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Do women simply need to learn how to fight more?

(80 Posts)
QueenoftheRant Mon 01-Dec-14 09:49:57

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30272204

No one's picked this up yet so far as I can see. Hurray for the people concerned, its so good to see women who are willing to defend themselves at need. It also highlights a question I've long been interested in. Personally I had my fair share of fights when young and I would love to see physical self defence training taught to all girls in schools rather than netball. I wonder whether that is the necessary last answer to male aggression. I think of male aggression essentially as gender based bullying and the usual way of stopping bullying is to hit back.

But of course there're two points: firstly a male friend once told me that if women could defend themselves more effectively they would be targeted more as men's restraints towards them would drop.

And secondly do we really want a world where fighting is a way of life?

Any takers?

BuffytheFestiveFeminist Mon 01-Dec-14 10:17:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Mon 01-Dec-14 10:18:20

I have to admit, I prefer to teach my son to fight less.

At his primary, there is one exuberant young lad who has some form for whacking other kids when he gets over-excited. DS is told to back off, loudly ask him to stop, and to tell the teacher. He does this, it works well, DS is still friends with everyone.

One of his friends (a little girl in this case) has been taught to hit back. In contrast, this escalates the fighting and upset, has caused letters home, and general bad feeling between the teachers and this parent (who is otherwise perfectly nice, as is her daughter).

I would prefer that everyone is much less tolerant of violence, rather than we all bundle in however I wouldn't necessarily count self-defence in this, and I think that the difference is that as adults I would hope we could be better judges of when we need to defend ourselves, and when discretion would be the better part of valour!

The tricky part probably comes in when you decide to make the switch for a kid from 'tell the teacher' to 'use your judgement and deal with this appropriately yourself'

basgetti Mon 01-Dec-14 10:23:39

It's great that the two women in the OP were able to fight them off. Sadly also last week in India a 15 year old girl tried to fight off her abusers so they set fire to her and killed her. Not sure what that says other than women are damned regardless because the issue is male brutality rather than women's responses to it.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 01-Dec-14 10:24:46

Well it's the difference between societal and personal to me. Am I pleased these women fought back and stopped their harassers? Of course.

Do I want everyone to fight back? Well that's not really the right question, is it? I want a world without violence, full stop. A world where all our children can walk the streets safely, boys and girls. Young men in particular are at risk of violence from other young men, presumably a large % of them fight back and defend themselves, but it doesn't solve the problem or stop violence, so I don't think fighting back works on a general, societal level, no.

BuffytheFestiveFeminist Mon 01-Dec-14 10:30:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Boomtownsurprise Mon 01-Dec-14 10:48:00

Physical force is never the right answer though is it? Man, woman child or animal. Just doesn't work.

QueenoftheRant Mon 01-Dec-14 12:41:34

Well in principle I agree. Violence is when situations break down, and a world without violence would be lovely. But we haven't got one.

Buffy's point (as usual) is accurate. This is the patriarchal mode of power relations. We're not going to change that... are we?

The escalation problem is also very real, but sometimes at least you can defend without escalation.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Dec-14 12:52:30

"the usual way of stopping bullying is to hit back." - Is it though? It's certainly not what I taught my son, or what I was taught as a child. I don't see many parents on here suggesting it as a mechanism for improving situations.

I agre that more people should understand how to defend themselves - both in physical terms and in terms of being aware of situations, defusing aggression in others, etc. But I don't think women being more aggressive and fighting would reduce the statistics.

BuffytheFestiveFeminist Mon 01-Dec-14 13:10:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

QueenoftheRant Mon 01-Dec-14 13:12:12

Perhaps we can agree there then. I'd certainly settle for situation awareness and any tips on defusing aggression. So can we replace 1 netball session with that then? smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 01-Dec-14 13:14:42

On average we're smaller than men. We are vulnerable to pregnancy and are more likely to be caring for babies or small children which will increase our vulnerability still further. Surely overall we're going to be the losers here?

QueenoftheRant Mon 01-Dec-14 13:15:13

Ooh yes the question of teaching the ds's. I definitely want to do that. For too many others that isn't possible. The most hopeful thing I saw along those lnes was Surestart. Don't know if it did help but it struck me as being along the right lines... we won't know now the funding is cut will we.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 01-Dec-14 13:21:28

My DS9 has very firmly rejected violence and fighting back as the right model for him. He knows that in some ways it will make his life harder, but he believes that being kind is always the best way to behave. I like to think a little bit of this is down to the way he's been brought up <not even a stealthy stealth boast wink>.

He does give me hope though.

prashad Mon 01-Dec-14 15:20:47

Some countries teach martial arts in schools for PE lessons. Japan, for example, teaches Judo. Although both boys and girls are learning them.

I'd be interested in knowing what the rates of violence against women is in those countries compared to others.

Of perhaps even countries that have women doing national service (such as Israel, I think)... and how those women having had military training has affected the stats or not.

grimbletart Mon 01-Dec-14 16:03:50

Of course men should be taught not to use violence (do I hear the sound of pigs overhead?) but until that utopian day dawns girls and women should be helped to know how to defend themselves in situations where defending yourself would not be stupid e.g.one girl outnumbered by several men.

Boomtown says physical force is never the answer, but it certainly seemed to be the answer in that particular situation. It dealt with the problem, the men are (hopefully) in trouble, it has raised even more awareness of what happens to women in India. Win win all round. Unless of course we think the girls should have simply put up with it, thus adding to the perception of male entitlement and women as feeble fair game.

