'Fighting' for Attention'

'Fighting' for Attention'

Mainstream media outlets shut out advocates of women learning self-defense

By Ellen Snortland 06/25/2014

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I’m sitting at my computer, seething. You can almost smell my fury and frustration as George Will accuses rape survivors of being attention-seeking glory-mongers. Reducing rape statistics apparently will happen when pigs fly, given the proliferation of misogyny and backlash in the media. Then my husband comes in and says, “Here’s one more reason to be infuriated,” referring to an inane Huffington Post Live video. A “panel” yammers about Nia Sanchez, the newly crowned Miss USA, and her statement during the Q&A portion of her competition.
Contestant judge Rumer Willis asked Sanchez about the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses, and why colleges have “swept it under the rug.” Sanchez posited that administrators don’t want their schools getting a bad reputation, and then — in a departure from stereotypical pageant answers like “I just want world peace and puppies” — said: “I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.” Wow!

In classic “either/or” thinking, the blogosphere, Twitter and some cranky-pants feminists who think self-defense is victim-blaming (“Why should women have to protect themselves? Men should just stop assaulting women!”) went ballistic. Listen, I’ve been accused of being a cranky-pants feminist myself, so I am aware of the “Woo-hoo! Cat fight!” mentality of the mass media. You know, where the women who are anti-something progressive and conveniently pro-status quo get all the column inches and broadcast air, and rarely do the issues surrounding females get a full-blown hearing — especially from the “pro” side. The “pros,” both in the sense of being for something and “pro”-fessionals, are left out. Those of us in the large, worldwide empowerment-based community of women’s self-defense advocates and experts, both women and men, are apparently missing from the address books of segment producers, editors and journalists. We must be hard to find … not!
As an outspoken expert and advocate immersed for decades in the struggle to end violence against women, with a focus on self-defense as a solution — never the solution — do you know how many times I’ve been called for my views concerning violence/self-defense/rape by anyone? Guess. Zilch. Zero. Zip. Nada.

For instance, my book “Beauty Bites Beast” and I were featured on an entire episode of NBC’s “Dateline” because of a personal connection, not because they were looking for me. My publisher and I were overjoyed at the prospect of national recognition for the book, which would undoubtedly generate massive sales. This, in turn, would bolster my mission to create self-defense as a “normal” part of education for all, starting with kids, thereby reducing injuries and saving lives. We discussed ordering thousands of copies of my book to anticipate the deluge of orders. And why not? With similar exposure, many books became bestsellers, while their authors turned into overnight successes with dozens of speaking engagements, invitations to give guest lectures at universities, an income and lucrative contracts for further books. Guess how many engagements and book contracts I got? Zilch. Zero. Zip. Nada. Guess how many books we sold? Ready? Thirty-five. That’s right: millions of viewers and 35 books sold.

Another example: IMPACT Personal Safety — my mothership and nonprofit self-defense provider — was on “Oprah,” during her daily years. It was a great segment, too. Did we have a glut of students afterwards? Zilch. Zero. Zip. Nada.

With Miss USA having such a huge platform to promote self-defense, you’d think that Lisa Gaeta — head of IMPACT and co-author of our new book “The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens” — would be contacted for comments. Or that Bob Martin, our IMPACT board chair who has cred for miles and miles, would be fielding media questions about self-defense for women. Zilch. Zero. Zip. Nada. 

Back to the HuffPo blather. Ricky Camilleri, a filmmaker and HuffPo producer, helmed a “panel” about self-defense featuring law professor Mary Anne Franks and freelance journalist Amanda Marcotte, because they had … opinions about self-defense. Not well-informed opinions, but opinions based on — what? Hollywood movies? They concluded that self-defense doesn’t work for rape. There were no opposing views from women who teach self-defense, or survivors of attempted rape who stopped an assault. That would be too balanced!

Few argue that seatbelts don’t work. That’s even if they don’t work every time. Or that women shouldn’t take driving lessons because there will still be auto fatalities. Self-defense for women is highly effective, statistically and anecdotally, but one would never know that from listening to people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Instead, viewers and readers are patronized, and matronized, with just more status quo: self-defense for women is akin to teaching pigs to fly. Women are helpless in the face of male violence and always will be, and, indeed, need to be dependent on males. No one learns. No one grows. And, alas, there is no solution. And there is absolutely no funding for self-defense programs that simply aren’t going to work. Why bother? We don’t fund flying pig lessons, do we? 

Ellen Snortland is a writing coach in Altadena. Visit snortland.com.

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