Author: Guest

A One-Word New Year’s Resolution

This is a guest post from a GFB friend – Katy Mattingly. She is a Personal Safety Educator and self-defense instructor at the University of Michigan, and the author of Self-Defense: Steps to Survival.

How’s that New Year’s resolution coming along?

This year a number of my friends made New Year’s resolutions to “only say yes to those activities I really want to do” or “to only take on the number of projects I can handle without driving myself nuts”.  Most students I know are in the same boat.  And most women.  Heck, most people I know are planning to conquer about 1,000 projects this year, which is a plan guaranteed to leave us feeling like frantic failures.

Another way to frame this resolution is – Practice Saying NO.  If I try to get an A on every assignment, take on every community service project I’m asked to do, or attend every event I’m invited to – I would collapse.  We simply can’t manage our workloads or our lives without saying no.

And it’s not the easiest skill to learn.  If you find it challenging to refuse anyone anything, here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Start small.  Make a list of 5 people or events you’d like to turn down, and rank them from easiest to hardest.  Start with the easiest one first – you might really enjoy saying no to it!

2. Practice.  Just like riding a bike, we’re likely to feel a little wobbly the first time we say no to joining that cool new Advisory Board or hosting the huge campus-wide 80’s dance party.  If you’re worried about how the conversation will go, ask a friend to role-play it with you a few times before you head out into the world with your big ole “No thank you.”

3. Try a three-part statement.  A simple tool for assertive communication recommended by many Personal Safety Educators: 1) Describe the unwanted behavior, 2) Describe the effect on you, and then 3) Describe the behavior you want in the future:

a) You borrowed my car again last night without letting me know.

b) I felt disrespected and I needed it to get to class.

c) I want you to ask my permission in the future.

And if it still feels hard to say no, know that you are in good company.  Explore why it’s difficult for many of us to say no, and get some great practical tips for how to do it from Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself.

Remember, as Lauren writes: “You completely and utterly deserve to have your boundaries be known and be respected by others.”

You’re worth it!

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.