Most of the time I’ve taught assertive communication I’ve begun with a rationalization of sorts. You have a right to establish your own boundaries, I might say. Or, if it’s not OK with you, it’s not OK. This justification loop is born out of long experience. I know what kind of push back I can get from my female students. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, one might say, or, Isn’t that rude?My new Coach’s approach to verbal skills is a little different.
He often refers to the verbal part of a self-defense scenerio as “confrontation management.” He doesn’t assume that I need to be talked into standing up for myself when someone approaches me with hostile intent. He assumes that—as quickly as possible—I’ll want to make it clear that I’m running the show.My Coach has not suggested that I stand up straight, or make eye contact, or speak in statements rather than questions, or use an audible tone of voice. I’m guessing he’s on board with these tips. He just takes things one better. He has instructed me to command, growl, threaten and describe in psychotic detail my plans to eat my would-be attacker alive if he continues his course of action.
It’s almost as if my Coach is not hung up on the fact that one might be afraid if assaulted. He seems to assume that we’d be pissed the fuck off.There is something about entering the privilege of this male perspective, even as a guest, that is so unfettered, so unabashedly liberating, it makes me giddy.
I take it that my Coach has often trained men, including those who anticipate the need for empty-hand combat skills in their work. Law enforcement officers and military personnel, for example. They assume that they will be in the right, that they will be assaulted by someone bad and wrong. Someone who must be neutralized, managed, controlled, and shown the error of his ways—through extreme bodily damage if no other means has effect.I have most often taught women who fervently hope they will never need to fight back. Who deny the overwhelming evidence that they will be or have already been victimized. Who have been socialized to justify, excuse or defend the behaviors that could tip them off to an impending attack. Who were told since childhood that their gender is antonymous with physical fighting. And who, in our rape-culture, will be blamed for whatever harm is done to them.
I have always called bullshit on all of this: gender policing and denial and victim blaming. But since I’ve seen the male approach up close and personal I’m ready to take it one better. It’s not enough to wheedle my students into standing up for themselves, to cajole them into making eye contact or saying their name as if they are sure they know who they are. I will not be satisfied by ladies learning how to tell, rather than ask, their toddlers to put their fucking shoes on.
What if the only delay in response to an unwelcome touch was the limitation of our neurology? What if we heard footsteps behind us on a dark street and felt our hearts beat with rage, not terror? What if we didn’t feel lucky to escape an attack, but pissed the fuck off that someone wanted to hurt us to begin with?
What if we noticed that one in five of us would be raped in our lifetimes and we all got batshit fucking angry?
Could be the makings of a confrontation management movement, sisters.