Feminists vs. Self-Defensers: Let’s Talk About It

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Feminists vs. Self-Defensers: Let’s Talk About It



There is an article out in the news right now about 2 women who were robbed at gunpoint in shopping centers in Austin.  I heard about it first from one of our students who works at the HEB where one of the robberies occured.  He tells me that the employees, especially the women, are freaked out and pretty nervous about going to and from work now.

This same student also told me about one of his colleagues at work who was feeling creeped out by some D-bag who was harassing her at the store.  She had asked our student to walk her to her car because she didn’t feel safe alone.  He gave her a Lions Krav Maga referral card (yay!), and she got into her car safely to drive home.

Now, there is something that is sticking in my craw about all of this.  As I see the story of the parking lot robberies pop up on the pages of various self-defense organizations with advice on how women can protect themselves (important!), I can already hear the feminist push-back:

Don’t blame the victim!  Don’t focus on teaching women to protect themselves, focus on teaching men not to attack women!  

Excellent point, feminists!

But then I can predict what the self-defensers will say back:

But this is reality!  Women have to prepare themselves for the real world until such a time when men stop attacking women.  

Also, very valid point.

As a feminist as well as a lover & strong believer in women’s self-defense, I do wish we would all get along.  But if we are going to get along, then I think we are going about this thing all wrong.

You see, there is this whole piece of women’s self-defense training that no one really brings up during this discussion.  This is the part of women’s self-defense that literally has nothing to do with stopping someone from assaulting you.

I mean that.  Seriously.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with preventing or lessening any specific attack.

Those of us feministy ladies who have been training in Krav Maga for a good while now know that we are not thinking about actually preventing an attack every minute that we are in class. That may be what got us in there to begin with, but that’s not the main thing that keeps us there.

The thing that keeps ME going is the knowledge that women training in the combative arts with men actually subverts rape culture.  When women train Krav Maga in a co-ed environment, we offering proof that so many lessons that we are all taught about gender roles are utter bullshit.

We’re given subtle messages our whole lives about the supposedly innate abilities of women and men:

Women can’t throw a punch, men can.

If a woman gets in a fight with a man, she will lose. 

Men have more upper body strength than women.  

These are HUGE generalizations, and yet we believe them!  Would we believe them if the generalization was more explicit?

All women cannot throw a punch. All men can. 

If any woman on Earth gets into a fight with any man on Earth, the woman always will lose.

All men have more upper body strength than all women. 

When we put it that way, we can at least start to see a little bullshit creeping up around the edges.

hey look

But we all assume that we likely fall into the stereotype.  When it comes to us ladies, we tend to think:

I cannot throw a punch because I’m a woman. 

If I get into a fight with a man, I’ll lose because I’m a woman. 

Men have more upper body strength than me. 

Or, for men, the inverse . . .

I can totally throw a punch! I’m a guy!

I would never hit a woman even in training. I would probably hurt her or even knock her out!

Of course I’d win in a fight against a woman. I’m just naturally stronger because I’m a dude. 

Here’s another brief story just to prove how insidious these messages are.  Another one of our students, a personal trainer and a woman, said two things on her first day of class that just . . .

I don’t even have words . . .

It made my very soul embody this:


This is what she told me:

  1. My dad always told me I had a terrible punch.
  2. I wanted to take Krav Maga because I realized that no matter how good of shape I’m in, I would never win against a man.

I could’ve stopped class and gone into my feminist rant about how that’s total bullshit and how those are just messages to keep the woman down, but what would that have done besides make everyone feel weird and uncomfortable?

The wonderful thing about Krav Maga training is that I didn’t have to say a word.  Every single point that I ever could have made in my feminist rant will be taught to her by her own body as she trains.

She’ll learn that she has a knockout punch by punching a focus mitt and seeing her partner having to shake out his arm because the impact threw his shoulder back so hard.

She’ll learn it when, in a couple months, a new guy walks into class that she knows she could easily take him.  She’ll learn after a couple of years that she can take any sized man that walks in as a beginner.

I don’t have to make any of those points to her, because she’ll make them herself.  By training, she will embody those lessons.

And here’s the part that is the most awesomest of all the awesomest awesome things . . . this is what gets me giddy about Krav Maga . . .

She’ll teach those points to every single man that she partners with.







They will never be able to unsee a little bitty woman raining punches down on them during a ground and pound drill.

They will never be able to unfeel her punch that threw their whole shoulder and arm back when they were holding pads for her.

The more women who train doesn’t just mean that more rapists will get kicked in the balls when they try to assault someone (that’s an added bonus) – it means that more women AND men will learn about women’s physical strength, about their power, about their autonomy.

Men who train with women will never be able to unlearn the lesson that our culture was wrong; a woman’s body is in fact HERS and hers alone, and she CAN use it to unleash hell if you don’t respect that fact.

The woman who trains gets to learn that incredibly powerful lesson, too.

And that, my friends, is pretty damned special.

THAT is how we dismantle rape culture.


. . . So, back to the news of the man who robbed two women at gunpoint . . .

Yes, I hope more women come and train and learn the skills to save their own life and the lives of their family members.

But, I want more than that too.

I want women to not feel compelled to ask a man to walk them to their cars at night.

I don’t want women’s sense of safety to rely on the goodwill of men.

I want ALL the people to come and learn Krav Maga so that no woman believes that some dude will be better able to protect her than she is able to protect herself just because he’s a man . . .

so that men quit feeling like they somehow have some God-given power to defend little ol’ women against anyone bent to do harm . . .

and so that those who are considering doing harm stop preying specifically on women because they believe in the nonsense that women will be easier victims . . .

and finally so that women learn that those cultural messages about women’s inherent weakness and men’s inherent strength are bullshit meant to make us lose the fight mentally before we ever even start to fight back physically.


That is what I wish we talked about when we talked about women’s self-defense, because women’s self-defense can literally change the whole damn world.


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