Self-Defense: Not Just for Gun Owners

I’m seeing a lot of babbling about George Zimmerman defending himself.

What I’m hearing very little of is Trayvon Martin’s right to self defense.

Trayvon didn’t know Zimmerman. He didn’t know why Zimmerman was following him. He didn’t know why Zimmerman had a gun. All he knew, was that this strange man was following him, for God knows what reason, to do who knows what.

From what I can piece together, this seventeen year old boy tried to deescalate the situation. “Why are you following me?”

When that didn’t work, he tried to remove himself from the situation and get to safety. He tried to run away.

Zimmerman followed.

Trayvon was backed into a metaphorical corner here. Deescalation didn’t work. Flight* didn’t work. All that he had left was Fight*. Self-defense.

(Fight or Flight, you know, the two instinctual responses to a threat?)

Trayvon showed more sense than this grown-ass man. He waited to use physical confrontation until the very last, after all other options were exhausted.

Now, I don’t believe for a second Zimmerman’s accounting. I don’t believe for a second that Trayvon attacked him. I believe Trayvon fought back. To defend himself, from this strange, grown-ass man that was following him home in the dark. With a gun.

Zimmerman should not own a gun. He has shown that he has no sense. He has no respect for his weapon, and no respect and caution in the face of the power a gun gave him.

The power to take a life.

Responsible gun owners know that the mere presence of a gun escalates a situation. Responsible gun owners know that you don’t exhibit threatening behavior to another (perceived, in this case. Zimmerman thought Trayvon was carrying.) gun owner. That’s a good way to start a shootout. Responsible gun owners don’t look for a fight. Responsible gun owners avoid it. Responsible gun owners don’t want to use their weapon. At all.

When Trayvon tried to deescalate the situation, Zimmerman kept escalating it.

Zimmerman was the threat. Zimmerman was the instigator. Zimmerman was the attacker.

Trayvon was exercising his right to self-defense.

Zimmerman is a murderer.

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A Gun Owner on “Stand Your Ground”

I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I understand the sentiment–if I have the right to be in a space, I also have the right to be there and be safe. I have the right to be free from harm, from being a victim of a crime. I have the right to defend myself.

I have the right to defend myself.

That is why I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I already have the right to defend myself.

One concern many people have for new (or old) gun owners is that gun owners will get overconfident–they’ll feel invincible, because of the power that comes with carrying a deadly weapon. As a result, they’ll become careless. They’ll escalate tense situations. They’ll be too quick to draw their weapon. They’ll draw their weapon when they have no intention of really shooting, just because they’re feeling out of control, and they want that control back.

Those are reasonable concerns, to say the least.

I’ve said before that drawing a deadly weapon like a gun, in self-defense, should be a last resort. What I haven’t said, but implied, is that every possible attempt should be made to deescalate.

I believe gun owners have a duty to try to deescalate.

If deescalating means removing yourself from the situation, if that’s possible, then so be it, your right to be in whatever location you’re in be damned.

Because it’s not about your right to be occupying a space, it’s about your right to be alive, to be safe, to be free from harm and injury.

(note: I’m not talking about castle doctrine here. I’m not referring to occupying your own living space, or your car, for instance.)

The right to self-defense is more than adequate for gun owners to protect themselves from attackers, wherever you are.

Stand your ground laws only protect irresponsible rogue-cowboy-wannabe gun owners from being prosecuted, not to mention encourages them to go on with their rogue cowboy fantasy.

This costs a lot of innocent people their lives, and that’s unacceptable.

Abortion and Gun Rights

As I’ve said before, I’m an advocate for self-defense and gun ownership rights, as well as the right to carry, especially for women. But, I must ask, what use is the right to protect ourselves if we’re losing the right to control our own bodies?

You may not think it, but gun rights intersect with abortion rights. Both are about protecting and having control over what happens to your person. Both are about preventing violation and violence to your body. Both are about taking control of your life, your safety, and not looking to another to do it for you. Losing the right to both would have a profound impact on our individual freedoms.

As many have said before, the personhood of a first-trimester fetus is irrelevant. No one questions the personhood of an attacker, but the right to self-defense is sacrosanct. That is because NO ONE can use our bodies without our explicit consent, much less harm us to the point of needing surgery and facing the possibility of death.

