“Godmothers for Self Defense”: There’s Nothing Wrong with Women & Girls Knowing How to Protect Themselves

women learning self-defense to combat sexual assault, Nia Sanchez and self defense,When the topic of violence against women is discussed, many feminists contend that we should be more focused on getting men to behave differently than with teaching women and girls self-defense techniques.

One of the most recent examples of this was when Nia Sanchez, Miss USA 2014, was blasted by certain feminist writers because when she was asked in her pageant interview about college sexual assault and violence, instead of talking about mens’ roles, she said:

“… I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself and I think that’s something we should start to implement for a lot of women.”

One feminist journalist mocked Sanchez’s answer with the remark, “Sorry Miss USA, a Black Belt in tae kwon do is not the solution to campus rape.” But stepping back from the frought world of Gen X feminist commentary, the more practical question is this — Would every girl and woman benefit from learning self defense?

Self-defense instructors Ellen Snortland and Lisa Gaeta say yes. Their book, “The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens” is a collection of stories from many women who have used their self-defense training classes at IMPACT Personal Safety of Southern California in real life situations. The book is for all teens, but the focus is on all girls and women. It deals with the nuts and bolts of self-defense and the cultural expectations around the topic of women and fighting back.

As a feminist and the mother of a girl, I found the book important because there are feminists who think that learning self-defense precludes the necessary task of eradicating male violence and dismantling “rape culture.” Yes, stopping male violence is of the utmost importance, but I believe that teaching all women self-defense is just plain common sense.

The Safety Godmothers echo my sentiment. They hear from many frustrated students that having to learn self-defense is unfair and that violent men “should stop being violent.” Snortland and Gaeta’s respond that “the males that are interested in being violent are not listening to us…so far. It might take a good knee to the groin to make some of them hear what we’re saying, which is “Stop!”

Some feminists have problems with girls and self-defense and there are many parents who feel teaching self-defense will be too frightening for a child. The Safety Godmothers succinctly explain the inconsistencies in this approach. We are already teaching children self-defense. We teach children to look both ways before they cross a street. We teach them to buckle up in a car. We tell them not to talk to strangers. According to the Safety Godmothers we can also teach them how to physically defend themselves in dangerous situations.

They want to “change the conversation” from one where we see women and girls as being victimized by male violence to a conversation that shows us that it is possible for women to defend themselves.

Who are the women fighting back?

This book can be read in one sitting or you can read a section at a time. It’s structured as an ABC guide of experiences and testimonies of teen girls who fought back after having taken self-defense courses. The young women’s stories form the core of the chapters and the girls are given nicknames inspired by the alphabet: “Susan Stands Her Ground, “Inez Intervener,” “Mary, Model This,” and so on. After each dramatic testimonial is a short analysis from Snortland and Gaeta who give their expert opinion on how the girl defended herself.

The first story in the collection is Abby Attacks Back. Abby, a fifteen-year-old Los Angeles school girl, was physically attacked while walking in her neighborhood. Fortunately Abby had been trained in self-defense and bit her assailant on the arm and then quickly broke his knee, his nose and bruised his testicles. She also shouted loudly “No!” which brought out out the neighbors and the police. Using your voice, according to the authors, is a necessary tool in self-defense. “Abby’s” attacker was arrested and they found out he was a wanted rapist.

In their commentary, the Safety Godmother’s provide a little-known fact about Abby’s tactic: the vulnerability of the knee. The writers inform us that “it takes only 15 pounds of force to break one and virtually anyone can do it.”

Another story is about a seventeen-year-old girl they name Gina Giant Slayer. Gina saw her ex-boyfriend (who was violating a restraining order) coming towards her as she exited a store. Upon seeing him, she immediately got into a ready stance — both feet on the ground with her hands held up ready to fight. He ran towards her and Gina “heel palmed him right under the chin.” When her attacker stopped to hold his jaw Gina kneed him quickly in his groin. The fight continued until her attacker was on the ground and the security guard was beside her, who said that he had never seen a girl fight like that. Gina shouted for people to call 911 as left the area and called the District Attorney’s office.

Changing the conversation

When men fight back, it’s expected. We don’t hear arguments about how unfair it is that a man had to use physical force to defend himself. We don’t question it. When women fight back, it’s big news. And that’s inequality.

