"I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself."
--Susan B. Anthony, 1871
Amen sister. My head is nodding feverishly. Ms. Anthony's words stir holy fire in my heart. If I was an Evangelist preaching to women, my sermon might begin: Behold the power and saving graces of your fierce lower selves. In other words, ladies, herein lies the power to save our own pretty asses!
Before I gush about morphing arms and legs into spears and battering rams, and how to stick it to a rapist, and where I get off being so fresh, let me ask: What if instead of being fearful, you learned how to be fearsome? What if instead of feeling endangered, you knew that you too could be a dangerous creature? And what if your newfound strength could help rescue the world?
Let me introduce myself -- and my spanking new blog. My beloved trade name is Dr. Ruthless. A 26-year veteran trainer of practical, no-nonsense self defense, I have earned a reputation for teaching women how to call upon their primal nature and tap into their killer instinct, when all else fails, to effectively fight back. When I say fight, I mean, well ... like a junkyard bitch.
I'm also a woman who knows what it's like to be scared to death. In 1985, I had a terrifying home alone encounter with a knife-wielding would-be rapist, which I foiled with war cries that sent him fleeing. This experience propelled me further down the martial arts path, into the down and dirty methods that would become me. At the core of my teaching lies this knowledge -- consider it tip number one: When escape is not an immediate option and the only way out is through, you cannot just defend -- you must counterattack.
And oops, did I mention I'm five feet tall on a good hair day?
Nearly 140 years after Ms. Anthony's declaration -- as violence against women continues to plague our world -- her words retain a pressing urgency. For sure, we've advanced. Today's women can negotiate multimillion dollar deals, become fighter pilots and lead basketball teams to win WNBA championships. But put a woman in a face-to-face encounter with a determined sexual assailant (or worse) and she may be clueless about what to do. "How is it," in the words of feminist author Martha McCoughey, "that so many women still don't know how to hit?"
I am sure that some part of you does, yet for millions of women this instinct and capacity (our primal warrior spirit) lies dormant, buried beneath fear and myths of incompetence, bound by the artificial constructs of femininity, by conditioning of one kind or another and by internalized restraint.
Put another way, this power got lost or drained somewhere between the cave and the condo.
It's a dangerous disconnect. Strategies aside, my greatest spiritual task then is to help women reconnect to this fierce female force and to liberate fire from fear.
And let's face it -- the fear of violence or sexual attack is every woman's fear, often coming to the fore when a woman senses danger or feels that chill. We're all familiar with gruesome reports that make headline news: the NYC woman who was beaten to a pulp in a bathroom stall for rebuffing a man's request to dance; stories preceded by these heart-sinking words -- she was last seen at -- not to mention reports of domestic violence, sexual abuses and atrocities heaped upon women and girls all over the world, beamed to us from afar -- and not so far.
Not all women's brushes with fear or danger are dramatic. But they leave tracks in the female psyche -- which take a toll.
The gig is up! It's time for a radical shift, a bold new vision of strength and capacity for 21st century women. I propose that instead of shunning aggression, you must view it as a resource and learn to wield its tools. No more outsourcing your protection to husbands, boyfriends, fathers, men in khaki or blue uniforms -- nor viewing it as something for the fierce few. It's time to bring this bad girl home!
As a culture, let's ditch last century's lunatic New Age notion that we women folk are all compassionate, do-no-harmers; that flow and force are not mutually compatible. (I'm a worker for peace; you want me to slam what?) To safely navigate our world and continue making strides, we peace-loving gals need to be packing primal power and heart, armed with know how to physically explode into a "meat target" and the will to bring it in a heartbeat.
I don't suggest that learning self defense is the solution to violence against women -- of course not; such ignorance makes my lip curl -- or that it's always effective or the best option. But what I am saying is this: when we discourage women from learning violent self protection, we inadvertently encourage them to submit to victimization and to suffer its traumatic aftermath.
Finally, let me share -- lest anyone think I'm a God-forbid, radical -- that as a lapsed Buddhist and former psychotherapist, I believe in the curative power of empathy and compassion. I feel deeply connected to all living things. But talk and empathy aren't always saving graces. In my view, the prayerful and primitive, our higher and baser selves are not opposites, but complementary energies.
I know this Beast Girl part of myself intimately -- as I believe all women should. It is ancient, as old as the womb itself, born in the primordial fires of love, fury and survival instinct. With more to come, let me just say, this isn't just my story or truth. It's your story, too.
Looking forward, I shall liken this blog to an online Savage Beauty Parlor -- a place where women can be coiffed in the Art of War, get a free survival makeover and celebrate the smashing power of their hips! I'll also be treating you to success stories of everyday women who are doing it for themselves, kicking ass and taking names, and to female warriors and deadly dames from all over the world who embody and ennoble this red hot fusion of fierce and female. (Check out India's Pink Vigilantes.)
Be warned: I'm not one to sugarcoat the harsh realities of being attacked or what it takes to fend off larger, stronger creatures, so please understand that fighting back is a grubby, gritty, affair. It's inherently dangerous. It takes raw courage and a warrior's mindset. It means harnessing ungodly terror, tapping the utility of ire; dishing out punishing blows and sucking up pain.
Like I said, self defense is for females.
This brings us to lesson number one. It is the Mother of all Truths, the greatest nugget of wisdom I could impart. So mainline this, receive it in full. Burn it into your consciousness. Ready?
Regardless of technique, you are the weapon. The delivery system. Everything else is a tool, a force multiplier.
To learn more about becoming a self-defending dame, please watch for my further blogs. I'll be dishing out goods: from practical tips and tools to working the inner life to how to grow a warrior's heart. Welcome to my world! It's your world too!