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 wear makeup. Don’t wear your hair long. Don’t wear short skirts. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
“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.