To keep and bear arms: a feminist issue
February 11, 2010 12 Comments
Since the campus lockdown a year and a half ago, popular topics of conversation have been violence, self-defense, and weapon-carrying.
It is interesting to note how people’s ideas on self defense rights change depending on who you’re talking to.
In our society, we have this stereotypical notion that men are aggressors (or aggressive) and women are not. When talking about self defense, it is generally assumed that men will take an active role in their own self defense (of course!) and women will take a more passive role. What I mean by this is, men are taught and expected to know how to fight. Women are offered self defense classes. Men are taught how to use guns and knives. Women are told that pepper spray and tasers are available. Somewhere. Maybe.
In a lot of ways, and for a variety of reasons, women are more vulnerable to violence, and ergo, in most need of reliable self defense. And yet, society, and even feminism works to keep the safest and most reliable form of self defense from women: guns.
Yes, I said it. Guns.
I’ve been in more than one thread discussing violence against women, or a particular violent act against a woman, and if someone suggests women start carrying, someone will inevitably cry foul.
People hear “own or carry a gun,” and it’s interpreted as “shoot people willy-nilly.”
This is a problem. The world is hostile to women, where we’re expected to be all things, and be nothing. In this particular topic of discussion, we’re expected to alter our schedules, our modes of transportation, our dress, our footwear, our behavior, and our social life to avoid those who mean to do us harm. If a woman is attacked, we don’t wonder why the attacker chose to attack, or start a campaign to against violent behavior: we ask what that woman could have done to avoid being attacked, and posit if she deserved it.
What is wrong with this picture?
A lot of things.
Second Amendment rights are not usually seen as a feminist issue, but I would say that they are.
As I said on this post on Feministing, guns are a very good deterrent. Very few would attack a person carrying a gun, or in the case of acquaintances, a person they knew that both owned and knew how to use a gun. If carrying became so widespread for women, attackers would think twice. Just the knowledge that a woman carrying would deter most attacks. No shooting willy-nilly required (or desired).
For those that still choose to try, brandishing the weapon would scare them off, or buy you time to get away or call the authorities. If a woman is in a desperate situation, her life need not be forfeit.
Anyone who chooses to own a gun needs to be educated and trained. You won’t buy a car without knowing how to drive and maintain it, naturally you wouldn’t buy a gun without knowing how to shoot, disassemble, and clean it. Regular trips to the shooting range are absolutely necessary. No one likes to drive a car they’re unfamiliar with, likewise, no one likes to shoot a gun they’re unfamiliar with.
I also want to make another thing clear: guns do not a violent society make. Violent people a violent society makes. Police cannot be everywhere, and free societies cannot sacrifice freedom for safety (or the hope or feeling of safety).
Until society is changed, making the world a safer and more welcoming place for women, we must take the initiative for our own safety. We have the right to self-defense. We have the right to keep and bear arms. Let’s take advantage of these rights. Relying on others hasn’t done a whole lot for us.