Recently, a jogger in Pittsburgh was assaulted by a man who pulled down her running shorts. He started to run away when the jogger yelled at him and told him to stop. The jogger was a U.S. Deputy Marshall and she yelled for others on the trail to call 911. When he kept running she ran after him, caught up with him and kicked him in his crotch and punched him in the face. The police arrived and arrested him. The U.S. Deputy Marshall was clearly confident enough in her skills, physical strength and power in law enforcement to chase after her attacker and get him into custody.

Running after an attacker is not something that authors  Snortland and Gaeta would ever teach, after all self defense is to protect yourself first and get out of danger.

The Safety Godmothers want their readers to understand that fighting back is natural. Male violence doesn’t get wished away nor does it get eradicated by demanding that men stop. If that were the case, the ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria would have had a conversion experience after reading an essay about rape culture. By the way, in the current war in Iraq, Kurdish women, numbering in the thousands, are fighting the ISIS as part of the Women’s Protection Unit. One female soldier said, “ISIS is our biggest enemy right now. As long as they are on our land, rape and kill our women we will fight them.”

The Safety Godmothers know that self defense is a necessary part of life. As a feminist, this book reinforced my belief in women’s power to defend themselves and now I know that Safety Godmothers, Ellen Snortland and Lisa Gaeta have my back.

Jennifer Lee is a filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. She has spent many years working on Hollywood films and used her free time (when she had it!) making her own films. Her latest film, “Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation” is being distributed nationally and more public screenings are upcoming! Jennifer was recently named Global Ambassador for the Global Media Monitoring Project.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/In the public domain

  • http://www.i-makeawish.com/ janeleonard

    Self defense is essential especially for women to protect themselves in helpless situations!! Moreover it even strengthens the mind and gives more courage for people praticing them!!

    • Guest

      If you really believe that, you would say it’s true for men as well. Men are crime victims an awful lot more than women are. The real problem is that people in this miserable society condone violence against men.

    • carl

      Its open season on man haters! Keep your magnums loaded guys!

    • Derek Jetter

      many women are already violent. Women commit most child abuse and murder, while committing half of domestic violence. Women need to put their aggression to use the way men have by serving in military, police, and rescue.

  • Winny

    We should all learn to do whatever it takes to fight off sexual predators, and that includes eye poking and grabbing, twisting and pulling testicles really hard and not letting go until they rupture. These are two great moves taught in my krav maga class, taught by women, for women.

    The sooner we reach this point the world will be a safer place for all women and girls and attackers may think twice…

    • Gary Henderson

      This is excessive force. You are maming a man for life and could possibly kill him all because he wanted to have sex with you and you said no. Excessive force. If someone tries to take your purse, what? You’re gonna kill him for that?

  • Tigress

    My mum teaches self defense to teenage girls, and the title of this article pretty much sums up what she believes and teaches, namely “There’s Nothing Wrong with Women & Girls Knowing How to Protect Themselves.”

    She teaches to do “whatever it takes” to escape to safety, including the “no fail self defense technique for women and girls” – grabbing, twisting and pulling on an attackers testicles when the opportunity arises. This technique has saved 3 girls she has taught in her lifetime. The effects even on the strongest of male attackers is dramatic: they freeze in agony, curl over due to the intense pain, and can easily pass out from shock in around 8 seconds. The important thing to remember is to not let go of the testicles, but to keep on squeezing and twisting until the attacker is incapacitated. This technique is a lfe saver, and it works no matter how big and strong the attacker is.

    It’s techniques like this one which ALL girls should now be taught, and I’m so proud of my mum for playing a key role in this.

    • Ronald Cummings

      there was this court document i read where two women killed their husbands in self defense this way they were both on trial together because the method of killing was similar. it outlines two women on trial for manslaughter for accidentally killing their husbands by applying force to their testicles. the post mortem showed they both died of neurogenic shock related to pain. the first woman lucy moro kicked her husband in the testicles, the other woman dabre bamire squeezed so hard it smashed her husbands left testicle. she was just trying to remove his leg from her neck so she grabbed those delicate parts. both men were healthy young men in their mid 20’s.

      so as you can see its really effective but i did not like how these women were imprisoned for defending them selves.

      • Gary Henderson

        it’s because you dont kill a man for trying to have sex with you. You hit them there or grab long enough then you friggan let go. He wont hurt you for 5 minutes as he will be on the floor in agony. What idiot is teaching females to “Not let go” and wait till he passes out? This is excessive force.

