All posts in August 2012

This One’s for the Boys

Sitting in my improv class at the Chicago iO Theater, one of my peers found himself in a scene about manicures. Seeing as how he honestly didn’t know what cuticles were, I figured this was going to get good. He made a comment about how fun it would be to get a facial shave from a barber shop, old-school style. “I figured real men shave with a straight razor.” I laughed.

First, I know no one who gets this kind of treatment; all of my man friends continue to cut themselves with a protected Bic razor, let alone an open blade. Second, because I love the term “real men.”

Typically, “real men” are imagined as dudes ripping meat off of a huge turkey leg with their teeth,  speaking in a deep, sultry voice, built like The Rock, break boards for fun, sport a chest full of hair (button it up, Chi-town),  chop wood daily and yes, shave with a pocket knife.

Thankfully, we outgrew the cavemen era and this is a bunch of crap. Although any intelligent human being knows this, it became crystal clear to me a couple weekends ago as I furthered my GFB training with self defense guru Bill Kipp and his FAST DEFENSE team, the leaders in adrenal stress scenario based training.

The roll-call included Veterans, Air Force, police force, SWAT team members, ninjas (literally), black belts of all kinds of martial arts, and arguably THE best in self-defense. Yet upon exiting the toughest training I’d ever been through, “The Gauntlet” (that’s a whole other blog), each time I was greeted by these friendly giants with a huge embrace, as was every other woman at the training. Not to mention, the men who were taking my knee to the face multiple times would approach me after with compliments and encouragement.

Not once but twice did a few of these men bring me to tears with in-depth conversations of personal stories, faith and family. I was in awe of these gentle giants. Almost all heroes of some kind of war or an expert in martial arts, yet the kindest of hearts you can imagine.

At the end of the weekend during our reflection time, one of the other women who volunteers for GFB and is an active feminist shared that these tough guys are the ones who define a “real man.” My eyes began to swell because her words rang so true. These men, along side brave women, are our country’s protectors whether through education, across seas or in our backyard. Even though they may be big, burly and carry a mean punch, this is not what makes them real men.

No, it is when the walls are down that we see the true hero.  All of these wonderful men, and the men and women who raised them, from self-defense educators, to veterans, to school teachers, to policemen, to dads,  brothers, grandpas, best friends, to mentors, to heroes, to the social workers, to the volunteers, and GFB supporters, this one’s for you:

 “The bravest are the most tender; the loving are the daring.” – Bayard Taylor, poet.

Thank you to all the real men for leading this country and supporting women not with your pocket-knife-shave or macho puffed out chest, but with your heart.

Self-defense: A False Sense of Confidence?

The following is a guest blog by our good friend, Kate Webster, Ph.D. She is the Director of Violence Prevention Programs at Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center in Chicago, IL. This gal kicks ass – and she uses her fancy advanced degree as an improvised weapon. *kidding* Seriously, she’s brilliant and she rules. Here’s Kate’s response to a recent interview on the Today Show that made all of us at GFB throw up in our mouths a little bit. -Erin

When I was in college, I knew there were dangers on my campus, as there were on any campus, and I wanted to be smart about being safe. Yet, all I heard was a bunch of don’ts.

Don’t walk alone at night, don’t go to fraternity parties, don’t get drunk at parties, don’t wear short skirts, don’t dress like you’re asking for it. Sound familiar?

To be safe, I was told to walk with a guy at night, carry mace or a siren whistle, or use the “blue” campus phones. But these tips always confused me because what if I didn’t have a guy friend to walk with me or want to carry mace or couldn’t find a blue campus phone?

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of this advice can be quite wise—it can be safer to walk with someone you know and trust, and mace or a whistle can help to stun or startle an attacker so you can get away. What confused me at the time was how the tips seemed to say that I had to rely on someone or something else to help me to feel safe. Couldn’t I stand up for myself, by myself? Luckily, a number of years later, I stepped into my first women’s self-defense class and found my answer to be a resounding yes.

I’ve been teaching self-defense ever since that first 12-hour course and firmly believe that we all have the power to stop, prevent, thwart, avert and successfully confront an attack through the most peaceful means possible—which sometimes might mean being physical and striking back, but more often means being assertive, strong, empowered, confident, and knowing you are worth defending.

However, not everyone seems to agree. On the Today show a couple of weeks ago, Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, denounced self-defense for young women, claiming it gave them a false sense of confidence. She erroneously claims that in self-defense classes, girls and young women learn to punch incorrectly and kick in high heels. And, according to her assessment, it’s not going to work—especially against a 200 lb Mike Tyson type of attacker.

I was so frustrated and saddened by these comments. Not just because they are incorrect—we teach untrained techniques such as a palm heel or a knee kick and not a trained one such as a punch—but because they are damaging to girls’ and young women’s ability to feel strong, empowered, and capable of taking care of themselves.

