A few years ago, I took a free women’s self-defense class at a local martial arts studio. The instructor’s first advice to us was, “Never go anywhere alone.”
Don’t go for a run alone. Don’t go to the grocery store alone. Don’t even walk to or from your car in broad daylight alone.
He actually told us that! He actually told a room full of women never to go anywhere alone! And he MEANT it!
When I read through some of the #YesAllWomen tweets, this was one personal-experience incident that came to mind for me. Sure, I’ve been catcalled more times than I can count. I’ve been followed while running twice. I’ve been made to feel unsafe by men, strangers and non-strangers alike, and that’s bullshit.
But what this instructor told us was a different kind of bullshit. His message was, “You should feel unsafe, always. You should have a less-rich experience of life, just because someone could be lurking out there, waiting to hurt you. It’s better to hide away in your home where it’s safe* than to venture out into the big, scary world all by yourself.”
(*My most alarming experience of this nature happened inside the place I was living at the time, so apparently I shouldn’t have even been there alone.)
I expected this class to be empowering. I expected to be told, “Here are some practical ways to kick someone’s ass if you ever need to defend yourself.” Instead, I was told, “Step one: Live in fear. If that doesn’t work, well, here are some defensive moves. But they aren’t nearly as effective as living in fear.”
That’s not fair.
Yes, bad things can and do happen to women at the hands of men. But teaching women to be constantly fearful is not the answer.