Open Letter to Prof. Tal Peretz
Dear Prof. Peretz,
We value your work in the areas of men’s anti-sexist and anti-violence activism. As a sociology professor at Auburn, you were quoted in the LiveScience article about the science of preventing campus sexual assault. We admire your work advocating that we teach children about consensual behaviors on the playgrounds and in their homes.
However, we were very disappointed to read the quote from you, just after the reporter describes the incredible results that Charlene Senn’s empowerment self-defense training has, that
“We have far too much ‘here’s how you protect yourself’ [programs], when it’s not women’s job and not their fault. That whole way of talking about it really places the blame on women, when it should be on the rapists.”
Training women in how to set boundaries is just as important as your work training boys and men in how to honor boundaries others set. So don’t worry, you will not lose your job if you also endorse women’s self-defense training. As we have said to the late Kurt Cobain, both-and! You can both insist that we train men not to rape AND train women to resist any men who missed our memo.
Self-defense training does not place any blame for assault on women. If you really want to support feminism and fight for gender equality, please re-examine your belief that there are too many self-defense/self-protection programs out there.
Profs. Martha & Jill
This great piece by Susan Schorn, “Fear, Inc.,” published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, is worth reading. While Schorn here focuses on the marketing of emergency preparedness supplies and gadgets–you know, like the ones for the zombie apocalypse–we are reminded of the many who have attempted to market self-defense devices to women simply by harnessing that culture of fear, attempting to make women feel even more afraid of male violence and even more vulnerable than they already do, and then selling them their product based to assuage the fear they just sparked. Those hairy legs tights never really did take off, did they?
Of course, empowerment-based feminist self-defense might cost some money (instructors do have to be paid), but it’s not about inducing fear or making women feel more vulnerable. Perhaps some of the resistance to advocating women’s self-defense training has to do with it seeming like too close a cousin to the prepper movement.