walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Real Knockouts_, a sorta live blog

I abandoned _Smile at Strangers_ a while back, because I had intense, ambiguous feelings about the hostility I felt about many of the ideas and stories in that book. I wanted to like it (women beating people up! Yay!) but really, really, really disapproved (hey, you're supposed to pick the right targets! And, safety first in training!!!).

But it reminded me that I had other books about women and violence that I had not yet read. Picking up _Real Knockouts_, the first few pages are reminding me already why I have never read this book. The subtitle, "The Physical Feminism of Women's Self-Defense" is sooooo promising. But sexual violence in the first few pages is relentlessly portrayed as perpetrated by men against women. I get the numbers. I really do. But my early history of sexual mistreatment came at the hands of another girl.


I read on. But not with optimism.

Also, I did a lot of the same things the author refers to doing (taking self-defense or martial arts classes, learning to shoot -- it's not clear if she actually owned and carried or not, but I did), but all the men who were a part of that process (and they were overwhelmingly men, with very few exceptions) were enthusiastic about what I was doing and supportive and not creepy (some of the men I dated who found out I carried were creepy, but not the men at the range and not anyone in martial arts contexts) and didn't have any trouble at all with these behaviors fitting within their ideas about what it meant to be a woman vs. being a man. I don't know if this is PacNW stuff, or generational. I believe what she's saying -- it's just wildly at odds with my personal experience. It's entirely possible that I'm misunderstanding some of what she is saying.

Weird statement about self-defense and anger and women that made me go whaaa? And I found this:


Okay, before you go there YES I HATE SAM HARRIS TOO! All right. He set up a roundtable with very interesting, smart people and while he was an idiot (what, he can't tell the difference between what you can do if the other guy starts something vs. what you can do if you start something? Seriously. How hard is that to understand?), it has some awesome stuff in it.

There's a whole bunch of stuff about self-defense claims failing because the person making the claim was the first person to show a weapon and/or attack (duh. NOT SELF DEFENSE). And then there's this:

"Steven Levine: If you’re being robbed, you can just kill the other person.

Sam Harris: Are you kidding?"

Duh, Harris. He is not kidding. It can actually get considerably weirder than that. Here's more from Levine, involving a hypothetical armed robbery of a store. You can run, what if you decide to shoot the guy?

"Steven Levine: Yes. Once somebody is engaged in felonious conduct, you can do whatever you do to stop him. "

I think I should have found this when I was reading _Smile at Strangers_. I was so incredibly appalled that she was considering attacking those two mountain bikers after her dog bit one of them. And she was thinking that this was legit, somehow self-defense. But the framework presented by Levine and the others is super clear. Don't Fucking Start Anything. Once the other person has committed a crime, they are in trouble for nearly everything that happens thereafter. And the owner of the biting dog didn't realize that.


Levine even does a good job of handling what if you see a fight on the street situation. I've seen that happen twice -- once at a Denny's when I was in my teens, and it turned out that the guy winning the fight was a cop. Good fight not to get involved in. Second time was outside a Burger King on my way to martial arts -- irony! Pretty clear cut case of domestic violence and there were dozens of us in the area all calling 911 and reporting it, which is what you are supposed to do.

Okay, McCaughey's sense of history is kinda bad and weird. She has spent many pages on how feminists don't seem to want to entertain self defense as a way to address rape. She never, ever, ever mentions the long history of blaming women for being raped because they didn't fight back adequately. So, that's kind of a problem.

Then she starts in on protective labor legislation in the US during the Gilded Age. There were a lot of efforts to limit the work day and work week and require employers to implement basic safety measures in the work place. These were repeatedly struck down in the post-Civil War era. The _only_ ones that were upheld by the Supreme Court were those that were specifically about women. And so that's where labor activists focused, because their efforts would actually stand up over time.

That is totally lost in McCaughey's analysis. "In the 1890s, U.S. social reformers sought to exclude the married woman from factory labor on the grounds that distress and disorder would result." *sigh* Were there reformers that took this approach? Sure. There were a lot of people coming from a lot of different perspectives. But a lot of the reformers were trying to make things better for every worker, and their efforts kept getting shot down on the basis that they were infringing the right of labor to make a "free" contract. Only married women with children were presumed to be worthy of additional protections, because children were dependent upon them.

And then men get blamed for separate spheres! Crazy! That was a woman-led effort to increase the power of women (and in its time and place, for the white, middle and upper class women it affected, it worked!).

The relentlessly repeated idea that rape is always heterosexual is really driving me bananas. Ba-na-nas.

"To be sure, there are men who act violently, sexually and non-sexually, toward other men. But those acts of violence are often clear to all participants as violent, while rape can often be construed as a man's "natural instincts" responding to a woman whose appearance, behavior or reputation "invited" it." Look, I only know one man who talks about another man who attempted to force sex with him, and he makes it clear that the person doing the forcing was as oblivious with a man not wanting it as the McCaughey asserts is the case with women. So there is some oblivious out there, with m on m as well as the more expected m on f. But in a whole lot of cases, it is not oblivious, and it is an intentional, power seeking violation. Sentences like the above really are a distraction from that core criminality.

"boy scouts can learn to shoot rifles and shotguns starting in the sixth grade. Girl scouts sell cookies and contribute to charities, but never learn to shoot."

I may be done with this book, because that is just not true. Girl scouts can start shooting once get get out of juniors, which turns out to be 6th grade, just like boy scouts.


I really want to like women writing about beating people up! I swear! I do! Give me a woman author writing about women beating people up who does it even at a mediocre level! PLEASE!
Tags: not-a-book-review
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