Category Archives: Self-defense

The Conversation Continues

WordPress lets me see the places where others have clicked links to reach my site. I didn’t recognize one of the referring pages that landed on a past post (It’s the Same Advice), so I clicked it to find out where it came from. That led me to a LiveJournal were a person had linked to the above post, and Where the Boundaries Are Drawn (over at my LiveJournal).  That’s cool.

Then, the comment right under it made me laugh:

The moment a woman describes a guy who came onto her as “creepy”, she loses all my sympathy. “Creepy” means, precisely, “a man who is interested in me, but not good enough for me.” All the woman is saying is, “This guy thought he was good enough for me! Isn’t that awful?”

I couldn’t help but leave a response:

That might be your precise definition, but it certainly is not mine. A creeper is someone who does not believe the object of his/her desire has the right to decline said desire. A creeper is someone who is certain the primary reason the desired object declines is either extreme arrogance or complete stupidity. A creeper is someone who believes the arrogance and stupidity can be corrected by the right amount of mockery, insults, ignoring of requests to be left alone, and/or force.

Are there men who aren’t “good enough” for me? Why yes, there are. Men who think the best way to open a relationship is to place hands on private parts of my body, or back me into a corner, or refuse to take a polite “no thank you” as a valid response are, indeed, not good enough for me.

Every person has the right to choose the traits and behaviors they’d like in a partner, and it’s rather odd to see that right couched as a dismissive comment.

I’ve taught women in martial arts for more than a decade now, and I’ve had the chance to watch women decide what sort of shit they no longer need to put up with. As a result, more than one of the boyfriends/spouses faced with changing abusive behavior or losing their significant other have decided I’m a “man-hater.”

Nope. I’m an asshole-hater. There is a difference. Quite a big difference.

The Odd Feeling About A Much-Viewed Entry

So it’s been a little less than four months since I swallowed my nervousness and made Seeing Is Understanding publicly accessible.

I’ve been blown away by its continued visibility. It’s a rare day that someone doesn’t view it here or over at LiveJournal.  Between the two, it’s reached around 4000 views. And just when I think it’s finally trickling off, a sudden influx of viewers will come from a new Facebook or Tumblr link. Now I’m getting visitors from Google+. I have no idea how many people have read it at those other sources.

I’m blown away by that. (I know a great many folks wouldn’t blink at those stats, but I’m an unknown small fry, so the numbers surprise me.) I’d originally written this up for a double-handful of friends because I’d found the incident both interesting and unsettling. They urged me to give it a wider audience, and I’m glad I did. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

I’m also a little weirded out by the article’s reach. My website stats tell me folks come from all sorts of online places to see that post, reading from six continents, so I assume there is some conversation about it somewhere — but it’s not mine to participate in, or even know about. I just hope the conversations lead to better awareness on the part of men and women, and a greater ability to see the smaller manipulations that so often escape notice and acknowledgement.

Lastly, I can report I’ve not been subject to any backlash. Considering what has happened to others discussing harassment, that does surprise me. (I wonder if it’s because “Blair” is somewhat gender-ambiguous.)

Crossposted to These Certain Musings.

Fighting Isn’t A Failure

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True or false: “If you have to fight, you’ve already done something wrong.”

If you’re male, or female but educated in self-defense primarily by males, you will say True.  If you’re female, aware of the dynamics that most commonly lead to real self-defense situations, you will say False.  If you teach self-defense, and want your students to understand those dynamics, you will say, It’s a pile of crap, and believing it could get you killed.

The whole, “If you have to fight” notion has its place.  When you’re teaching and training aggressive young men who believe physical strength is the measure of their worth—and are itching for the chance to prove themselves worthy—getting them to control their impulse to fight is necessary.  It’s also valuable for teaching the basic principle of self-defense: avoiding a confrontation, by reading the situation and/or removing oneself from it, is an excellent protection technique.

But in the real world, it’s of little practical use, and believing its absolute truth can indeed get you killed.

I imagine the originator of the quote assumed most fights would be between two men—likely an escalation of a disagreement, or perhaps an interruption of a criminal act, or even a war undertaken when negotiations went sour.  So sure, your first step should be to deescalate the situation and avoid violence.  Maybe the quote is meant to imply folks who don’t want to be attacked should avoid attack-rich environments–the clichéd dark alleys and isolated parking garages.  Okay, fine.

But it ignores the fact the majority of “fights” women will face in life don’t happen in dark alleys and scary places.  A woman is most likely to be attacked in her own home, without warning, by someone she knows.

And if you teach self-defense or martial arts, and you don’t know that fact, you are putting your female students in danger.

By telling a woman she should always avoid a fight, you encourage her to let dangerous situations escalate beyond what she might be able to counter.  By telling a woman the fight is an indication of failure, you insult the woman who decides to fight when attacked in her own room, in her own bed, by a man who has deliberately earned her trust.

And if you believe having to fight means you’ve done something wrong, I don’t want you on my side should a fight ever come around.  I want the partner who knows it takes both parties to resolve a conflict, but only one to decide violence is a better idea.  I want a partner who knows from experience that life and people are unpredictable, the bad guys don’t let you choose when an attack happens, and you don’t always get a heads-up before someone takes a swing.