    • carl

      Good for her . it will eventually cost her in the end. I truly hope its equally fatal.

  • mskittyhugger

    I love it that these more mature women have shared self defense tips and success stories in their book. We can all learn from our elders. Thanks should also go to the broad side in their help in promoting womens safety.

    When I was very young my grandmother, who server in the armed forces, was always very concerned for my both mine and both my sisters safeties. She used to always say to us that if any man ever gave us trouble then we should always “go for the plums”. We didn’t know what she she meant at first until our mother told us that she was of course referring to a mans testicles! Women in her time within the armed forces used to share information between themselves in how to defeat men in combat. They also sometimes used to host safety classes for girl guides.

    One important thing they taught was to never give in when fighting back, and that includes right up the point where a man is actually committing a rape. For example, we learned that at the point of sex where he “loses control”, we can quickly reach down and pinch a testicle or two, and continue to pinch, pull and twist hard, and not let go until the attacker quickly loses all his strength. He may end up screaming for you to let go, but don’t! The aim is to rupture either one or both testicles. If he doesn’t pass out from the intense pain then he sure will wish he had. There are stories of how very smart women have been literally begged by their much weakened attackers to phone the police for help, once the quick thinking women have managed to obtain a very tight grip of their testicles.

    It can be uncomfortable to talk in this way, but at the same time it’s extremely important that we continue to share safety tips and success stories between ourselves and our daughters. Fighting back is not an option, it is a neccessity.

    • KellyFrost

      @mskittyhugger

      Your post reminded me of something which a friend of my mothers used to say when she used to teach Womens self-defense.

      She used to refer to testicles as “the great equalizers in combat between men and women”, and also as “Womens allies in self-defense!”

      I found her choice of the words “combat” and “allies” amusing when applied to testicles because she also had a background in the military.

      A quick search revealed that a San Antonio woman grabbed her boyfriends testicles just this september after he grabbed her shoulders hard enough to leave bruises. He had to be taken to hospital for treatment and he is also now facing charges for assault. Good for her! When will these types of men learn? This appeared just one of many success stories from using this technique and you’re right – we should share self-defense tips with our mothers, daughters and Sisters.

      • Gary Henderson

        Yes but dont you realize, that after a man recovers, he’s gonna get you back? And it wont be pretty?

    • Ronald Cummings

      I dont know why more women grab a mans testicles during a rape . its the quickest and most effective way to stop him in seconds. i remember reading and article in africa where a woman killed a 21 year old rapist by squeezing his testicles. she waited for him to drop his pants and when he thought it was going his way she grabbed his delicate parts and squeezed so hard he went unconscious immediately. fortunately he never regained consciousness and his body was found nude and erect. the post mortem said his testicles were swollen and he died from neurogenic shock related to pain

      • carl

        Maybe you’ll get kicked or worst die of old age and no one ever touching your privates ever!

    • carl

      Your elders were absolutely no saints! True facts of most all families would be stupid. I’d advise you to leave that alone! Inbreeding and slavery only touches the surface you bafoon.

  • Julie S

    I attended an all girls school, and one of the things we used to believe was that God had given men testicles after realizing that they had been given an unfair advantage over us in with their extra strength and size.

    The reasoning of course was that testicles are extremely vulnerable body parts, which we do not have, situated in an awkward place and easily reachable by many forms of strikes. The slightest blow to them can bring even the strongest of men to their knees. Thus us girls were given a very poweful natural advantage in combat over boys and men to even the score out.

    When I attended university later in life I was one of the unfortunate one in three UK women (there are articles released about this today within the UK media which I find shocking) who would be attacked while on campus.

    In my case however, after realizing that men usually respond to actions rather than words, I decided to fight back. I remembered the one natural advantage I had over my male attacker from my school days and swiftly rammed a knee into his testicles when I saw the opening. He dropped forwards with a loud scream nearly pulling me to the ground with him, clearly he was in great agony. Shortly afterwards after the police were called he was arrested while still on his knees beside a pool of vomit (a common effect I learned after a blow to the testicles) in exactly the same place where I had fought him off.

    I learned the hard way that day that we CAN fight back against stronger men, and fight back effectively if we know the right techniques and where to strike.

