Q: Are you suggesting that fighting back is the solution to violence against women? Why should this onus be on women and not men?
A: Of course it's not the sole solution. To suggest this would not only be naive but insulting to all those past and present who have suffered violence, rape, atrocity and indignities at the hands of men—and who have done everything "right," as individuals or en masse: rape, for example, is still used as a weapon of war to instill maximum shame and despoilment of a people, and as a "bonding ritual" among soldiers.
The roots of men's violent entitlements, the taking and using of the female body, are deeply entrenched. Combating this is akin to fighting a war; it needs to be fought on all fronts, requiring multi-pronged strategies and sustained efforts spanning cultural, social, legal, political and educational reform. The training of women in hardcore self defense is a vital front, yet for too long it's been minimized—its role downplayed as a viable and effective means of combating and stopping assaults against women. This learning has been viewed more as a side dish--rarely the main course; afforded the "little sister" status to more important efforts.
Frankly, the notion that we shouldn't have to learn, that this is merely 'blaming the victim' is not only foolhardy and dangerous, undermining the cause of women, but it misses this crucial point: the reclamation of our female-animal capacity, the desire and know-how to fight to protect life, dignity, and that which we hold sacred, and learning to wield physical power is fundamental to a wholesome robust life. (And it just plain feels good.)
Learning to fight back also stirs deep desires; the wants that lie below fear, that have been kept "on hold," are lured to the fore, called out of hiding. So at its bedrock core, it's connected to larger Life Forces and Desire.
Minimizing the raw power of learning to fight is akin to diminishing women's sexual (or other) appetites, or the pleasure of reveling in bodily prowess. Not to mention the fact that fighting back in self defense IS (often) effective!
I take aim at this not only because it's insidious but because any view that subverts the training of our vital aggressive nature is dangerous, further disconnecting women from our survival instincts, the readied ability to defend boundaries, and to stand in power without floods of fear.
The benefits and applications of self defense are long and mighty.
Here's my final calling and shout: Until women are perceived—and more importantly perceive themselves—as being capable and competent at wielding the tools of aggression, we will NEVER be safe or whole. As long as men are the agents of violence and women are the casualties of their actions, the spoils of war, victims on the pointy end of male aggression, there will NEVER be balance of power between sexes: we will remain relegated to a lesser-than-status, too powerless or simply too fearful to resist brutalities, limited by social contract in the ways in which we express our own yearnings, ferocities and fighting spirit—and above all, in how we protect the sovereignty of our bodies and souls.
This sounds like a bum deal to me.
Upending violence against women and girls requires a global en masse effort. But it will not be accomplished until we also TAKE our bodies back and rally our oldest primal forces.
Author Natalie Angier's foretelling words come to mind: "The next phase of the revolution needs an infusion of Old World monkey sorority."
Say it sistah!
Originally posted 9/11/2017 on Fierce and Female Self Defense Training and Consultancy. Reprinted with permission.