The New Girls Fight Back!
There are many purposes for our system of student programming and campus activities, dollars that all students pay in their tuitions that are meant to entertain yes, but even more importantly, to enlighten. What’s really fortunate is when a program can do both and even still take it a step further. We’re talking about a program that can not only give your students something to do, but it can teach them what to do, and make your campus and surrounding community a safer place.
Girls Fight Back! was founded by Erin Weed in 2001, after she was inspired to take other women on the same journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment she had herself taken after the violent death of a close friend. “I had recently graduated college and was living in New York City working as a television producer when I found out one of my best friends, Shannon Mc- Namara who was two years younger than me and still in school, had been murdered in her campus apartment at Eastern Illinois University. Learning that for me, was almost like a ‘Matrix’ moment, where all of a sudden I realized that this ‘program’ I had been living in of a safe and secure world was just that, a program…an illusion. The real world is gritty and dark and scary and that is how I compare the change of my perspective in that moment, learning about the violence that can fall on any one of us. When I went home for the week of the funeral, I realized it wasn’t just me, everyone I knew was scared and very unnerved.” Erin started to process more and more what this fear was not only rooted in, but its greater effect on her life as well. “I started to wonder what that fear was holding me back from. I was hearing my friends saying ‘the worst part of my day is when I have to walk to my car in the parking lot, or leave my night class, or go to work at night.’ They didn’t want to live alone, or travel and I realized this fundamental fear of being murdered or raped or attacked is really holding us back in so many ways.”
Image: Erin Weed, Founder
So, Erin decided to do something about it. She began taking extensive self defense courses and training herself to master her fear and live the life she wanted unconfined by the worries of constant physical danger; not turning a blind eye to it or ignoring the dangers, but by being prepared for the possibility of them. “At that time, it was something I was doing more for myself than anything else. I didn’t have any sort of grandiose plan, but I began to realize that if this was affecting me so deeply, it must be doing the same for women all over the country. I realized on of the best tributes that I could give to Shannon would be to become proactive in my own life and make sure the same thing never happened to me.”
It wasn’t long before Erin realized that she could do more than just put her own mind at ease, she could make a real difference by spreading this message and teaching the techniques she had learned, not only in the basics of self defense, but in the attitude and confidence that came with knowing she was no longer a shrinking violet or easy pushover to would-be attackers.
“Girls Fight Back! is a 90 minute seminar that is given at colleges across the nation,” she says. “We have been presenting it since 2001 and in that time have reached over a million people. It has been a really transformational time and experience in my life over the past 12 years, and has acted as my hope and healing.”
Image: Amy Hong, Speaker in Training and Gina Kirkland, President
More than just delivering hope, it has been a way for millions of people to stake a claim on their own lives. “People have been able to claim their power, which is what I think the program is really all about. It’s not just self defense, or learning how to fight bad guys, it’s about owning your power in so many different types of situations, whether that be physically, verbally or socially. It is about owning your own decisions and becoming a unique, independent and strong person in every facet of someone’s life. That’s really what Girls Fight Back! is and we’ve had a lot of success with it, and it has been a lot of fun.”
There is a variation of the program called Students Fight Back!, which encompasses both men and women into one program, but the flagship program of GFB! is focused on the female population of your student body, a specific population that could have certain fears as they move onto or around campus and on their own, often for the first time.
Image: Heather Maggs, Senior National Speaker
Gina Kirkland, of Kirkland Productions, motivated by some personal circumstances (check out Gina’s article on stalking in this issue), recently made the decision to acquire the GFB! franchise from Erin, who with two children and other projects commanding her attention, has decided it’s time to pass on the torch. “Girls Fight Back! is designed for women, and if you look statistically at addressing violence in our culture, violence against women is a very big issue,” Gina says. “That is not to say that men are not an important part of the answer; we do have men that come to the program and that works out great as well, but we are primarily speaking to the women on campus. Students Fight Back! still has all of the same core information that is important to everyone, but also includes a piece on bystander behavior that is very important so that men can be part of the solution.”
More than self defense, more than kicking bad guy butt, more than just feeling more comfortable about the fear of bodily harm, GFB! is about something more. “It’s an idea,” Erin says. “It’s much bigger than just me, or even Shannon’s story, as important as it is. We hope we can convey the information and make it relatable, but the idea is that one should NEVER make decisions stemming from fear…we should all live the life that we have always wanted to, no regrets, no holding back, no reservations with nothing standing in our way. That is what Girls Fight Back! is all about and I knew that concept had legs and was something that we could scale.”
Image: Leah Bonnema, Speaker in Training
Erin realized that if she wanted to spread this message in a truly effective manner, she couldn’t do it alone, so she trained a team of speakers to go out and help her propagate this new way of thinking. Now with Gina and Kirkland Productions stepping in to take the program to the next level, the GFB! team hopes to expose many, many more students to the valuable and lifechanging lessons they are teaching.
“Gina has been able to continue to train even more speakers to keep up with demand, and they have done a phenomenal job. They are better speakers than I am at this point, and it just goes to show you that when there is an idea that people need and want to hear, almost anything is possible.”
Gina leaves us with a profound thought: “I wanted to share a quote, that has been really powerful to me, from the wonderful Gavin de Becker and his book, ‘The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence.’ I think this really cuts to the heart of things. ‘Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by romantic prospects, while most women fear rape and death.’ That is quite a different fear, and when you put into that perspective and start to compare those things, it speaks to exactly why a program like Girls Fight Back! can be such a powerful and empowering tool for a campus.”
For more information on bringing Girls Fight Back! Or Students Fight Back! To your campus, contact Gina at Kirkland Productions at 866-769-9037 or booking@ kirklandproductions.com.
Read the full story here online : http://bit.ly/girlsfightback
And check out http://www.campusactivitiesmagazine.com/