I’m not much of a sporty person and never have been. When forced to play team sports in highschool I would half-heartedly pass the ball around and I took every opportunity to score on my own net, invariably resulting in the more athletic girls pleading with the coach to let me sit on the bench and read. I had my period 6 or 7 times a month at least, so I could sit out on account of “cramps”.
It’s not that I’m not physically fit – I am. And it’s not that I lack competitive spirit – I can be very focused on winning. In highschool, I was on a competitive swim team and we trained from 6-8 AM every weekday morning and again from 4 – 6 PM every evening. On Saturdays, we ran triathlons.
I just hate team sports, and I always have.
My normal exercise is to run outdoors – I run between 3 and 5 miles, 5 or 6 days a week. Lately, my knees have been protesting the regular pounding, so I have decided to move my workout into a gym. If there is anything I hate more than team sports, it’s gym rat culture. Totally not my scene. My children are all enrolled in MMA classes and I thought I might like to join them, but I also hate the zen/spiritual aspect of most formal martial arts, and I am not bowing or practicing deep breathing or feeling at one with the energy of the universe. That kind of airy-fairy stuff elicits nothing but severe eye-rolling from me. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with linking physicality to spirituality – it’s just not me.
When I heard a couple of former military guys had opened a boxing gym in my end of town, my interest was piqued. So I signed up. And OMG I love it! Punching and kicking the shit out of stuff is right up my mental and physical alley. Not only do we box, we hit really big tires with huge sledge hammers and we climb ropes and push around a sled loaded with heavy weights and jump up on boxes and kick the crap out of all manner of bags and sacks and balls. Not only am I getting a fierce workout, I’m learning how to fight. We don’t worry about stance or position or form too much. This gym is about power and fighting to win. There are no rules. Eventually, I will get in the ring and the people I’m hitting will start hitting back and I am so looking forward to that.
I’m pretty confident that I can defend myself with a variety of weapons – knives, arrows, axes, even a good sturdy length of wood. But I am not at all confident that in close quarters, one on one, I would know what to do.
Part of the exhilaration of learning to fight is the growing awareness that unless I am facing someone of much greater skill than myself, I actually stand a chance. I don’t put much stock in the threats of violence I earn because of the work that I do, but it’s awfully nice to know that should a keyboard warrior take it upon him or herself to put their nasty words into action, they better have some chops to back that up.
Make your first shot a good one, or I will fuck you up.
And I will have fun doing it.
It’s called risk management. There is a very small risk of physical violence associated with my work, and an even smaller risk associated with simply existing in the world. I don’t live in a community or neighborhood characterized by a lot of random violence (if you get assaulted here, you likely know your assailant) but it’s still very gratifying to know that every hour I spend in the gym is adding to my repertoire of violence. This is why it came to no surprise to me to read that an anti-rape program focused on teaching women risk assessment cut campus rapes in half. Women were taught not just psychological, but physical tactics to protect themselves, and the results were pretty dramatic.
Why wouldn’t they be? Risk assessment and threat neutralization are skills that deliver protection, and more importantly, confidence. If you are confident you can handle threats, you don’t freak out in the face of threats. You assess them calmly, rationally and decide what actions make sense. If the best action is to haul ass and get the hell out of there, then that’s what you do. If delivering a convincing shove or kick to a confused or opportunistic aggressor makes sense, then you do it. Evaluating risks and taking action are sort of fundamental to being an adult, and the principles apply to more than just physical altercations. No matter what you’re doing in life, it’s wise to understand the risks and mitigate against them.
Guess what feminists think of that? Manage risks? Learn to face physically challenging situations and perform accurate self-evaluations? Take action to mitigate against potential harm? Act like an adult?
Nope, nope, nope. Teaching women to shut down potential sexual assaults is “victim-blaming”. Teaching women to say “no” inadvertently highlights that women failing to communicate their true intent is a major contributor to rape and sexual assault, and feminists would rather see rape victims pile up than address the discomfort of acknowledging there are a whole lot of men being accused of “rape” when the real issue is women who have been so crippled by victim culture and rape hysteria and fear of men, they can’t articulate something as straight-forward as “I don’t want to have sex with you”.
Amanda Marcotte has an article up at Slate that reveals just how pervasive the insistence that women must never, ever learn to manage risks has become. Nominally, she is addressing the change in playgrounds over the past few decades. Playgrounds have evolved from structures taking the base assumption that “risk is something that should be thought about, rather than avoided entirely”, into bubble wrapped, risk-free zones where no precious snowflake is ever injured by failing to think about risks appropriately. Older playgrounds emphasized abstraction and openness and encouraged experimental, imaginative play. Sometimes that play ended with a wrist in a cast and a few missing teeth. Something tells me kids rarely broke their arms twice or knocked out their teeth more than once. Experience is a pretty terrific teacher.
Marcotte, who of course prefers the padded playgrounds of today, reminiscent of safe spaces in psychiatric hospitals – the famous rubber rooms where patients could bounce around in a frenzy without hurting themselves, to the stripped-down, aggressively functional structures of yore, branding these “hyper-masculine”.
Whenever Marcotte uses the word “masculine”, she invariably means it as an insult. Masculinity rarely has a positive connotation for her, and this article is no different. Openness, creativity, risk-management, the opportunity to discover, often by way of painful falls and scraped knees, the limits of your own ability – to Marcotte these are all the province of men, and thus bad. I wonder what Sheryl Sandberg thinks of that? Those are the qualities humans need to excel in the economic sphere, especially as innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders. Branding them as explicitly masculine and negative mean what exactly, for women?
This all seems to be part and parcel of the social justice mentality that the path to equality is not to create conditions for excelling, but to handicap everyone so we can all be equally mediocre. Playgrounds are opportunities for children to begin exploring the limits of their abilities, and to learn how to push those limits. To learn how to excel. To learn what you want (to get to the top of the monkey-bars), how to achieve that (make sure your palms aren’t too sweaty and don’t look down), and how to survive the effort (don’t let go, whatever you do!). I would bet that Marcotte knows, from her own childhood, that it’s mostly boys who want the top. Girls tend not to care too much, and that rankles her.
Playgrounds are an ideological battlefield? It would appear so. And to no one’s surprise, feminists support making them so anodyne, so hyper-feminized, everyone can safely excel at nothing, risk nothing, learn nothing and accomplish nothing. My, what a brave vision for the future!
I think Pink Floyd had it right.
Feminists, leave them kids alone.
They’re fine. They don’t need you dragging them down. Life is filled with risks and playgrounds are just the beginning. Better to teach them how to manage risk, and understand that sometimes the best management strategy is a good solid uppercut.
And no matter how many times you fall off the monkey bars, you get up and try again.
Lots of love,