I go to my local Trader Joes at an awkward enough hour that no one will ever see me (10am or 8:45pm) and buy so much dessert that the cashier will always, without fail, tell me to have fun at my party. I sleep with a facemask, pee with the door open, and flush every other time. I leave dishes out. Sometimes I let bananas get fruit flies. I only shower, shave, and wash my face for special occasions.
All but two of those things are true of me* and yet I am the worthy recipient of romantic love. I just had to find the person who loves me, not some imaginary idealized version of me, and whom I love in the same way.
I did, of course, have many years of single life during which:
A) I decided I'd rather be alone forever than live with someone who doesn't like me;
B) I learned how to moderate my own habits as a courtesy to housemates, which was great training for living considerately with a partner.
*fun guessing game ensues.
In my experience, love is not a thing that arrives on the doorsteps of the worthy like an overnight Amazon Prime order. So while I completely support decisions to tip more, floss, read outdoors, and generally treat yourself with kindness, don't convince yourself that no one will love you until you're perfect, because most of the time people fall in love with you for being imperfect.
Thank you so much for this piece. It is so right-on and eloquent. The self-defense paradox has troubled me for a long time. I am pretty dismayed to hear people say that training to defend oneself is somehow not feminist. No one is saying it's obligatory--it's a useful tool to add to our Empowerment Toolkit, is all. This response mystifies me.
As a teacher and longtime practitioner of martial arts, I have always felt conflicted about self-defense. Studying martial arts--even very direct arts like karate and boxing--does not prepare anyone for the violence of a real assault, and in some ways I feel the rules inherent to a dojo/gym environment can hinder a good defensive response. I also struggle with the fact that the majority of assailants are known to their victims. It's not merely a question of being able to respond physically with some technique, there's a deep psychological component that I believe has to be addressed if self-defense is to be taught effectively. Especially as women, we are taught to put others' well-being before our own...all this conditioning has to be overcome to actually be able to hurt someone.
I have had people ask me to teach their daughter/sister/wife self-defense, and I always have to explain that I am not equipped to do so, which makes me feel bad. This piece made me want to look into becoming an EDF instructor so I can maybe offer the tools that traditional martial arts training leaves out. Thanks again.
I want to chime in to demonstrate my support for this wonderful article. Walk in dark alleys alone! Do not live in fear.
By Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that) on The Shark Has Pretty Teeth, Dear: Why I Teach Women Self-Defense
@Radical_Feminist I can't speak from any specific experience, so I'm glad that you (and this article) have articulated how I've felt all along.
If we believe the oft-repeated line that rape is about power, WHY would anyone not believe in empowering potential victims and taking some of that power away from the attacker? I believe in trying anything necessary to prevent something terrible from happening - eradicating rape culture would be great, but it's not going to happen overnight, so we all need to do whatever it takes to keep potential victims safe.
@Gef the Talking Mongoose Never before has the D: emoticon been closer to how my face actually looks when reading something.
Loved this article. Great response to a difficult-to-fathom EDF article-apology.
I'd studied traditional martial arts for a long time when a man approached me one Sunday morning years ago on a downtown street, tried to make conversation, and then rushed toward me in an attempted assault. He had a teardrop tattoo under his eye; I suspected he carried a weapon. Instead of unleashing a flurry of kicks and punches, I poked him in the chest with two fingers as I stepped forward and told him that it was time for him to leave. He stumbled backward, stunned. I was stunned too. (No one had ever taught me that “move”.) He ultimately backed off and I did, too.
This is not complicated. Learning self-defense does not equal victim blaming. Period. And empowerment isn’t a dirty word.
Well, if the eyeball-haver is me, a fairly speedy fade-to-black.
Yeah, "telling people what is feminist and what is not" is sort of the hidden lede here. One gets the sense that the editors of Everyday Feminism are more interested in simply the appearance of consensus than in being right (never mind the idea that diversity of views might itself have value). That's not unknown across all cultures across all time, but it's pretty unusual for modern Westerners.
I teach empowering self-defense from a radical, feminist perspective. I do NOT teach "don't walk alone" or "why didn't you fight back?" or "you should have done something differently." Those statements (which I know are used by some instructors of non-feminist, non-empowering, status quo so-called self-defense) can be read as victim blaming.
I agree with the author, it's NOT victim blaming for us to say - until rape culture is entirely dismantled, we need to organize on ALL fronts. Teaching women, girls, and other targeted people how to physically defend themselves in an emergency, how to use awareness to notice when they aren't being respected, and how to get help from bystanders and others is NOT victim blaming. It's realism!
As she writes - there's a paradox here - - perpetrators are 100% *responsible* but that does not mean that intended victims and survivors are 100% POWERLESS.