Posts tagged men
Posts tagged men
The Good Men Project:
Yesterday I bought myself a flashlight. You might not consider this anything out of the ordinary, but for me it was an adventure. I walked into Home Center with two friends and while we were looking for a fan, I saw it, hanging on a hook wrapped in plastic. At that moment I knew it was meant to be mine. True love at first sight.
I was completely enamored with my new purchase. My friends found this highly amusing and proceeded to invent an Improv game based on my flashlight (that’s what happens when your friends are actors). I explained to them that my flashlight, and now my new ally, was a great tool for self-defense: you can shine it in people’s eyes, hit someone with it, or simply use it to light a dark alleyway or parking lot. Why walk in the dark if you can have a flashlight?
One of my friends expressed the opinion that we El Halev women enjoy “beating up men.” It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s not true. We do not enjoy violence. We enjoy feeling empowered and knowing what to do. We enjoy the freedom to make our own decisions about where we go and with whom, who touches our bodies and who doesn’t. Men have those privileges, so why not women? Seriously?
Saying that “fighting violence with violence is wrong,” in my mind is like saying that fighting a war for world peace is wrong. True, but not very practical. Before we can begin to fight violence in a civilized way, we must have a basic protection against it. If we do not survive violence, then who will be left to fight it? We must first learn to defend ourselves against it, and once we have mastered that, we can begin to discuss the possibilities of ending violence worldwide.
What people misunderstand is that we do not glorify ourselves in our ability to hurt. It’s not about women being able to beat up men – it’s about one person of either gender being able to stop another person from hurting them. Women must have a way to defend themselves, because denying them that privilege is cruelty. Scratch that – denying women the privilege to protect themselves is violence in itself.
Many times I have heard women say, “I don’t need to protect myself, I have a man to protect me.” It’s certainly nice to feel like your man will protect you. And often they will. I do feel safe walking down the street beside a boy I trust. But I have learned that people are not always there for you. Men have jobs and serve in the army and run errands. At the end of the day we are independent beings. It is absolutely wonderful when you find another person you trust and love. But just in case he isn’t there to protect you, wouldn’t you rather know you have the ability to defend yourself?
Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and clean the windows. The afternoon worker had evidently forgotten to show up for his shift, so there was a line of cars waiting for service, mine among them. While my brother and I sat in the car, two beggars entered the station: one chareidi (ultra-religious), the other Arab. The Arab beggar approached our car and offered his merchandise to me, asking me to help him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” I said, shaking my head. Though truly, I was not obligated to apologize for it.
He offered me another object. “Take this,” he said.
“I don’t want to,” I replied.
He offered me something else, this time reaching inside the open window of my car.
Is it important to give charity? Yes.
Is it good to give money to beggars? Yes.
Is it okay to reach your hand inside the window of my car after I have already said no twice?
Not in the slightest.
“Take this. Help me.”
“No.” I insisted. He did not remove his hand.
“No,” I repeated, but my words fell on deaf ears. I recalled my IMPACT classes, where the instructor sometimes called out “He’s deaf!” to imply that sometimes, he is, and you should not hesitate to raise your voice. I raised my hand to stop him, looked directly into his eyes and said, louder this time, “No!”
He continued to ignore me.
So I gave it one more try. “I said NO!” I could go on all day and never get bored of saying that.
Under the weight of my shout, he caved and backed away, avoiding my gaze. I drove away wondering why one negative answer had not been enough for him.
“I really would prefer not to have to use IMPACT,” I told my sensei later in the evening. “I mean, shouldn’t everyone just be nice?”
She agreed with me. “The world needs to learn that when a woman says no, she means – no. Right now that is something they do not get.” Then she added, quoting somebody else whose name has slipped my mind, “But hopefully, if they see that there is a consequence to their behavior, maybe next time, they’ll think twice.”
People often mistakenly presume that teaching self-defense to women makes them violent. (These same people don’t seem to have any problem with training soldiers in the military, developing nuclear weapons, or watching violent programs on TV.) This assumption could not be further than the truth. People who study martial arts or self-defense do not seek out opportunities to use their techniques on innocent passersby. In fact, most will say that they would rather never have to use it at all.
Self-defense can not be seen as violence on its own; it is a response to violence which has already been started by someone else.
Besides, self-defense is only one of the aspects of IMPACT. Improving self-confidence, learning to set clear boundaries and effective communication between the sexes are of no less importance than the punching and kicking.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s face it: men and women are different. (*shocked silence*) We need to learn to speak their language as much as they need to learn to understand ours. Fighting about it in court will get us nowhere. But if we take the time to listen and learn from each other, then perhaps we can change the world, one person at a time.
For as long as I’ve been alive, I have believed that women are not as strong as men. As much as I tried to deny it, deep down I believed it. I believed what the world told me: that men can control women, that women are not strong enough to win. I have believed that it is not safe for a woman to be alone. I have believed that women should fear men, because there is always a chance of them raping you.
It’s not really my fault. That’s what people told me. No one ever argued with it. Everyone seemed to take it for granted that men rule the world and women just have to tiptoe around them and try not to aggravate them.
No one ever told me that I’m strong.
People encouraged me, yes. People helped me develop my “strengths” and my talents. People helped me believe in myself and build self confidence. But no one ever said I’m physically strong. I’m a girl, I’m not supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be dainty and weak, to rely on a man so he can control me.
But here’s the truth: I am strong. Yesterday I felt strong, when I fought to protect myself in Impact. I can hit hard. I can shout out loud. I can show confidence and power. But I never believed it until I felt it in my body. Strength can not be taught verbally - it has to be felt. You have to reach for it. You have to want it, and find it, and feel it. It can not be acquired by studying. Even if a million people tell you you’re strong, you won’t believe them until you feel it yourself. It reminds of the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Glinda could have sent Dorothy home on the spot, but she didn’t, because Dorothy had to learn to believe in herself (in other words, the story would not have been interesting if she had been sent home the moment she arrived in Munchkinland, but that’s not the point).
After I have experienced true physical strength, I’m never going to forget it. From this point on I can only get stronger. There is no reason why any man should be able to control me, because I have the option of refusing his control. I can say no. I can hurt him, and I can win. How? By being just as strong as he is. Maybe even stronger. And I’m not big. I’m barely 5.1” and 115 pounds.
So here’s a little message to the women of the world: Take a shot at being physically strong. Try it on, see if you like it. First of all, know that it is possible. Know that there is no reason for you to be weak, helpless, or afraid. If you are, know that you have the choice to be strong and fearless.
If you don’t like it, by all means take your money back.