    Thare has been an excellent article recently written on the internet by Susan Schorn entitled “How to Kick a Guy in the Balls: An Illustrated Guide”. Susan is a feminist, a martial artist, and a certified Emergency Medical Technician, and she has written this article for women of all sizes and ages to demonstrate the effects (with explanations and video clips) of the effects of men getting hit in the testicles. The comment at the end of her intro is “Ladies, sit back and enjoy yourselves.”

    It’s worth pointing out that the men who are hit in the testicles in the videos are MMA fighters – that is, the biggest, the toughest, the meanest and the best male fighters out there. Yet a hit to their testicles has such a dramatic
    effect upon them. It’s essential reading and viewing for women who don’t believe they have the ability to defeat a much bigger and stronger man in combat, and many female self-defense instructors are describing it as the best self defense article for women ever written.

    I feel that the videos are important for women to watch because there is sometimes confusion as to whether hitting a man in the testicles will just make him angry, or have little, if any effect at all. Unsurprisingly, this confusion stems from men themselves – men who are uncomfortable with the thoughts that women can defeat them in combat by taking advantage of a very powerful natural advantage we have over them. These men
    rarely volunteer to demonstrate their own iron balls in a real kneeing/kicking situation – especially in front of women – but they confidently assert that men in general can shrug off all kinds of strikes to the testicles.

    The reality though can be seen for ourselves in Susan Schorns article – strikes to the testicles have a devastating effect on even the strongest and toughest of men. Any examples you see elsewhere where there doesn’t seem to be much of an effect are easily explained by these men having a cup protecting their testicles. In a rape situation, the rapist will at some stage have his testicles fully unprotected and within striking distance,
    and as explaind in some of this articles replies a grab, twist and pull of the testicles and not letting go of them until unconciousness of their owner sets in an extremely effective technique for women to fight back with.

    Finishing off, I love sites like The Broad Side for allowing all women of all ages all over the world to share our life stories and empowerment experiences between ourselves. Let’s hope that together we can end the oppression of women everywhere by sharing powerful information like that shared within this article, Susan Schorns article, and the reader real life responses to this article.

    • carl

      I think you are the root problem to this article to yourself and by feeding hate in disquise. This has nothing to do with rape defense or training or classes . Its a weak terrified soul who like so many others blame all their problems on inequality . stop this sexist hate fantasy before its too late! Stay away from men,!!!!! You clearly have no business in the company of them.

  • Louise Raymond

    This is a great article with some great replies.

    There is a viral video on youtube in which a young woman tells the story about how she defended herself against a much bigger male attacker who had a history of violence against women. She was only eighty pounds in weight at the time and a teenager, but some very smart thinking on her part, and a very powerful technique allowed her to get to safety and her attacker a lengthy jail term. I won’t spoil things by saying any more but you can listen to the clip to find out what she did to get away.

    It’s success stories like hers which we need to show to our daughters and friends.

    Here is a link to the amazing clip (it’s mostly audio):

    • Guest

      That thing is faked. Lets have one about clobbering a female attacker and see how that goes.

    • carl

      This is a bunch of fearful misanrist hurling vile discusting vivid detailed hate and evil towards a whole gender ! Hiding there hatred is cowardice! You should seek help .

    • carl

      There’s nothing amazing about bragging a made up story. I think its untasteful and speaks the true hateful nature of this liar and the attention she seeks.

  • Paul Ellis

    this article is sexist and only worried about attacking the testicles. wr should be teaching men to hit girls in their boobs and kick them in their vulvas then. because women assault and rape men too. a good kick in the vag will make a girl stop, i learned that one day when i was being attacked. she hit my testicles and wouldnt stop because i told her i didnt want to sleep with her. i covered them and regained my breath and punched her in the face. after she kept trying to assault me so i did what she did and kicked her in her vagina. she ended up in the ground and then i kicked her in her breasts. she didnt get up to come after me after that haha.

    • Paul Jaramillo

      Men are the ones who do most of the attacking of people. Wake up out of your fantasy land!!!!

      • Guest

        He’s not in any “fantasy land”. Men have every right to defend themselves just as much and just the same as women think they do. If you get attacked by a female, thats not a “woman”, it’s an assailant and she deserves the same response any male attacker would get.

      • Derek Jetter

        women commit just as much domestic violence as men and the commit the majority of child abuse and child murder. You need to wake up out of your fantasy.

  • Paul Jaramillo

    Men need to learn to defend themselves also. Men are more likely to attack each other, more than women or children.

    • Guest

      Men are victims of violence a lot more often than women are.

