IMPACT training often disrupts the world’s destructive messages on how we are supposed to be women in the world: how we are supposed to look, how powerful we are supposed to be (or not be) and how vulnerable we feel to violence. In her article Exploring the Intersection of Race and Gender in Self Defense Training, Lisa Spiedel explores how the intersection of race and gender might create differences in this experience for African American and White women.
Lisa explores these issues through her knowledge of the history of African American women as well as interviews she conducted with women who had an intensive self-defense experience to explore these issues. She highlights the difference that can exist between the messages given to African American women in contrast to white women about beauty, expectations of strength and risk of sexual violence. As the interviewed women reflect on these issues it becomes clear that whether we think our bodies are too big or too small, whether we are expected to be quiet and polite or assertive and imperviously strong, self-defense training can help us all disrupt these expectations. Time and time again, this is what I hear from women as they complete IMPACT, emerging more firmly connected to our own true sources of strength and with high appreciation of what our bodies can do for us rather than how they look. Our paths in may be different in important ways, but women’s self-defense training is primarily, as one woman Lisa interviewed by Lisa said, a female thing. Lisa says for all women to experience this “female thing,” women’s self-defense instructors need to create space for women to explore ways in which gender and race affect their safety and their lives.
Margaret Vimont, IMPACT Lead Instructor