Media Perceptions of Self-Protection: My Little Pony

As the mother of a four year old girl, I spend about one hour a day suffering through a child’s television program. The only TV I really let my daughter watch is one or two episodes of something she gets to choose each morning.  This is an event which I lovingly call “the snooze button”.  Lately, she has been digging My Little Pony.

Now, as a child I was obsessed with My Little Pony (as well as Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite), but the 2.0 version of the show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to entertaining me.  Whatev.  She enjoys it and that makes me happy.

I generally try to get a little more sleep while she is cuddled up next to me in bed watching the show, but this past week, we watched a re-run of an episode that made me pay attention.  Let me set the scene:

Rarity is a fashion designing unicorn who loves pretty things.  One day a pop star pony named Sapphire Shores comes into her dress shop (God, I can’t believe I’m actually writing this…) and orders 7 pony pantsuits each covered in a different jewel.  So Rarity takes Spike (a baby dragon who has a crush on her – don’t ask) and they head out to find as many jewels as the possibly can.

Now, this is where it gets serious.

While hunting for jewels, Rarity is abducted by a pack of dogs who want to put her to work hunting jewels for them.  She is kept in an underground dungeon and forced to find and dig up jewels.  Now, under any circumstances, that is some pretty intense stuff for a kids’ TV show.  Her friends are all out, desperately trying to find her.  Spike is trying to be her knight in shining armor to sweep in and save her.

But Rarity is a particularly prissy unicorn and she does not like having to ruin her hoof polish by digging.  She complains and makes so much trouble that by the time everyone jumps into the dungeon to rescue her, the dogs are begging them to take her and all the jewels they want too.

Now, I have no idea what to think about that whole escaping abduction technique, but at the end of the episode, the ponies wrapped up the story with this dialogue (actual transcript from the show):

Pinkie Pie: I can’t believe you got all these gems!

Rainbow Dash: Heh. I can’t believe you tricked all those dogs.

Rarity: Just because I’m a lady doesn’t mean I cannot handle myself in a sticky situation. I had them wrapped around my hoof the entire time.

Twilight Sparkle: I can’t wait to write to Princess Celestia to tell her what you taught me today.

Rarity: Me? What did I teach you?

Twilight Sparkle: Just because somepony is ladylike doesn’t make her weak. In fact, by using her wits a seemingly defenseless pony can be the one who outsmarts and outshines them all.

Spike: Hm… “Outshines” is right. Now you have enough gems to cover Sapphire Shores’s costumes.

Rarity: Not if you eat them all, Spike.

[laughter]

[credits]

Now, I still have no clue how to even process what I’ve just seen and heard, but “Just because somepony is ladylike doesn’t make her weak. In fact, by using her wits a seemingly defenseless pony can be the one who outsmarts and outshines them all.”

All I can say is….Word, Twilight Sparkle.  Word.

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!?!?!).