From personal experience (fighting off a mugger on two occasions), from one daughter's personal experience (fighting off an attempted rape by a stranger who entered her hotel room - she broke his arm when she threw him off the balcony), from a second daughter's personal experience, breaking the jaw of a man (stranger) who tried to drag her into his car I dread to think what would have happened had we all not been trained in martial arts.

Caveat: of course, diffuse a situation if possible as a first priority, escape as second priority (or vice-versa depending on the situation), but if the situation calls for it, go for the jugular. Many women are much stronger than they (and others) think, given the right training.

Incidentally, my husband had drilled into him by his mother never ever fight - he told me he did get bullied because he backed off to bullies until the one time he got fed up and decked the bully. He was never bullied again.

Turning the other cheek is fine on many occasions. On others it simply means you get the second cheek slapped.

Not expecting agreement from many on here of course grin

QueenoftheRant Mon 01-Dec-14 16:13:57

Well I have sympathy with that view or I wouldn't have started the thread!

Interesting that you (grimble) also think women are stronger than we're often told we are. I was just thinking about how to respond to the countess upthread. Certainly children make us more vulnerable, as they would a bloke too in any delicate situation, but really we seem to have swallowed the idea that we are set up to be victims right from birth.

We can fight. We may tend to be physically weaker, but we also tend to be more agile, can be faster - and of course in defence have rather more to lose. I also think men tend to rely more on their biceps alone whereas women will use their entire muscle structure to move. We're not automatically going to lose in a fight if it comes down to it. Though I also would recommend trying to avoid it first and then, in line with the law, doing the minimum necessary to get out of the situation!

BuffytheFestiveFeminist Mon 01-Dec-14 16:30:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 01-Dec-14 16:38:41

Oh, sure there are SOME situations where the woman has a chance. But with a reductive thread title like that - 'do women simply need to learn how to fight more?' it sounds like you're saying us learning to fight is THE answer, when it clearly isn't going to work for so many of us for so much of the time that on balance we're better off dealing with the causes.
And maybe children would make blokes equally vulnerable in a delicate situation but realistically it is women who have got the children with them the VAST majority of the time.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 01-Dec-14 16:43:29

But I think we have to be very careful because the other side of the coin is 'she didn't fight hard enough', already a very prevalent rape myth. That's why I don't think teaching that women only need to fight back can be the answer on a societal level - it has to be about demolishing patriarchal systems of violence imo. Although I am always cheered to hear stories of women fighting back, of course I am, but what about when that isn't enough? When you're not big enough, fast enough, strong enough? Just one more way to internalise that it's your fault?

I can't even bear the language used round 'fighting cancer'!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 01-Dec-14 17:26:26

I think you're right, and the more I think about it the more I think that the suggestion that all we need is for women to learn to fight back is in fact total victim blaming and that's why this thread is making me so angry.

It's locating the cause of rape with women not being good enough at fighting which is just such utter, utter bollocks.

What will happen to women if they fight back? Let's forget about the ones who lose for a moment, but the ones who win. Do you think they won't be punished for it? What about the woman who is attacked by a colleague and might be able to prevent her own rape but will lose her career? The woman attacked by an abusive husband who will then take the injuries she caused during self-defence to a biased police force and make out that she's the violent one and cause her to lose her children. The woman who someone tries to rape on a night out who prevents the rape but humiliates the attempted rapist who then spreads rumours about her. There are hundreds and hundreds of reasons why women don't fight back and the fact that they might lose is only one reason.

As long as men have power over women in other ways - social, financial, religious - women having the physical capacity to fight off attackers won't be enough to prevent violent men leveraging their other powers.

prashad Mon 01-Dec-14 17:35:27

Also, as awful as it is to say; I imagine that in some rape situations, any attempt at violent self defence made by the woman would be met with greater violence by the man. Beatings and murders would probably go up. If enough women learned to fight so that it became the norm, then more rapists would carry weapons I imagine.

Catch 22.

scallopsrgreat Mon 01-Dec-14 18:02:16

This is the patriarchal mode of power relations. We're not going to change that... are we? But isn't that what we are working towards, as feminists?

As well as the other points raised about actually increasing the danger to women, it is not inconceivable that women will be blamed for not fighting back, as if that were some kind of expectation. We already see it as a rape myth - she didn't fight back ergo no rape. There is also the risk that retribution for fighting back (not necessarily off the perpetrator, but more off the state) would be greater. I am thinking of cases where women have fought back and killed their rapists.

PuffinsAreFictitious Mon 01-Dec-14 18:09:30

What I found so awful about that news story was that the bus was crowded and no one helped the 2 women. So, despite the big talk of changing attitudes in India, the message is still not getting through.

I agree with Buffy, Outsself is very good on this, about women's strength.

Meeting violence with violence is definitely not ideal, however, it has a time and a place. Women are stronger than they think, we are socialised to be quiet, weak, passive, but we are capable of feats of amazing strength when it's needed, adrenaline helps!

The ideal would be for men to own their violence and stop it, alas, as grimbletart rightly points out, that is a bit Utopian for now. We can all do our bit though, by teaching our DCs that violence is an absolute last resort, and only to be used in order to facilitate escape.

SpeverendRooner Mon 01-Dec-14 18:29:09

It's also likely a case of managing your risk by shifting it onto someone else. Unless the weakest female fighters can match most males, they are still vulnerable. Unless you are willing to condone fairly ruthless ways of removing failed rapists (or successful, but got caught ones) from the population, you can't extend the self-defence to protect those weaker fighters.

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