When it comes to it, do we consider the forces behind the robber breaking into our home? That he may be poor, that stealing is his natural inclination? Nope. All that matters in that moment is that someone is breaking into your home, without your consent, that you don’t want them there, and you’re going to do what you have to do to get them gone, to protect yourself, your family, and your home.

Gun rights exist to protect what is ours. Abortion does the same.

Mind-Boggling News Item of the Day

I’m not sure where to go with this one. A man in Madison County, Kentucky was shot while trespassing back in 2009. He is now suing the man whose property he was trespassing on for excessive force, emotional distress, and physical pain.

Now, being shot sucks, don’t get me wrong. But so does coming upon a strange man in your barn/house/whatever and not knowing if he intends to hurt you or your family. What did Charlie Harvey, the trespasser, expect the man to do? Say, “Good sir, I’m sure you do not realize it, but you are trespassing upon my property, and I have no idea who you are. I would very much appreciate it if you left, so sorry to be so rude”?

I can’t imagine how John Fair, the man who shot Harvey, felt and feels in dealing with this ordeal. I’ve been in some sticky situations myself, and I’ve not exactly kept a secret my thoughts on self defense. I can’t tell you what I would have done in Mr. Fair’s place. I can tell you that I don’t exactly blame him, or fault him, for doing what he did. Regardless, Mr. Fair will live with what he did for the rest of his life–shooting someone, even someone breaking in, is a big deal. I hope he can deal with that in any way he finds healing.

I can say, however, that this being Kentucky, Charlie Harvey will not win his suit. He will be, more than likely, laughed out of court.

A Silent Minority: Pro-Gun-Rights Feminists

So, eight months ago, I posted this blog. In it, I make my case as to why gun rights are a feminist issue. Monday, in a post on Shakesville, I lost my temper, got more than a little snarky, and got into an argument there. If you’re not interested in following the link, or reading all the comments, here’s the deal: Tennessee is expanding to bars and restaurants the right for CCW holders to carry. Most there begin stereotyping gun owners as the irresponsible, blood-thirsty, getting-a-hard-on-to-shoot someone, tea party, “second amendment solutions to political disagreement” caricature.

I’d heard all of this before. Nothing new. It happens every time gun rights come up in a feminist sphere. What set me off was one poster painting college students as infantile, unable to comprehend that shooting into a crowd of innocent people is a bad idea.

Insult me, sure. I get annoyed. Allies insulting me? That hurts me. Falling into the trap of painting all college students as just like those frat-boy movies? No. That’s ridiculous. I do apologize for losing my temper. It would have been more prudent to take a smoke break before replying. But. I’m only sorry for how I phrased the things I said. I’m not sorry for what I said. I’m not sorry for feeling the way I felt: angry.

What is it that makes mainstream feminists completely unable to contemplate and discuss gun rights?

Feminist can talk about trafficking, rape, child molestation—the darkest aspects of humanity and our culture—even those of us with personal experiences—we can talk about those things. Though we’ll put trigger warnings on graphic descriptions, we’ll watch our language, out of respect for those who have experienced those traumas. We do not allow stereotyping, victim-blaming, strawmen…but somehow the feminist community-at-large cannot discuss gun rights.

Guns are not humans with agency. Guns cannot do anything to anyone without a human being behind them. Guns are very dangerous tools. In self-defense, what is being discussed here, should only be used as a last and most desperate resort.  More often, in self-defense, they are a deterrent. You never pull out a gun unless you’re willing to use it. Never.

Violence against women, against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals are endemic. The world gives us platitudes. The world tells us it’s our fault—for being sexy, for being different, for being in certain places—for being who we are. The police make light of our attacks. They blame us. They refuse to get us justice. Sometimes, they attack us as well. But in light of all of this—we’re still expected to trust them. By the world, and by the feminist community.

Why? Victim advocacy groups, they say, will help us. Despite their overwhelming workloads, their little funding, despite these groups not being available in every community (red state, anyone? poverty-stricken areas anyone?). These groups are the feminist solution to dealing with a misogynist, homophobic, transphobic institution that is the only means to get justice for the wrongs done to us. And nothing, nothing, to prevent any of those wrongs, right here, right now. Sure, we can work to change our culture. It’s something I work for every day, but the kind of change we need to make the world safe for everyone, is going to take years, and it does nothing for people that live in this world, right here, right now.

