The other night, I began attending a women’s self-defense class in DC, given by a great outfit named Defend Yourself. I registered for this class through WEAVE (Women Empowered Against Violence), where I’ve been getting assistance. I am so glad I’m doing this!
The women in the class were all having a great time learning to smash an attacker’s balls with our knees while shouting “NO!” We were all really getting into it; you could tell how each woman had enough reasons in her life to make that a satisfyingly cathartic exercise. It went really well. There was one Arab woman in the class; I really really felt glad to see an Arab sister learning this. Lauren, the instructor, is a veteran of the original Take Back the Night movement in the '70s. She was wearing a “Stop Rape” t-shirt which on the front had a diagram of a man’s body and marked in red were all the places to hit him where it hurts the most. On the back was a statement that 2 out of 3 rape attacks on women were stopped by the women resisting. Attackers and harassers expect us to be passive and not resist. When we do resist, they’re caught off guard and can’t deal with that.
It was all about how to handle harassment and physical attacks. We practiced going at each other and saying “STOP” “BACK OFF” “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME” etc. How to be in control of the situation. How to shout in the right tone of voice, in a commanding steady pitch and not shrieking. I have a definite tendency to shriek, so I learned not to when being attacked. We learned various sorts of ways to hit and places to hit where it hurts. How to jab fingers into eyes, how to break a nose, how to slam the side of someone’s head one-two with elbows going both ways, how to stomp on toes, and–the unanimous popular favorite–knee into the balls. One woman pointed out how men are automatically guarding their balls all the time, so that can’t be the first hit-- rather, hit them in the face first and their hands will go up there, then go for the balls, and do it a bit sideways so that you won’t be hit by their heads moving forward when they crumple. How to stand, how to call for help, how to run after disabling the attacker, how to be assertive and say “NO.”
I feel so much more confident having done this. I will feel safer on the street now. I want all women to learn these skills. The proportion of women who get harassed is something like 98%, I read that on Feministing. This class was seriously hands on, we were hitting hard. The instructor brought a large padded shield so we could really hit, not just pretend.
I just wanted to express how deeply delighted I feel to see women helping women to defend ourselves. It was a beautiful, energizing, even spiritual experience.