; often with curiosity; and occasionally with a smug, dismissive attitude that says ‘you’re just a fear-monger; women don’t really need that…”
Regardless of who asks or when in class I give the answer, it is often some version of this story…early on in life, I realized I was left of center in most political, social, and philosophical discussions. And when it came to women’s issues, I kind of thought I got it. I would hold the door open, put the toilet seat down, and send my mother flowers on Mother’s Day (never late either!).
But when I was in graduate school, a friend suggested I read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. After reading this book, I had what can best be described as ‘a moment of clarity’ in my life. I thought it was good enough for me to just not be a part of the problem of victimizing women. It wasn’t. I had to be a part of the solution.
I moved to Chicago shortly after that. I worked on a college campus, and became the faculty/staff advisor for the feminist student group. From that, I did some volunteer work for Rape Victim Advocates. RVA is a group that trains women to be sexual assault responders to certain Chicago area hospitals – they send a 56-hour trained advocate to the emergency room to be with a rape survivor, and advocate for her/his needs. One of the things I identified with most with RVA was they were on the ‘front lines’ so to speak of the anti-rape movement.
Being male, that was not an option. So I did some outreach and education for them, going to several schools to educate on rape and rape issues. I then got connected to IMPACT Chicago. It was a perfect opportunity for me to blend my interest in the physical arts (I was a martial artist at the time) in my interest of reducing the number of rapes perpetrated.
Since joining IMPACT, I have had my reasons both reinforced and expanded…After I started working with IMPACT, I once had a co-worker who, at the end of a long day, was bemoaning the fact that she had to drive to far off mall to buy a certain gift for a bridal shower. She was tired, and really not looking forward to the drive, but it had to be done that night since the party was in a day or two. After finding out what store she had to go to, I suggested she go to the mall that was significantly closer to her work and home – only about 15 minutes away from either. She appreciated the suggestion, but said she didn’t want to go there at night because she didn’t feel comfortable there.
I thought to myself how horrible this is…my co-worker has to significantly inconvenience herself because she doesn’t feel safe. As a man, I very seldom have to make decisions about my safety when I decide to go places, but for her it was a regular, almost daily, occurrence. This is terribly unfair – and I want to do what I can to right this wrong. For far too long women have traded freedom for safety –it’s time for that to end.
So I do IMPACT for many reasons – and it continues to give me more than I give it.
Thanks for reading my story.