Monday, January 25, 2016

Women's self defense and rape prevention: 1975 vs. 2016

I eat lunch at a co-op a couple of times a week, where there is a book exchange shelf sponsored by the local library. There I stumbled upon this:

As you know, I think women's self defense is awesome. I took one look at the 70's pants and was immediately curious. How have the concepts of women's self defense changed over the past 40+ years?

I began reading with a look how far we've come attitude. And, yes, I do believe that the Western world is a better and safer place for women now than it was in 1975, when the book was written. The clothing on the cover is certainly dated. But I wondered - how far removed is the advice in the book from what we get today?

Women today have access to a lot of resources. There are plenty of legitimate sources of self defense to choose from, such as the Gracie Jiu Jitsu school where I train. But there is also plenty of outdated, bogus, victim-blaming, or just plain bad self defense advice still circulating.

So let's play a little game. For each of the pairs below, one is from the above 1975 book and one is from a source from the last 10 years. There is some sound advice mixed in with some not-so-sound advice. Can you tell which quote from each pair is from the modern era? The answer key is at the bottom.

1. On safety for single woman
A) "Single women should never place their full name on a mailbox - your first and middle initial may be used, not 'Miss,' 'Ms' or 'Mrs'."
B) "Single women, because they are often obligated only to care for themselves, are able to experience being frivolous and free. This is all part of being an independent female and should not be impaired by well-meaning friends and relatives who are so archaic as to believe that a woman without the company of a man should not venture out into the streets alone. The key to a single woman's safety is not a man but common sense."    

2. On taking responsibility for preventing rape 
A) "Police are constantly astounded by the stupidity of us women. They claim that the majority of attacks on women could by remedied by 'common sense'."
B) "Use the Buddy System! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you at all times."

3. On studying self defense
A)  "Eliminating dangers at home, at work, on the street, and in your car, and recognizing and avoiding these dangers by running, talking and screaming are the first two strategies employed in women's self defense. The only time you will ever use the third strategy, fighting, is when your life or health is in danger."  
B)  "Practice self-defense. Knowing in advance how you would respond to a physical threat greatly increases your chances of escape. Anyone can learn self-defense and classes are often available free or at a low cost through schools and community context."

4. On dress and hairstyle
A) "The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets."
B) "When you go on a date, wear appropriate clothing. Wearing a super short skit with a man who you hardly know may be too inviting for him. A pantsuit is a wiser alternative."

5. On using bodily fluids as a weapon
A) "Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating. Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacker to leave you alone."
B) "Pretending you are ill is a clever tactic toward diverting his interests. Developing menstrual cramps (which men don't really understand anyway!) and nausea should ward him off. If he's a persistent devil, you could even resort to simulating a coughing or vomiting spell." 

6. On using your teeth
A) "...if he picks you up and begins carrying you away, you could bite off his ear. Don't just nibble on it - he may get the wrong impression!"
B) "Without a doubt, using your teeth can be a formidable weapon, something a self-defense course or self-defense instructor may forget to include. Nothing wrong at all with traditional self-defense methods like punches, kicks, ground-defenses and such. Just don't forget that clawing, biting and piercing screams may be just as effective!"

7. On posting vacation plans
A) "There may be a better way to say 'Rob me, please' than posting something along the lines of: 'Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!' on [a social networking site]. But it's hard to think of one."
B) "Don't announce that you are going away on the social page of the newspaper. This may undo all the careful precautions you have taken to fool potential burglars."

8. On dealing with flashers 
A) "Should you see an exhibitionist or a 'weenie wagger'...your wisest tactic is to ignore the man and call the police. Do not laugh at him or make demeaning comments - 'Sorry, sir, but I haven't time to deal with your shortcomings'."
B) "If confronted by a flasher, try to leave the situation as quickly and calmly as possible, without giving him the reaction he seeks. Keep moving - away. If you react, give him an exaggerated eye roll, give him an expression or snort of disgust, or call him a loser, then tell him you are calling 911. Then call 911 as soon as possible."

9. On hitchhiking
A) "Many experts believe that rape is increasing as a direct result of female hitchhikers."
B) "Hitchhiking can be a good way to improve your conversation skills. Often drivers pick up hikers to have some conversation on an otherwise long and lonely trip." 

10. On meeting men in bars
A) "A woman who goes to a bar, meets a man, and goes home with him to his apartment is putting herself in jeopardy. The man could rape, rob, and murder her  - all because of her carelessness." 
B) "Watch the bartender as he or she pours your drink. To be extra safe, drink wine instead of a cocktail. Mixed drinks take longer to make. You could be easily distracted and miss the bartender (who could be working with the predator) or someone else slipping something into your drink."

11. On changing your mind about sex
A) "It doesn’t matter if your partner thinks you meant yes, or if you’ve already started having sex – you have the right to change your mind about participating in sexual activity at any time. No one has the right to control your body but you."
B) "A woman who sexually excites a man and then stops him, claiming she's 'not that kind of girl' deserves to be raped and sometimes is."

12. On handling dangerous children
A) "If you are confronted by a group of small children who harass you verbally, simply ignore them. If that fails, try to talk to them in an authoritative manner to find out what they want. If you feel that you are really in danger, it is best to comply with their demands. If you cannot comply, flail your arms and legs and scream karate cries. Lead them to believe you are a black-belt wonderwoman."
B) I could not find a modern counterpoint to this piece of advice, but it was too priceless not to include. 

Here are the answers for the rest of the pairs. The quotes from the modern era are:
1. A: 2006 
2. B: 2013 
3. B: 2015
4. A: 2013  
5. A:  2013 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Department of Public Safely 
6. B: 2011  
7. A: 2010 
8. B: 2015 
9. B: 2016 
10. B: 2013  
11. A: 2015   

Women's self defense concepts and attitudes have come a long way, but clearly there is room for improvement. Just remember, when in doubt, flail about, scream karate cries, and act like a black-belt wonderwoman.