Peppered throughout her interview are comments of what we need to do to keep our girls safe and I was sorely reminded of those don’ts I heard back in college. Not a single time did she mention what girls and young women can do for themselves to keep themselves safe. She has a point that there are things all girls and young women can do to keep more safe, but let’s not blame them for wearing sexy clothing, having a few too many drinks, or wanting the freedom to walk home alone. Instead, let’s give them tools to feel strong and confident so they can make the best choices for themselves, and  decide for themselves if they want to have a drink, wear a short skirt and walk home alone.

The self-defense we teach at Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center teaches teens and adults of all genders how to feel stronger in their mind and body and make the most peaceful choice in the face of violence that is appropriate for themselves. Giving individuals a sense of their own agency and a capacity to make decisions for themselves—the bad along with the good—is the true gift we can give the young people in our lives.

Why Women’s Suffragists Were Total Badasses

Yesterday marked 92 years since the 19th amendment passed, granting women in the United States the right to vote. Yesterday I spent a good amount of time reading about the suffragist movement, and it’s just ballsy and amazing what these women pulled off.

One thing I learned: this wasn’t a short, simple or painless crusade. As with so many other people who have fought (and are currently fighting for) equal  rights, the road is often uphill. And dirty. And rocky. With all sorts of shenanigans and people trying to delay progress.

Read this timeline, which succinctly outlines the path to voting for women in the early 1900’s…this play-by-play is fascinating. Perhaps my favorite part of the crusade went down in the Spring of 1919. Here’s what happened (from the Scholastic website):

The most prominent National Woman’s Party suffrage prisoners (including Havemeyer, Rogers, Milholland, Winsor, Vernon) tour the country on a train called the “Prison Special.” At each stop they speak about the need for suffrage and their prison experiences; between stops they threw suffrage literature out the windows for farming communities.

That’s right, they went on a speaking tour. And called it the Prison Special. How Rikers Island is that? And I thought our upcoming tour theme was edgy. These suffragists were no joke, naming their cross-country tours after their time in the Big House. Totally badass.

This, my friends, is the power of the spoken word. It is the bravery of one woman standing up and speaking her truth.

We are living in a time where we have so many communication tools: e-mail, phone, skype, social media, the Internet (and I think the US Postal Service is still in business…for now). It’s easy to forget the impact of looking into someone’s eyes, and telling them what you believe.

This is where change begins. Over a coffee. A dinner discussion. A tense debate at the office water cooler. On stage. I believe all of us can change the world…and when you have a microphone, you can do it faster.

Think about it: The ideas that spawned the greatest shifts in our society all started with a sentence. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example, his words moving people to tears and to action. So were these maverick suffragists – and I only wish there was video of the throw-down speeches they must have delivered (not to mention the hecklers they likely endured).

This is exactly why I feel so strongly about the Girls Fight Back speaking tour that will begin in September. Wanna get on the tour? Jump on it by contacting us here. It is also why I am launching the first-ever socially conscious speakers agency later this year called Evoso. (a blended of “evolve + society” since that’s exactly what speaking your truth accomplishes)

This week, remember the great work of women’s suffragists and all crusaders for equality – both past and present. Then ask yourself how your voice can change the world. We need to hear it.

What’s the Buzz? Rihanna

So, Rihanna did an interview with Oprah and the world is all a buzz.

One of the chief topics of the interview was Chris Brown, their past (and current?) relationship, and the assault that left Rihanna bruised and bloodied in February 2009.  I’ve copied some of the most talked about quotes here for those of you who maybe have not seen the interview:

“I was hurt the most. Nobody felt what I felt…It happened. It happened to me…It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. It was hurtful. I lost my best friend…Everything I knew, was switched in a night”-Rihanna remembers the night Chris Brown attacked her in 2009.

“I felt protective…as angry as I was…I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help and who’s going to help him?”-Rihanna’s initial reaction to feeling bad for Chris.

“We’ve been working on our friendship again. Now we’re very very close friends. We built a trust again. We love each other and probably always will… I’m single but we’ve maintained a very close friendship”-On her current relationship with Chris.

“It’s awkward. It’s awkward because I still love him…My stomach drops and I have to maintain this poker face and not let it get to the outer part of me. I have to maintain that and suppress it”-on having funny feelings when she still sees Chris Brown (as recent as this summer in St. Tropez)

“Absolutely. I think he was the love of my life. He was the first love. I see that he loved me the same way. We were very young and very spontaneous. We ran free; we ran wild. We were falling in love and going at a really rapid pace that we forgot about ourselves”-Rihanna reveals that Chris Brown was a true love of her life.

