Women Should Learn How to Defend Themselves

That's what we hear from both well-meaning people and rape apologists on a fairly regular basis during discussions of rape prevention. Women should learn how to defend themselves.

It's a dangerously simplistic exhortation I've taken on before, in "Five Reasons Why 'Teach Women Self-Defense' Isn't a Comprehensive Solution to Rape," reason #4 of which is "Women who deter assaults with violent means are often punished."

Unfortunately, Cara and Renee have written about yet another woman's experience which underlines that point: Charris Bowers, who bit her husband's penis after it was inserted into her mouth without her consent, has been charged with battery. Note that the police do not dispute her assertion that the act happened against her will, but "after the deputy saw Delou Bowers' injuries, he concluded charges were warranted."

In other words, even though she was being raped, she had no right to defend herself using any means necessary. As Cara notes, "a penis has more rights than a woman."

As I've said before, this is where the vastly different cultural standards by which men and women are judged begin to rear their ugly heads. Although MRAs would have us believe that women can kill a man in cold blood and use "he looked at me cross-eyed" as a defense to get off scot-free, reality is ever-so-slightly different, especially for women of color. Even in cases of self-defense against an abusive male partner/spouse—in which upwards of 80% of cases have previous calls to police—battered women who use violent means to defend themselves are being convicted or are accepting pleas at a rate of 75-83% nationwide.

Why do many women fare so poorly in what are clearly cases of self-defense? Well, it might have a little something to do with the cognitive dissonance between what we say we want women to do to take care of themselves, and what we actually want women to do to take care of themselves.

To wit: About a year ago, Jessica posted a picture of a German warning sign noting that men who harass and/or grope women risk a slap in the face—and that people who see men harassing women (along with disproportionately targeted "migrants, homeless people, transgender people, gays") should get involved to stop it. Go on and just guess what the comments were.

If you guessed "totally missing the point about men doing something to warrant getting slapped, in order to shame teh ladiez for celebrating violence against men," give yourself 1,000 points.

As Ginmar noted in regard to this post (emphasis mine):
It's a common technique of whiny dipshits who are usually complaining about uppity women when they're not complaining about how women just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and fight rape: get a gun. To that, I offer this response: men whining about how you can't trust women because they'll actually defend themselves! With slaps! Oh, God, the horror! The sheer horror of it all!

Pay special attention, in the second link, to the guy who says: "Nice poster. Next time a woman annoys me, I'll smack her. Hard. Great message. I don't see what's to like."

Remember, this is giving men what they claim they think is a great idea: women defending themselves.
Exactly right. Ginmar also pinpoints another problem with exhortations to women to utilize self-defense methods, and why we should be suspicious of them, noting that there are men who "make suggestions about women's self defense that they know are useless and hopeless, safe in the knowledge that women will always be resented for any act of self defense." Admonishing women to learn self-defense in a culture where a cheeky sign about women slapping harassers is greeted with outraged fury and charges of misandry is misguided at best and willfully disingenuous at worst.

The whole idea that a woman can use self-defense to deter a man she presumes is intent on raping her is predicated on (as all rape scenarios are) a very specific set of circumstances—that she is capable of fighting back, that she successfully does fight back, and that she hurts the potential rapist only enough to get away, but not so much that he ends up in the hospital (or morgue), lest she face charges, and that all of this happens in front of witnesses who will corroborate her story, just in case. And even then, as the Jersey 4 case illustrates, that still doesn't mean she won't be convicted.

And again I note that self-defense doesn't seem like quite the cure-all it is repeatedly suggested to be.

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