At she stepped up to speak with one of the gun specialists behind the counter I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Shyly, she inquired as to whether Cabella’s offered gun classes and what sort of gun a first-timer should buy. Obviously, the man behind the counter was a little confused by her question, what exactly did she need a gun for? At which point she explained that recently someone had broken into her house and assaulted her. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time she had been attacked, she matter of factly stated that she had been hurt before. She further told the man that she would like to own a handgun, know how to use it and obtain a concealed weapons permit so that people couldn’t hurt her anymore.
I was shocked and impressed by her actions. Here was a woman who had been hurt and who was asserting herself to say, “no, I won’t let you hurt me anymore.” She was stepping outside of her normal boundaries and taking control of what happened to her in the future. This is what my argument centers on, that sort of scared, timid feeling we sometimes have as women, and how we deal with it. I know that feeling, I’ve had it a dozen times. Times when I was scared because I felt like someone was following me as I walked home late at night, only to brush those thoughts away as paranoia, not wanting to seem rude if I crossed the street and walked on the other side, refusing to acknowledge potential danger and deal with it.
That is not to say that I believe the survivors of an attack to be at fault because they didn’t have a gun with them. On the contrary, if a woman (or anyone for that matter) is attacked they should never be made to feel like it was their fault. It is never their fault. However, I do think that we need to foster an attitude of control and self-assurance, taking control of our own safety. For example, how many of us go out and purchase a gun, asserting that we will learn how to properly use and care for it, attempting to become truly comfortable with a firearm? I know it makes me a little nervous to think of becoming that proficient with a gun, it is still a dangerous weapon and I don’t want to hurt anyone, despite my fear of someone breaking into my house at night. Or what about self-defense classes? Most colleges, universities, community centers and dojos offer basic self-defense classes for women, yet I know I’ve never taken one, probably because I think I would feel silly standing there, playing with the rape whistle they gave me and learning how to elbow an attacker in the ribs. How incredible of this woman to work outside of what she knew, to not worry about feeling silly or paranoid and do what she felt she needed to do to feel safe.
It’s like that movie, Miss Congeniality, the one with Sandra Bullock. There is that really great scene when Bullock’s character is talking to the innocent and bubbly blond woman Cheryl, who tells Bullock that she was once attacked. When Bullock wants to know why she never reported the man Cheryl merely shrugs her shoulders and states that it was no big deal, she knows that things like that happen all the time. Here is the part I love, Bullock makes her get off her chair right there in the bar and proceeds to give her a few lessons in self-defense, asserting that no woman should be without a means to defend herself.
However this portrayal of women is not always the norm. More often than not, women are painted as the victim in the media. There is an interesting book I once read entitled Spin Sisters, in it the author, Myrna Blyth, decried the constant influx of Lifetime and WE channel movies in which a woman is abused again and again by her drunk and brutish husband. While I understand that the awareness and knowledge of the victimization of women is a good thing I do believe it can be taken too far. In regards to these films Blythe made a valid point, when all that the media shows is women as the victim how can women become anything else (Blyth 61-65)? But I think that we as women are so much more than just a victim. Granted I am not denying that women are ever abused by their husbands, but I think that only showing women in a position of timidity and helplessness sends a negative message. One of, you can’t defend yourself; there is no way to escape from abuse, when in reality that assumption is false. There is a way to defend yourself and we shouldn’t feel paranoid or ashamed if we choose to arm ourselves (literally or figuratively) with the things we need to protect ourselves.
Granted not everyone should go out and purchase a pistol to cure this problem, perhaps even taking self-defense classes isn’t something you would like to introduce into your life. Maybe keeping yourself safe is as simple as learning how to change a tire so you’re not stranded by the side of the road in the middle of the night. Either way asserting ourselves as having the right to feel safe and protected when we go for a run in the early morning or even when we’re just sitting at home, is important. In essence, what we are saying is, “Here I am world, I am woman. Do not underestimate me.”
I believe in empowering people, in letting them live as a complete version of their self. Creating a space in which we feel safe is necessary to that goal, granted terrible things can still happen to people and it isn’t their fault for not being strong enough or fast enough to get out of the way, but I firmly believe that building up an inner strength and fortitude of mind that says “I can achieve the things I need and live a life that is comfortable” is one of our most basic rights, not just as women, but as human beings, a habit that we should actively develop.