Media Perceptions of Self-Protection: The Newsroom

I’m currently playing catch up on a several different TV shows, one of which is The Newsroom (the HBO/Aaron Sorkin show about a TV Newroom ala CNN/MSNBC).  A few of my friends are really into it and I’ve watched about four episodes so far.  I haven’t really been loving it as much, but I’m determined to stick with it a few more episodes before forming a final opinion.

I recently caught Episode Four entitled “I’ll Try to Fix You”, which centers around the issue of gun control.  Now, I’m not a big fan of guns.  I’ve learned to shoot various types and I’ve learned how to defend myself against one just as all GFB speakers have, but one particular scene in this episode made me sit up and go “what?!?!”

Will (the lead character played by Jeff Daniels) is out on a date with Carrie (Kathryn Hahn).  They have made their way back to his place for a little post-date fun when she mentions that she has some pot in her purse.  She tells him to grab it out of the front pocket while she goes to slip into something more comfortable.  When he opens her purse, there is a little pearl-handled pistol staring up at him.

Will is now visibly disappointed and calls Carrie to him like a father disciplining a naughty child.  While chastising to her, he disarms the gun and tosses the bullets into her purse.  She grabs the now harmless weapon from him and says something along the lines of “you have your opinion, but if someone confronts me, I’m going to be able to protect myself”.  His response?  “That’s ridiculous because we know that in reality this is what would happen…” then he reaches up and knocks the gun out of her hand.  He catches it like an expert and points it back at her.

Now all that dialogue is paraphrased, but when I heard what he said to her, I actually said outloud, “No!  That is not statistically accurate!”

As we’ve been revamping the Girls Fight Back website and preparing to launch our Fall 2012 tour, Erin, Megan, Bree, the rest of the gang, and I have been discussing how difficult it can be to market the idea of self-protection or self-defense.  And part of that difficulty comes from the fact that a LOT of people simply don’t believe that it works.  They just don’t believe someone can successfully fight back against an attacker.   Particularly that a woman can fight back against a male attacker.

During these discussions, Erin helpfully pointed us towards the work of a man named Dr. Gary Kleck. Dr. Kleck has dedicated most of his career to investigating violent incidents, and measuring how victims’ reactions to the assault affect the end result.   Now you can read the entire 77-page study paper he released if you want, but here’s the CliffNotes version as Erin gave it to me before I was able to read the document myself:

-Research shows that self-protection (SP) is very effective in preventing the completion of a rape.

-SP efforts, both forceful and non-forceful, reduce the odds of an attack ending in rape.

-SP is effective, whether the offender is a boyfriend or a stranger.

-SP is effective, even if he is drunk or drugged.

-SP is effective, even against multiple attackers.

-SP is effective, even in attacks happening at home, or at night.

-Injuries, especially serious ones, are rare in situations where people are defending themselves.

-If you fight back, you are statistically NOT more likely to get hurt (as opposed to non-resistance).

-It’s quite the opposite…you are LESS LIKELY to get hurt if you fight back.

-Conclusion: Fighting back reduces the risk of the rape, and does not increase your risk of injury!

Now, you may be asking “what happens when you add guns into the mix?”  Well, the US Department of Justice released this little fun fact in 2002.

*A fifth of all victims defending themselves with a firearm suffered an injury, compared to almost half of those who defended themselves with weapons other than a firearm or who had no weapon.

Now, I’m not trying to encourage you to run out and buy a gun.  I don’t own one and I don’t ever intend to.  All I’m trying to point out is that SELF-PROTECTION WORKS!  We have to stop buying into the myth that we as women can’t protect ourselves.  Yes, we have to be knowledgeable and that’s why GFB always recommends training whether that be standard self-defense training or weapons training, but we have power!  And choosing to use that power in violent situations DOES make a difference.

Keep tuning into the blog for success stories about women using their power (including a story of my own) and more insights from popular media (My Little Pony – what!?!?!).

8 Comments

  1. True, they always portray the man as being as competent as possible and the women as incompetent as possible. Your story is that all over again. In that scene, he’s fast and coordinated, and she’s naive and weak. And does it irritate anyone else when the male character feels entitled to call out the female character as if he’s the fatherly adult and she’s the child?

    The thing that probably irks me the most onscreen is the constant assumption that men know more about women’s self-defense than women do. These are the same men who deny the daily realities of women’s lives, but they’re going to lecture the women on how (or how not) to protect themselves. They desperately need female head writers and female bosses. They’re totally out of touch.

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  2. Preach it, Lyra!

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  3. Great article. I think it’s absolutely essential that everyone (men and women) is capable of protecting themselves, either via martial arts or other means such as weapons. No matter what path you choose, though, it’s important that you have training in the self-protection method of your choice. Trying to use a gun or other weapon without proper training is a recipe for failure at best and serious injury or death at worst.

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  4. Thanks, Jim. I agree 100%!

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  5. I agree with Lyra. I’m so glad other people are noticing the demeaning treatment of women regarding this issue, in TV shows and on the web. I wish I had a dollar for every website I’ve seen, allegedly promoting self defense for women, that instead features men telling women what to do – and of course promoting themselves heavily in the process.

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  6. We’d all be RICH, Larry! But seriously, I’m grateful for the good guys that are out there helping women learn to be their own best protectors. I personally feel that the best instructors are those who make their students feel like an equal.

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  7. I’ve only seen a few episodes myself but, just like your friends, my Dish coworkers can’t stop raving about the show! I haven’t seen the episode you’ve featured in the article but your review has certainly gotten me intrigued. I’m glad I read this ahead of time so I can look out for all the issues you’ve highlighted. I’ll have to look through my DVR and catch up on this episode ASAP! Even though it did air a while ago, I know it’s still tucked away somewhere, since I have the Hopper DVR with so much recording space that nothing gets deleted. Thanks for the insights!

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  8. Come back and let me know what you think, Amanda!

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