By Ellen Snortland
“Mommy! I got to kick a man!” The excited little Girl Scout had just finished the first portion of an Impact Personal Safety kids class, specifically the physical self-defense drills. I have never forgotten what she told her mom that day! We teach and practice effective emotional, verbal and — when push comes to shove (excuse the expression) — physical self-defense. If I had a magic wand, I would make our nonprofit’s classes mandatory for all ages starting at 6. Do I promote running around kicking men? No, I do not. What I do promote is a more thorough relationship with reality. And part of that reality is that roughly half of the world’s population has been brainwashed into thinking they are helpless in the face of the “superior” physical attributes and power of men. In the Unreality Department, the male half has also been indoctrinated by every form of entertainment into thinking they are invincible. For example, a fight scene showing a man totally unfazed after getting hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. (Yes, that was in a movie.) Because of this, even men are afraid of other men, which is not OK for anyone.
I scream (often loudly) when I see men threatening or manipulating women without facing serious consequences. I want women and girls learning to deliver in the moment, for real, consequences; a pinch, a yell, a kick. Brains count more than brawn in most instances.
Why don’t we prepare girls and women for jerks? As it is now, we raise females to have two unrealistic expectations about boys and men: 1) There will always be a man around to defend you; 2) All men will behave themselves.
Let’s look at the facts: Only a week ago, a new study by the World Health Organization reaffirmed that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be assaulted in her lifetime, and that’s most likely a conservative number. (And this number has not moved for decades.) I can personally vouch for these stats. Of the three daughters in my well-off, privileged, Norwegian American family in South Dakota, all three of us were assaulted.
When we use the phrase “women are assaulted,” what’s missing? The perpetrators, that’s who! Statistically, while some women can be violent, it’s almost always men. Hiding this fact via language creates the image that females are passively waiting to become statistics.
Since the early ’90s, I’ve been on a global mission to make empowerment self-defense portable, accessible and affordable. The following are the most frequent objections I hear.
• Learning self-defense just creates more violence, right? No! Wearing a seatbelt doesn’t cause more car accidents; it is merely common-sense preparation before driving. Same thing with self-defense. I have stopped violence by being aware of what was happening. I’ve stopped fights. I’ve stopped someone from assaulting me. I merely looked at a sketchy white guy once, and he backed off!
• It isn’t ladylike to yell or fight back. Is it ladylike to be raped or killed? Maintaining anachronistic notions of ladylike behavior is absurd when it comes to self-protection. Being a lousy target is not an either/or proposition. I am a “femme,” yet I will be vicious if it comes to protecting myself or my loved ones.
• Won’t it scare my child if I put her in a self-defense class? Children are short; they are not stupid. They see what’s going on. They feel vulnerable. They know that mean people exist in the world, starting in preschool when they interact with their first mean kid. It’s important to practice saying things that are not considered polite: “Stop,” “Back away” and “I will make a huge scene if you come closer.”
• Men should stop being violent instead of women preparing for it. Yes, men should stop being violent. However, the men most apt to attack women and kids do not give a rat’s patootie about that idea. An ideal world and the one we live in are different planets, light years away from each other.
You don’t have fire drills in the middle of a fire. Similarly, people need to practice scary-people exercises in safe environments. Yelling can fly out the window during an adrenaline surge. Practicing in a lower-stress class will make that yell accessible when there is an actual threat.
Semi-spoiler alert: A brilliant new movie I urge you to see is “Promising Young Woman.” And… how I longed to yell to the protagonist in her last scene: “Go for his eyes! Go for his neck! Go for his groin!” For goodness’ sakes, he had one arm out of commission. Had she any practice at identifying the hard parts of her body and exploding them into the soft parts of the bad guy, the outcome would have been very different.
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.