I hate all the “never do this” and “always do that” garbage I see out there passed off as self-defence advice. I’m tired of seeing victim-blaming masquerading as empowerment. Here are nine tips that don’t engage in victim-blaming, are applicable to anyone, and can work as well as a kick in the balls.
While it seems vogue to use multicoloured alert stages akin to the (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security Advisory Levels, I’m going to discuss different aspects of instinct using the most widely understood colour system we have – that of traffic lights. Continue reading
One of the greatest gaps I’ve encountered in counter-violence education is that of the legal and ethical considerations involved. This is, to be blunt, negligent on the part of instructors/providers. This post will reflect some of the information we provide in class-day discussion as well as our printed materials.
What is “Self-Defence?”
The first point we cover in any program we offer is the definition of the term, “self-defence.” One of the best definitions provided by a participant Continue reading
“Alleged” is used to cover the ass of the media and those who must consider the facts of a case. By using this word, we are allowing the accused to remain “innocent until proven guilty,” a protected right, so the person who has been accused is alleged to have committed the violation. This has no bearing on whether or not the violation took place, only on whether or not the accused is guilty. Since victimization is determined by the one who suffers a violation, we should not be saying “alleged rape victim,” or “alleged assault victim,” and media has no business doing so. When we use the word to describe a victim, we instil doubt in the mind of the listener/reader as to whether or not a violation has occurred. Let’s stop doing that. Let’s start believing the victim; it harms nobody if we use “alleged” to describe only the accused, and it extends the “innocent until proven guilty” right to everyone involved.
I was asked a question:
You keep saying you’re not a ‘women’s self defence’ instructor. Why not?
Simply put, “Women’s Self-Defence” can be one of two things: it can be a women-only safer-space, in which case I am not allowed to be there, or it can be a contribution to rape culture; a perpetuation of a system wherein men get to set rules for women in order for women to remain safe from sexual assault (the efficacy of those rules being disputable).
Now, that isn’t to say I cannot teach women -I most certainly can, and do- or that I cannot address issues that disproportionately affect women, like sexual assault. It’s important I do it in ways that recognize a few key realities:
1) I, as a man, cannot occupy a women-only safer space.
2) Power-hoarding on the part of men contributes to all spaces being unwelcoming and unsafe.
3) Men have the most power in preventing sexual assault because we are the ones who harbour the offenders.
4) While I would never tell anyone to do something they don’t feel safe doing, most of the “advice” being trotted out to women is victim-blaming in nature, tends to be either ineffective or outright *damaging,* and should be demystified and debunked.
5) All risk-reductive strategies should be evidence-based and supported, not just a list of “alwayses and nevers.”
Beyond that, the law is the law, movement is movement, and counter-violence is counter-violence – it really doesn’t need to be gendered in order to be effective.
Now, I have a question for you:
What are some ways men can make spaces safer and more inviting for women?
I get asked from time to time why I’m so involved in the discussions on topics like sexual assault, street harassment, misogyny, and so on. I’m a counter-violence & self-defence instructor, after all, not a “women’s self-defence” instructor. True. But if someone says, “self-defence advice” what’s the first thing you think of?
“Don’t go out alone at night.”
“Stay out of Neighbourhood X.”
“Don’t dress too sexy.”
“Don’t leave your drink unattended.”
“This is what you do when some guy grabs your wrist.”
That’s where the conversation is. And it’s bullshit, victim-blaming advice. If we’re going to give advice to anyone on how to be safer, let’s at least give the right advice. “Self-defence” is an implicitly gendered term; guys don’t learn to defend themselves, they learn to own the space they’re in, to not accept treatment they don’t feel they want or deserve, to be comfortable, and some even learn to fight (also, they usually don’t but that’s a topic for another rant). Women are constantly pressured to learn to defend themselves, to take defensive measures, to “reduce risk” in ways that don’t actually reduce risk. I can only imagine how much of a headache that is, how difficult it makes just getting ready to go out or meeting someone new or getting to sleep at night.
Men have the power to stop violence against women. If we don’t abuse our partners, if we don’t rape, if we don’t engage in street harassment, if we don’t tell jokes that undermine the feminine experience, then we know someone who does. Let’s not be that guy and let’s not allow that guy’s existence to be all that comfortable; let’s shame him out of existence. Let’s make public and private spaces safer and more inviting for women. If we accomplish that, we’ve actually done something to not only protect women from violence, but we’ve improved our half of the species.
I read with interest a piece on Huffpost entitled “How We Can Prevent Another Steubenville.” In it, Kelli Goff discusses what she thinks is the real issue behind Steubenville: alcohol.
If a teen drives drunk and is killed in an accident, or worse, kills someone else and we find out their parents never discouraged them from drinking and driving, we blame the parents. Yet for some reason we don’t discuss the role of alcohol in sexual assault the same way. Continue reading
The holidays are upon us, a time of year when assaults are on the rise due to a great many factors. In order to help increase safety for everyone, let’s keep a few things in mind: Continue reading
Street harassment is defined as any unwelcome words or actions that invade the space of another -whether physically or emotionally- and focus attention on the gender or sexuality of the (usually female) target. Continue reading