Mom Voice

The best gift your mother ever gave you

Susie Kahlich
6 min readMay 14


Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

At the beginning of every Pretty Deadly course we always ask the women who have signed up if they know the first rule of self defense. Every two out of three courses, someone will answer: “scream”.

While the voice can be weaponized in self defense, screaming is not always a response. Sometimes, it’s a reaction, and you have no control over it. In the event that I survived, I was apparently screaming loud enough to wake up three apartment buildings. But I lose my hearing when I go into shock, so I had no idea that I was screaming, and had no control over it. It’s great that my screaminghelped, but I didn’t even know I was doing it.

So we can’t always rely on screaming as a self defense tool.

For so long in women’s self-defense courses — as well as in women’s negotiation courses, self-esteem courses, empowerment courses, any kind of self-improvement courses — women have been encouraged to speak with a strong, confident voice; to speak up, be loud and proud. We are encouraged to use a forceful No!, including shouting “No!”, or “Stop!” in time with the strikes or kicks we’re using to defend ourselves.

Again, while this can be effective, it’s not always possible. Not only because our vocals may freeze in the moment, but also because not every self-defense situation warrants shouting and screaming or even being loud.

It may be that a woman is in a situation where the cost of disrupting the social order is greater than the cost of defending herself loudly.

For example, if the office creep keeps making rude gestures only she can see, or dropping comments for her ears only, is she supposed to shout? Is she supposed to yell “Stop!”? What if she knows HR won’t support her? What if she can’t afford to lose her job? What if she’s supporting her entire family with that job, and she lives in a part of the world where sexual harassment at work is not recognized? What is she supposed to do then?



Susie Kahlich

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