I, along with a silent minority in the feminist and/or liberal movement, have no interest in making our way through a hostile world with nothing but the “don’t walk alone” and “carry mace or hairspray” solutions that the world, and the feminist community gives to us. We’re sick of “prevention tips” that call for us to change our living situations, behavior, movements, and appearance. I’m angry, very angry, that I, along with all of my brothers and sisters are forced to take extreme measures just to stay alive, to stay safe, and to stay sane. We’re liberals and feminists that are pro-gun rights. We believe in self-defense. We believe that it is our right as human beings to live, freely and safely, as we choose. We believe that we have the right to defend ourselves from people who would harm us.

We’re a silent minority. But let’s stop the “silent” part.

Oh yeah: and one more thing: laws only affect those who would follow them in the first place. If you’re afraid of ye olde stereotypical gun owner described above, he’s not going to give much of a shit about where he’s legally allowed to carry. The law only affects those who obey it, respect it, as well as all human life. If you ask me, those are the ones you want carrying in the first place.

Beware of Assumptions, Not Monsters: Part 3

In the third part of my Beware of Assumptions series, I’m going to discuss “self defense.” If you’re a woman, you know what I’m talking about. Every time we bring up violence against women, inevitably, some dopey-grinned asshole cheerily suggests taking a self-defense class.

Yes. Let’s recap what we’ve gone over so far: 1) women have no common sense. 2) We’re supposed to avoid danger. And now, 3) women are to prepare themselves for Danger by spending time and money on self-defense classes and mace.

Growing up, little girls are taught, over and over, that aggressiveness in girls is bad. Girls don’t fight—no. If another child picks on a little girl, we expect the little girl to run tearfully to her parents or teacher, and not to tattle. No one likes a snitch. They’re to run tearfully to the nearest adult to be comforted. Little boys are taught to fight back, and are even chastised and punished for crying and tattling.

All grown up, we’re only allowed to defend ourselves. Strength-building? Martial arts? Boxing? Hell no. To prepare us for the Big Bad Stranger jumping out of the bush, we’re taught in our segregated self-defense classes to poke eyes, scream, twist our wrists free, and kick testicles. If you ask me, the lessons fathers give their sons on how to fistfight are more advanced. But women couldn’t handle that.

One of the milestones of boyhood is his first pocketknife. There is no such equivalent in girlhood. The first hunting trip is the same: a milestone for boys, unheard of for girls. Indeed, as a knife-carrying female, I’m considered an oddity. Just last week, my grandfather made my (all-male) cousins the butt of a joke challenging their manhood, and all because I was the one to whip out a knife to cut open a sealed box.

Even as we discourage aggression and fighting in females, we, as a society collectively mock girls and women who do fight, and only use such skills as are familiar to them: scratching, hair-pulling, and slapping. They are mocked because they don’t know how to fight properly, like men.

And yet, when the Big Bad Stranger in the bushes comes up, it’s spoken as a matter of course that women should know how to defend themselves. We are taught throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that vagina-possessing bodies do not, cannot, and should not know how to fight. Save for this one, special, particular situation. With a lifetime of discouragement and disdain for female aggression, it is no wonder that Jenkins’ self defense classes are not as popular as he thinks they should be.

Is it any wonder that we don’t?

Yet, Jenkins assumes this is solely and completely the fault of the woman who cannot or does not fight back sufficiently enough to deter her attacker. She should have paid for and taken all the time necessary for one class that teaches basic and inadequate skills, to match the training men receive throughout their lives.  Let’s make an outlandish comparison using Guy World™ examples: It’s like a professional MMA fighter versus a high school wrestler. More experience and more training will win out more often than not, Mr. Jenkins.

This isn’t even going into weaponry. Most men have used a pocketknife throughout their lifetimes, and so are skilled with a knife. Many have experience with guns. Compare these fine weapons with… pepper spray. Or a taser.  There is no comparison. When you add years of training in said weaponry use to little to none in inferior weaponry, you get “Are you SERIOUSLY trying to compare the two? Really? Really?”

More and more, it’s looking like, “Mr. Jenkins, are you SERIOUSLY blaming women for being attacked? Really? Really?

Let’s go Republican for a minute: Blame the bad guys. The bad guy who jumps out of the bushes, perhaps? Yeah. Considering he’s the one breaking the law and hurting another person, it really does make sense.

Part One, Part Two

To keep and bear arms: a feminist issue

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.