You can’t make it through childhood without consuming images of girls as the weaker sex and fairy tales of girls as princesses and boys as knights in shining armor. As girls we are taught to wait for someone stronger, someone with a Y chromosome, to save us. Even as media has progressed, these misleading images continue to dominate our entertainment landscape and distort young minds. I was lucky to have a strong independent, take no BS mom and other strong female role models who encouraged me to be independent. Even so the damage had been done. Peer pressure to be ‘girly’ and mass media continued to counteract their words. From girlhood to adulthood I wrongly believed that I couldn’t save myself. For so long I waited, hopefully hopeless in a fearful state. Nobody ever came to save me. Years after the physical violence ended, mentally I was still waiting for a hero to help me. Eventually the former fiery girl inside of me began to reemerge and hesitantly began dissecting the messages I had been consuming. I learned that the only one who could save me was me.
I often get asked why or how I became a self-defense instructor and most people expect me to answer that I’m a student of martial arts, but that’s not my story. I trained to become a certified instructor from an ongoing frustration that oppression and violence against women was rampant. After years of shrinking away from violence in my youth and allowing much of my adult life to be controlled by fear an unexpected job changed my direction and gave me hope. I found a job at a center helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Both of those experiences planted the seeds of working in prevention. Teaching women to be stronger has now become my purpose. I finally shed the image of a princess in waiting.
Since 2012 I’ve been teaching self-defense to women and girls. Initially I charged a fee for participants, but then I started teaching free classes to a local LGBTQ center and that experience led me to make all my classes free. My reasoning to keep it free is so that nobody feels like they can’t afford to learn one of the most valuable skills that ALL women need to learn. I’m not a fan of violence and wish it didn’t exist, but until the day when violence against women is no longer so rampant teaching others will be my gift to the world.
Free however doesn’t cover the costs of padding, props, materials, transportation, ongoing training and outreach for my classes so last month I became a Damsel In Defense representative. Through this company I can earn money to cover costs by selling personal safety products. I can now show women how to use stun guns, pepper spray and personal alarms along with my free self-defense classes. There will be situations where women are unable to fight off an attacker so spraying their eyes with pepper or sounding a loud alarm to get help is necessary.
While there is a valid argument that encouraging women to arm themselves in case of an attack is a form of victim blame, “If only you had pepper spray you could have escaped”; the sad fact is that violence against women is a REAL problem. It hasn’t gone away and it is a global epidemic. Victim blame is not at all my intention, I feel for anyone who has been attacked and know from personal experience the dangerous path where victim blame leads. I know that violence is not the victims fault. I always tell participants in my class that violence is a choice, a terrible choice made out of free will. It is never the victims fault. I sell these products and teach self-defense out of a deep longing for women to be safer, to actually BE stronger. Part of that is feeling safe against the statistics that 1 in 5 women (and 1 in 7 men) have been victims of domestic violence. Violence against women, violence in general, is a serious problem and won’t be going away anytime soon.
So what do you think? Are you going to be a princess waiting for a knight in shining armor or become your own?
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