Posts tagged women
Posts tagged women
The Good Men Project:
Have you ever heard of Muslims and Jews in the Middle East joining hands to battle violence against women? Stay tuned. You’re about to get an earful.
I volunteer as an assistant in a self-defense program for women called IMPACT. The course we finished yesterday was for a group of Muslim women in East Jerusalem. Since none of the team spoke fluent Arabic, we used a translator most of the time, but we communicated pretty well even without a common language.
After the third session, one of the women shared this story.
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.
My new philosophy on life: Find the things that help you get high, then stay high all the time.
I am most certainly not speaking of substances. I’m talking about things you feel passionate about, things that make you tremble in awe, feel inspired, and go to sleep smiling. (Yeah, now we’re convinced. That doesn’t sound like drugs at all.)
Today was the last day of the teen IMPACT course here at El Halev. In contrast with the past three days where I felt emotionally and physically drained after each class, tonight I feel ecstatic.
I am bursting with pride in eleven amazing and powerful girls who finished this week’s course. This may sound strange, but I feel safer knowing we just put more strong girls out into the world.
It is so important that we understand about rape and sexual harassment. IMPACT is not about how to punch - it’s about learning that we have the right and the ability to fight back. If you want to learn how to punch, there are a million other ways you can do that (i.e. boxing, karate, taekwondo, get younger siblings, etc.). But nothing guarantees that you will punch back, in the heat of the moment, when something intimidating crosses your path. With IMPACT up my sleeve, I feel absolutely sure that I would fight. It’s in my body, in my blood. An instinct, as natural as swallowing.
P.S. The title of the post was inspired by the t-shirt the guest mugger wore this morning. It was bright purple. 20 points to Gryffindor.
(Sigh. I’ll never stop blogging about IMPACT.)
Yesterday I started a new course as an assistant. The course is for young teens, ages 12-15. This is my first teen course, and it is different from the women’s course.
*For those who are unfamiliar with IMPACT - it is a self-defense course for women, specially designed for rape prevention.
The girls amaze me, one by one, with the amount of courage they demosntrate on the mats. We present them with inconceivable challenges. We ask them to willingly turn their backs and allow an armored mugger to grab them from behind. Furthermore, we ask them to fight back when he does. And they do. Every one of them. They whine and they screech as teenage girls should, but they keep fighting until their attacker is out cold. And they don’t give up. It is inspiring and empowering to know that we have girls like that among us.
I gave up a lot to be in this course - mainly my sanity, because it means doing four thirteen-hour days in a row this week. I have considered dropping out of the course several times, but now that we’re half way done, I feel a responsibility to finish what I’ve started. In the spirit of these incredible girls, to abandon them on the path to strength would be to spit in their faces. I want to be there for them, to be there with them when they reach that moment when they feel their own power.
Many dilemmas arise when teaching self defense to teenage girls. The main question, especially when dealing with 12-year-olds fresh out of childhood, is how much material to give over this early on. On the one hand, we have a responsibility to prepare them for what’s out there. On the other hand, we have to tread carefully so we do not blur the line between sexuality - which is a stranger to many of them - and rape. Girls at age twelve are mainly trying to understand what’s going on with their own body parts. We can not discuss the details of a rape scene with someone who is not even faimiliar with the anatomy, and it is not fair to try. So in a way, teen courses are more challenging that adult courses. Although the material is less disturbing, the questions of the students are much more difficult to answer. During today’s class, I was asked, “But who would rape a twelve-year-old?”
Naturally, my association was a Harry Potter reference.
Harry Potter: And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?
Dolores Umbridge: There is nothing out there, dear! Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?
Harry Potter: I don’t know, maybe, Lord Voldemort!
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Because the answer to the girls’ question is, in fact, Lord Voldemort. He is the symbol of evil in the world - the reminder that there are terrible things out there which we must not ignore. It is easier to see the good in everyone than to confront the hatred in people’s hearts. It is our responsibility to give our children the knowledge that they may encounter evil, and in turn, the ability to protect themselves against it. Denying Lord Voldemort’s existence might make them happier for a year or two, but in the long run, we would be better off announcing to the world that he is back, that he has power, and to remind ourselves that we are a worthy match for him.
There’s this person who won’t leave me the fuck alone.
Excuse the expression.
We used to be friends. Around six months ago we had a long conversation which made me cry so much I used up half a roll of toilet paper and got burn marks under my eyes. He said a few completely inapropriate things to me, pushed me to talk about things I didn’t want to, and refused to listen when I asked him to stop. I was so hurt, it took me ages to fall asleep that night because I was in physical pain. I wasn’t very good at coping with stress back then. Naturally, he and I didn’t speak for a while.
I know better now. Now I’m familiar with the “Sign Out” button. =)
Anyway, we didn’t speak for several months. Around March he sent me an apologetic email, explaining that he thought about things and he was sorry and would like to be friends again.
I didn’t answer.
About a month later he started texting me. I ignored him for a while, then texted him back telling him to stop texting me. Each time I ask him to stop contacting me, he plays this card:
“If you would take a minute to consider someone else’s feelings besides your own…”
Ok. I know I’m a woman and should be compassionate and open minded and understanding, blah blah blah. In fact, I usually am. But in this case, I fail to see why I have to consider someone else’s feelings.
Someone hurt me, really badly. I don’t want to interact with that person. Can’t people just accept that without trying to make me into the bad guy? Can people stop saying I’m overreacting?
I do NOT owe this person anything. Yes, maybe it’s sad to burn a bridge. But what the hell? It’s my decision, and I’m sticking to it. And people should stop trying to guilt trip me into being friends with someone who is capable of hurting me so deeply if I don’t want to. I said no and I mean it. I’m serious about this “no.” I actually truly mean it.
Like the undertow, tugging stealthily at my feet, tempting me to go deeper and deeper until it is too late and I am swallowed by the ocean, the past calls to me in the dead of night. It Whispers to me that I would be happier if only I could have what is familiar, what I have already taken the time to build and invest in, because it is easier to bring back what is already made than to build new friendships from scratch. The demons of the night taunt and needle me, proclaiming that no boy or man will ever be as kind and patient as he was, that I will never find another person who can satisfy me. They laugh as people I once cared for and loved distance themselves from me without leaving a trace, tell me I will never find new people because I will not have the courage to look for them. They tell me that I can’t, which finally brings me to my senses,
because I know for a fact that there is nothing a woman can’t do.
Don’t let them fool you.
In a poll conducted by Fitness magazine, 80 percent of women said they think other women are scrutinizing them in their swimwear. (Who are these 20 percent who don’t think they’re being scrutinized, I would like to know?) And 89 percent said other girls are their harshest critics at…
“hearken well and spread my story….”