Fighting back is a choice, not a failure.

 

Coming next: We Already Knew That on the odd habit men have of discovering sparring techniques aren’t effective in a real fight, and the assumption they should tell the women-folk (as if women weren’t already acutely aware of it).

 

“I Thought He Was Taller”

I’ve been blown away by the spread of, and positive response to, my last post.  It freaked me out a little at first, seeing the views here and at BMB keep rising.  My hope is the folks who read it will find not only something interesting, but reason to look ahead with positive hope.

As much as we (using “we” in the most general sense) like to believe we are empathetic creatures at heart, even the best of us have blind spots. It’s difficult to understand how one person’s experience feels on a visceral level unless we have a similar experience to which we can compare it.

By coincidence, researchers at UCLA recently released the results of their studies, “Bound to Lose: Physical Incapacitation Increases the Conceptualized Size of an Antagonist in Men.”  Researchers found men tied to a chair or standing on an unsteady surface (a balance board) overestimated the antagonist’s size and underestimated their own size.

The results are utterly unsurprising, though I’m sure it’s abstractly a good thing that science has now confirmed the experiences of anyone who has been on the lower end of a power disparity.

If nothing else, it’s something to point as a means to explain why a person will read “threat” into a situation that, to an outsider, doesn’t look threatening.  Where an observer might think, “That nice guy was just talking to her over there,” the woman in question might be thinking, “I can’t get out of this corner because the Huge Man is blocking me.”

Considering how balance affected perception, I’d be interested to see what would result from participants wearing stilettoes.

Seeing Is Understanding

This is about speaking up, creepers, and what good men don’t always see.  Names have been changed.

Some time ago, I was having lunch with a group of friends—four men, one woman, and me.  I’ve known most of the group for five or six years.  We were talking about shared past experiences when one of the men mentioned that he missed Larry.  “Gotta like a man who can make a good cup of coffee,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I blurted out, and described how that man knew precisely where the lines of “inappropriate” behavior were drawn, and had spent the last couple of years nudging those lines whenever he came across a woman he considered “available.”  I mentioned he’d been called out for failing to heed polite turn-downs, that he got offended when the turn-down became less polite.  I mentioned how women who weren’t even the focus of his attention breathed a sigh of relief when he left the room.

None of the men discounted my experience or my descriptions.  But every one of them said they hadn’t seen or noticed anything like that.  I do want to be clear that their responses were not in the spirit, tone, or words of dismissal.  Instead, they were genuinely puzzled that their observations had missed something they assumed would be obvious.  One said he felt bad he hadn’t realized what was going on.

So I pushed the issue.

Without explaining what I was going to do, I got up and stood behind one of the men.  I put my hands on his shoulders, then stretched my fingers as far down his chest as possible while still seeming to give a platonic shoulder rub.*  I pulled him back against my chest, digging my fingers in when he resisted.  That action alone let him know I acknowledged he didn’t want me to be pulling on and touching him, and I didn’t care.

“You look so tense,” I said in a nice, soft voice.  Not sexy, not husky, but more intimate than standard conversation.  Not intimate enough to be “inappropriate,” though.  “You just let me give you a rub and I’ll make you feel better.  I can tell you need that.”

Then, while he sat immobile with surprise, I leaned past him to pick up his coffee cup, keeping my chest close to his face and my other hand firmly on his shoulder.  To the others, it likely looked as if I was just resting my hand there.  That man, though, could feel the pressure I exerted to keep him pressed close to me.  He would have had to make an obvious, rude-looking push to get away.  “I’ll get you some more coffee, too.  You just let me take care of that.”

I gave the man a sweet smile in answer to his shocked stare, then returned to my seat, put my napkin back on my lap, and said, “That’s what Larry does.”

The man I’d touched totally understood in that moment.  He’d experienced how it felt—even at the hands of a friend—to have your personal boundaries violated and your “polite” signals of resistance ignored.  The other men had that slack expression that comes when surprising facts suddenly jolt long-held assumptions.  “Creepy” was uttered, as was “awful” and “scary.”

Their words held a tone of… almost fear?  As if they were suddenly running through all sorts of past interactions in search of similar behaviors, and finding some.

Now they are able to see it.

*The “long-fingered” shoulder rub is a common tactic used by creepers who want to look like they’re being so tender and nurturing while actually making the woman fear he’s going to grab a breast at any moment.

See also:

Where the Boundaries Are Drawn

Five Things I’ve Learned About Teaching Self-Defense

It’s the Same Advice

Edited 08/09/2013 11:20 to correct word-choice mistake pointed out by a kind reader. 🙂

More On That Self-Defense Stuff

I was sent a link to a women’s magazine article giving five tips for self-defense that were credited to a woman with an advanced rank in karate.

Look: I respect any woman who has trained so long—particularly a woman who began at a time when women weren’t much wanted or expected to be in a dojo. That’s a woman like one of my own primary instructors, whose courage and determination made the mat a safer and more welcoming place for me to be in more recent years. But I can’t help pointing out when advice can be not all the useful, or useful only to those who have a lifetime of good physical agility and ability.

Before I say more, I’ll share a couple points.

Continue reading More On That Self-Defense Stuff