Thursday, 6 September 2007

We are not powerless

“ Yesterday, several women from London Feminist network spent the day practicing self-defence with four instructors from The London Centre for Personal Safety. We had the invaluable opportunity to take part in their one-day ‘IMPACT” self-defence and it was absolutely awesome. I’m so grateful to the LCPS for allowing us this opportunity.

IMPACT is a unique form of self-defence. Students practice verbal and full-force physical skills in realistic “adrenalised” scenarios, on specially trained male instructors wearing protective suites. Women instructors lead all training, demonstrating and teaching the techniques.

The thing that will always stay with me is watching other women fight with so much strength and determination. I didn’t realise, until yesterday, that I experienced being a woman as always being part of the loosing team. But what I saw and experienced yesterday has left me feeling very differently. It was so inspiring to see women shouting ‘no’ and confidently ordering the men to back off and then delivering disbling blows to eyes, head, stomach and groin; kicking, elbowing and kneeing full force while being cheered on by all the other women in the room.

Men may, on average, be physically stronger than women, but that is not the whole story. We are disempowered by a barrage of propaganda telling us and making us believe we are powerless against men, that we are not worth defending and that fighting back is the wrong choice as it will make men more violent. In one situation where I was attacked by a boyfriend he’d put his hands around my throat and was throttling me. I remember just lying there and doing nothing. Even thought I could not breath and my head felt as I the pressure was going to make it explode I was not going to do anything because I might hurt him. He had the advantage of feeling so strong and powerful that he could do anything. I did not defend myself because I didn’t think I could and because his life felt more important than mine and because I was afraid that he’d get more angry and violent. If that were today, I would strike at his eyes with my fingers as hard as I can, knee him in the head as hard as I can and run out of the flat. I would fight with all my strength and determination; aiming at the most vulnerable place and hitting with the intent of hurting!

To all the women there yesterday: thank you so much! You were awesome!”

On the train London-Sheffield

The last thing I did in London, last night, before coming home on the Midland train, was to read your new blog ReSisters. On the train, I was relieved to get a seat in the quiet coach. I sat in a four-seat set, and started to eat a nice sandwich. A couple of young guys asked me: “Is this first class?” I answered: “No, but it is a quiet coach”. They moved on to the next coach and I thought about the British politeness and acceptance of rules… After I finished my sandwich, two well-dressed men came in the carriage, and asked me if the remaining seats were reserved. I took my paper bag from the table and I said: “It is free”. One of the men sat in front of me and asked: “What is a quiet coach? It means we cannot talk?”. I replied: “It means you cannot make unnecessary noise” (quoting the words in the train notice). He said: “This is a problem, because I have an unnecessary flatulence”. I was very annoyed, but remained silent, looking out through the window, avoiding looking at him, and thinking about what to do next. He said: “Anyway, where are you going to?”, I said: “I am not interested in telling you where I am going”. He said: “Look, I am just bored, tired”. I stood up and walked away to look for another coach. On my way, the train manager (a woman) asked me: “Are you ok?”, (she had witnessed the incident) and I said: “No” and I told her what had happened. She invited me to sit on First Class, and I felt protected and safe after the annoying incident. I had never thought how important train managers are, for our safety, and I really feel grateful to that woman. I also thought, what if the manager was a man, would he have reacted in the same manner, or would he have thought the situation was funny? I hope not.

My conclusion with this incident is that violence against women can be subtle. I have been influenced by LCPS’s talks and thanks to that I understood that this situation was aggressive. A time ago, I would probably play the game, and try to use humour, and that indecent man, would have taken advantage of it to speak disrespectfully to me, because he “is tired” and would like “to have fun”. That kind of ‘humour’ and ‘fun’ amounts to disrespect and we need to resist abusive language, and understand the value of our individual space in a public space.