Choose Your Battles

Self defense is not about fighting back.

Susie Kahlich
4 min readMay 21

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It’s really heartening to see that, in the world of helping women learn self-defense tools, it has become a much more accepted view that self defense is not about fighting back: it’s about making space and getting away.

But if it’s not a fight, and not about fighting back, then what exactly are we talking about?

A lot of self defense marketing encourages women to fight back and often self defense courses will encourage women to tap into our feminine rage. Putting the marketing question aside — because I honestly think traditional women’s self defense marketing appeals far more to male fantasy than it does to women’s actual need — I do think there is some subconscious understanding that women do carry an anger or a rage at constantly being targeted and picked on simply because we’re women.

But tapping into that rage as a fuel for self defense is not as simple as people seem to think.

As my friend Andrew Juárez points out, a fight is also an agreement. If you’re a guy hanging around in a bar, and some other guy is screaming in your face telling you to put up your dukes, the second you ball your hand into a fist, you have agreed to fight.

That agreement comes with certain boundaries in place: it may come with the unspoken boundary that you will not take the fight so far that you’ll kill each other (although this is not always the case). It may come, and probably does, with the unspoken boundary that you will not rape each other. It generally comes with the understanding that you will fight until one of you dominates, and the other person acknowledges the domination, the superior skill and/or power, the marked territory. Acknowledges the winner of the fight.

That’s not how it works for women. When we are physically threatened by men, it’s not about domination, or acceding power. How often how many times has a woman acknowledged, and subrogated herself, to the power and domination of an abusive partner, and she still gets beaten, she still gets raped, she still gets killed?

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Susie Kahlich

CEO of SINGE | Founder of Pretty Deadly Self Defense @ prettydeadlyselfdefense.com | Former producer of art podcast Artipoeus: art you can hear @ artipoeus.com