“I truly love him so the main thing for me is that he is at peace. I’m not at peace if he’s a little unhappy or he’s still lonely…I care”-Rihanna on her now feelings for Chris Brown.

Personally, I am so torn by these feelings Rihanna still has for this man who beat her.  I want her to hate him.  I want her to never speak to him again, but unltimately it isn’t my life.  And having worked in a domestic violence shelter for 2 years when I was just out of college, I’m not surprised.  She isn’t saying anything I haven’t heard before.

Everyone who comes out of an abusive relationship has a cycle of feelings and emotions to go through.  Rihanna has had the unique circumstance of having to live this trauma in front of all of us; in front of the world, really.  It can’t be easy for her.  In the interview, she also said that she had forgiven Chris.  The question of whether or not her fans can forgive him isn’t really one she can be concerned with right now.  She has to focus on her life and her direction. I hope that somewhere along the way, she finds the peace she wishes for him.

What’s the Buzz? Todd Akin

Ok, I think by now most folks have heard about Congressman (and Republican Senate nominee in Missouri) Todd Akin’s comments when asked about the legality of abortion in cases of rape.  If you haven’t, here’s the quote:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things,  well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical  question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole  thing down.

But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not  attacking the child.

Now, if you are curious about the factually of Mr. Akin’s statement about the rareness of pregnancy resulting from rape, here are the results of a study from the Medical University of South Carolina:


We attempted to determine the national rape-related pregnancy rate and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies that result from rape.


A national probability sample of 4008 adult American women took part in a 3-year longitudinal survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes.


The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion.


Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.

Now, putting aside all feelings related to abortion, I just want to ask one thing.  Can we please, please, PLEASE stop putting modifiers on the word rape?  There is no such thing as “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape” or my personal favorite “rape rape” (thanks, Whoopi!).  Yes, I understand that we use terms like “date rape” and “statutory rape” to clarify the circumstances of an assault, but the bottom line is that a rape is a rape is a rape.  Can we stop making judgement calls related to the “legitimacy” of a rape?  Please?

Mickey Shunick: A Warrior and A Hero

GFB Megan brought this story to my attention.  It brought me to tears, but the words of this brave woman’s family lifted me back up.

“My sister, Mickey Shunick, was a warrior,” Shunick’s sister, Charlene “Charlie” Shunick, wrote. “If it wasn’t for her, our community never would have been able to bring down a dangerous man that harmed multiple people.”

Shunick’s mother, Nancy Anne Rowe, wrote, “She refuses to be a victim. My courageous child faced down a monster. Now I think I can face monsters too. And so can you.”

The entire GFB family sends our love and prayers to this family.

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!?!?!).

Announcing the B.Y.O.B. Tour

Recently a sexual assault on the campus of University of Montana has shined a light on the reality of rape on campus…that in many cases, the person committing the crime is someone you know. Someone popular. Someone who’s NOT wearing creepy aviator glasses and jumping out of the bushes…but instead, sitting next to you in Statistics class.

Here’s another college reality: If you are assaulted, there’s a good chance alcohol will play a role.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What are you saying Weed?!? “No boys? No booze? Whaaat?”

Don’t freak out…this is not to say you can’t trust guys. You can – just trust your intuition more. And please have a good time…it’s college, after all! Just know the facts and how to protect yourself.

Here at GFB, we’re all about getting real. Being real. Talking real. Not with fancy stats or scary lingo…but just telling it how it is. And teaching you how to handle it. No fuss, no drama.

So while the realities of violence in college often involve men we know (and sometimes love), and the frothy fun drink – it’s time to have a frank conversation. Enter, the name of our upcoming tour for school year 2012-13:

(be your own badass) 

The tour logo? A pink solo cup. Naturally. (Check out the superfly tour poster here.)

This Fall our GFB speaker team will be hitting the road speaking at cities across the United States. Wanna get on the tour? Then you need to know Caryn Begeschke, our Tour Director. She’ll hook you up. Tell her Weed sent you. Just call her at (303) 872-8030 ext. 103 or e-mail Caryn here.

As you may know, I won’t be doing much speaking/traveling because I’m basking in the glow of new motherhood. I welcomed my baby girl, Phoebe, to the world on June 21st. This “mom of 2 kids” thing has got me baffled, I gotta tell you. How do these women take showers? I swear, you should be glad you’re not seeing me much on this tour. I usually have dried baby vomit in my hair. (wish that was a joke – but it’s the TRUTH)

BUT…my GFB girls Bree, Heather and Megan might be coming to a city near you. And they all ROCK like Spock. So you’re covered.

OK, let’s do this. Raise your pink solo cup to GFB and say CHEERS to living the badass life we were all intended.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What do you think of the BYOB theme? Is the frank conversation about boys, booze and violence long overdue?