Back when Miss USA, Nia Sanchez (we love you, Nia, even if you won’t return our phone calls), said that to combat the problem of sexual assault on college campuses more women should be offered the opportunity of self-defense training, feminist-identified pundits with access to HuffPo interviews flipped out. The concerns varied: some said that recommending self-defense training is putting the onus on women (rather than men) to prevent rape; others argue that self-defense training wouldn’t work because the likely perpetrator is someone known to the victim, and that’s not the “mind-set” for self-defense.
But the real head scratchers were those who rejected self-defense training on the grounds that it ran counter to feminine socialization. They understood that the fact girls and women are trained to subordinate their interests to boys and men, and that this feminine socialization interferes with defending themselves. Indeed, self-defense training is all about NOT subordinating your interests to men and boys. So opposing the recommendation to offer women self-defense training on these grounds (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/11/miss-usa-self-defense_n_5482117.html) seems to presume that we self-defense teachers and advocates do not understand this. What do they think, that self-defense teachers just show women a punching bag, offer them some chewing tobacco, and say “have at it”?
Let’s offer those most likely to be targeted for sexual assault the skills to intervene on their own behalf. Yes, for many of these people, and women in particular, such skills will contradict their socialization into femininity. Self-defense training is a kinesthetic experience that rattles the feminine training so tragically well suited to rape culture. That’s exactly what we like about it and why it’s so transformative beyond the individual women it helps.