The article ‘Fight your attacker Tooth and Nail’ appeared recently in Hindustan Times on March 8th, 2014. You can access the article here http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/viewer.aspx (bottom right corner). The article was an excerpt from a recently released book Fit to Fight by Vesna Jacob. This book seems to have come out in an opportune time, with rising media coverage of and public attention given to crimes against women.
From what could be gleaned from the article, Fit to Fight is meant as a guide for women to protect themselves from attackers. It has self defense lessons for women and girls and also a section that advises women on different ways to save themselves from attacks. One example is – ‘..Ask him if he has a daughter or a sister, and how he would feel if they were in your shoes..before you get to the physical part of the attack try to use every single thing that comes to your mind that can make your attacker hesitate..’. The book seems to have many more such lessons for women.
This book is only one among many such self-defense books, which focus on ways that women can use to prevent attacks against themselves. Also, in recent public debates about crimes against women, there has been a recurrent argument about women needing to know how to protect themselves from attackers. Well meaning films, articles, and other media have focused on how women need to be strong and fight against violence. However, such arguments leave me disturbed at some levels, because they put the responsibility of preventing violence against women, on women themselves.
What kind of message does a book like Fit to Fight give to women and girls facing very real threats of violence every day? What do we think of teaching self defense to girls as a way of protecting themselves? Does such focus on girls and women give them a sense of agency to fight violence, or does it put additional burden of preventing violence on the victims/survivors of violence?