Self-defense: not everyone is out to get you

The internet is a funny place. This morning, I read an article on Jezebel, a site I normally only read if I want to pressure test my cerebral arteries. The article is written by a woman to explain why she doesn’t trust men. It’s actually quite sad when you read it, but it also got me thinking about how we teach self-defense tactics. From the article:

[T]his afternoon found me out by the river, choosing a patch of grass near a tree and sitting down to read. As I did so, I took note of the two men hanging out nearby—safe, ordinary guys, I thought.

An hour later, I…put away my book, stood up, wrapped the scarf around my shoulders once again. It was only as I started to walk away that I noticed two faces turning to follow me and caught the words being thrown in my direction. “…Mademoiselle. Excusez-moi, s’il vous plaît.”

I'm using this image because the author of the other article would find it offensive.
I’m using this image because the author of the other article would find it offensive.

She goes on to call that “Street harassment” which had me scratching my head, because to me it sounded like a Frenchman saying “excuse me, miss.” Now, I will accept the possibility that it could have been a trap, and dude 1 could have been laying in the distraction while dude 2 sneaks up behind her with a club. That’s a bit far-fetched though, but I do admit that it’s a possibility.

The problem that this woman has though has nothing to do with street harassment, it’s that she doesn’t know how to manage unknown contacts. In her world, everyone with a penis is a possible threat, a rapist in the bushes waiting to lunge out and assault her womanly flower. Can you imagine how stressful it must be to jump to condition orange every time you see a member of the opposite sex? It would be terrible. We spend a lot of time and energy talking about recognizing potential threats, which is a good thing. One of the side benefits of being able to recognize a potential threat is that it’s also easier to recognize people who aren’t threats.

Yes, the world is a scary place and there are genuine bad people in it that would like to do all sorts of bad things to you. Odds are though that they’re not going to politely approach you and say “excuse me” on a sunny afternoon in a public park. We should all keep our guard up, and we should all get training on how to recognize potential threats. Because knowing what a potential threat looks like means that we can relax a little bit and enjoy life since we also know what non-threats look like. As it turns out, not everyone is out to get you. Even if you’re a woman.


  1. “Can you imagine how stressful it must be to jump to condition orange every time you see a member of the opposite sex?”

    I think just about every male who survived puberty understands that to some degree…

  2. Hand on a snubby inside of a purse. My favorite solution for many women if they can get control of the revolver trigger. Once that is in place, the world is a bit less scary. The confidence makes you friendly instead of afraid. Oh, I forgot. Such an approach requires responsibility for one’s own safty.

  3. When someone says to me excuse me in the street to attract my attention, I usually know if it’s to ask the way if they are lost or to hassle me for cash. You know these things intuitively from all that’s around you, so maybe she got a bad vibe from these guys.

    At which point it is harassment – especially if you get it multiple times a day – and that’s the key to the whole story…

    If I try to start a conversation with someone on a train and she doesn’t respond I could be like “stuck up tart, I’m a nice guy, and wasn’t planning on harassing you” after all I only tried to make conversation once – what’s wrong with that?

    However, now I get off the train, someone else gets on and does exactly the same thing (cute girl sitting alone, why wouldn’t you try?) – repeat 7 or 8 times on a long TGV ride – damn sure by the end of the trip you’d be feeling harassed to.

    I think this is a great video, although be warned the French pull no punches (here at least).

  4. Never venture into unknown territory alone. as they say, 2 heads are better than 1. 2 together to attack @ same time=5 times the risk 2 perpetrators and equal & opposite force may be incountered.

  5. OKAY! I got it. You all have to understand, mens and womens brains are wired differently!!!! Good film btw……

    1. Never moved to watch the video. Just the still was disconcerting – “Strong Woman” running topless (hence, bra-less, the trademark of feminism) in the foreground with metrosexual stay-at-home nanny-daddy wuss in the background. The only thing he’s missing is the baby bag w/diapers and formula…

      Not my cup o’ tea.

      1. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

        ― Robert A. Heinlein

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