    • carl

      Men need to carry on them always.

  • Gary Henderson

    I think it’s wrong to teach females to squeeze till one pops. This can kill a man. Nuerogenic shock. All he wanted to do is either have sex or take your purse. Seems like excessive force and the female is acting as judge and executioner by attempting murder as a means to thwart an attacker.

  • mark

    Bullshit, girls, I am man and my suggestion is not to go for a man’s private part. Men are physically stronger, and they will just destroy you afterward. Try to scream and run, there is no way you are going to take me down with a groin kick.

  • carl

    It will be a tragedy to say the least what will certainly come of one or lady that mistakes or misinterprets my actions because of this hate provocated article or training. I do not hate women or promote violence nor due to current society trust them . In stating that I carry and will defend myself to the last possible breath .

  • carl

    In the possible company of these people carry every day every where at all times guys! At least some form of an easily accessible weapon. These haters are obviously sick and with that dangerous. I read more and more everyday of these discusting peoples fantasies to inflict harm on whole genders .Root of this is not defense its evil. The two doesn’t equal good !

  • carl

    I will try to start a new discussion of what to do with our mentally ill female society and what steps needs to be addressed in making change.

  • carl

    Most (men) are good ! Many if not most don’t touch or want much to do with any female out of fear of legal cosequences and unequal rights to start off ! When guys defend themselves they are guilty till proven innocent. If it happens to be a female they are legally and financially ruined as well as any reputation without remorse or facts . This so called equality is rubbing off and changes are being made. This true hate , not (defense or training) is nothing more than Misandry, Prejudice and violence disquised and directed towards all the male readers as again hate! This is not freedom of speach and certainly not without consequence. These statements are in fact false and damaging to readers and even dangerous if taken seriously.

  • carl

    Ther needs to be many counter articles of how men are being bashed for hate by feminist which are misandrist in these opinionated trashy self hate pages. Men are all being demonized by evil Sin which has manifested itself in women . there has not been any limit to society allowing hate and organized cruelty suggested and inflicted on men. Bring this to and end and with it all the lies and violent descriptions or examples of hate .

  • carl

    I can only hope all understands what’s really behind this sexually tinted hate article and how important it is that this be met with equal retaliation towards the writers and negative attention it so much deserves as well as price.

  • Derek Jetter

    This hate is typical of feminism. Focus only on bad from men and only on pain for women. Feminists never mention or care that women commit the majority of child abuse or how mothers commit the majority of child killings. Feminists are silent on this because it doesn’t help women. Women commit as much domestic violence as men but women are always the victim…

1*uSFwL3t4cU010HNcWqH3Vw
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
5341066529_860a317b53_b
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Hillary Clinton, Shake It Off, Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton Campaign song
Six Reasons “Shake It Off” Should Be Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Theme Song
Nancy Reagan dies, Just Say No, Ronald Reagan
A Not-So-Positive Ode to Nancy Reagan’s Frothy “Just Say No” Campaign
9473460913_f0e1c0df6d_z
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
1*uSFwL3t4cU010HNcWqH3Vw
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
Wedding_rings
I Married for Health Insurance
1024px-white_mocha_ice_cream
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
9473460913_f0e1c0df6d_z
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
1*uSFwL3t4cU010HNcWqH3Vw
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
31748741123_4874f2e4d0_z
Trump Reality Check, Now with Actual Facts!
WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIES
Fascism Facts
Wedding_rings
I Married for Health Insurance
5341066529_860a317b53_b
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
1024px-white_mocha_ice_cream
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
saudi-women-vote
Women’s Elections Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Token Drop in an Abysmal Bucket & the Plight of Women Under Sharia Law
Israel Palestine BDS AIPAC Clinton
HRC, AIPAC, BDS and UC
800px-Girls_At_Highland_Avenue_Train_Stop
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
Paris attacks, Paris terrorism
Is Paris Burning?
Chinese government and women's reproductive rights, adopting Chinese girls, international adoption
Dear Xi Jinping, I Am Writing to You as an American Mom of a 19-Year-Old Chinese Daughter
800px-Girls_At_Highland_Avenue_Train_Stop
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
369.the-eyes-have-it1
The Eyes Have It!
Ashley Madison, Jared Fogle, sex, rape, sexual affairs
Ashley Madison vs. Jared Fogle: Rape, Sex and Hacking in America
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread