Tanzania. Yesterday an unbelievable reversal of strength for the animal world took place in a wadi: Massai witnessed how a zebra which had already been caught in the powerful jaws of a crocodile, and was about to be dragged under the water, was able to free itself with a well-aimed bite in the crocodile’s eye …
That was how the newspaper report on a nature documentary I recently had the privilege of seeing on TV might have read. The victim defends itself against the baddie and really does escape with its life. The weak against the strong? Seems unbelievable, and goes against the natural order of things! Which brings us directly to old wives’ tales:
The story of the zebra is almost revolutionary and heretical if we look at all the old wives’ tales which have long been fed to women – ostensibly the weaker sex – and unfortunately still are. What nonsense, for statistics show that these well-meant pieces of advice no longer coincide with reality. The worst of all advice is of course not to resist: ”You’ll be raped anyway, but if you keep quiet you might not be injured (…), stay alive etc.” The picture is rounded off by old saws such as:: “Women are simply weaker by nature; they have no chance if a man really goes for them, even if they have learned to wave their arms and legs about…“, ”You are a woman and won’t have the nerve to shoot anyway!“, “If you don’t wear short skirts, nothing will happen to you“.
In the case of domestic violence the advice is usually: “Why don’t you make sure that you don’t provoke him, you know what he’s like.“ One counsellor expressed this point of view succinctly to the husband of one of my friends when they briefly broke up: ”After all, you have to defend yourself if your wife constantly provokes you!“ Unfortunately this woman, who is a psychologist, actually began to believe that she deserved his outbursts because she was treating him so badly. So now they are back together and she is playing his game. And why? Are women naturally at fault?
Another female friend, who is also a psychologist and in my view a very strong and clever woman who takes no nonsense from men, recently discussed what I regard as the most dangerous old wive’s tale of all with me: “Don’t resist and you’ll be alright.“, “Shut your eyes and endure it!“ She confirmed that she took the same view, as she had no knowledge or skill in self-defence. She was not short of ideas on how to put the aggressor out of action, but lacked the courage and confidence in her own strength to overcome her own reticence and hurt somebody, although she might be in the process of being seriously injured herself. In her imagination she saw herself as an aggressive fighting machine like Luci Lu, but what it be like for real? She admitted that she would probably be paralysed with fear. And why? Lack of technical skill and mental inhibitions.
Two of my best sources of first-hand information were female police inspectors who attended my WT classes during their police training and regularly supplied me with the latest police statistics. They were women and knew the statistics, so they were well aware – an unusual
combination. The interesting thing about these two was that they had the same reluctance to strike and fears as all the other women who were starting their training. Defending yourself would only provoke the attacker, or was useless and ineffective from the start; the brutality and lethal intent of the criminal might increase if you resisted (oh those wonderful old wives’ tales), and anyway it was disgusting to poke somebody’s eyes out, they could not bring themselves to do that. And why? Typical gender-specific upbringing, fears and inhibitions.
It makes me very angry, and is also very frustrating for new female students, when they tell me about their partners at home: they patronisingly encourage their girlfriend to pursue her new hobby in principle, but then add: ”Of course you will still have no chance against the strength of a man if things get serious! Let’s see what you’ve learned so far!“ Of course they cannot beat him after only two or three lessons, so his attempts to intimidate her seem to have been successful. For the moment. And why? Resignation in the face of the man’s physical and mental omnipotence?
The apparent victory of escaping an even more brutal crime gives us women some unconscious satisfaction, as the fear of fighting is greater than the fear of suffering. But why is it that we still accept the role of the victim, and what can be done about this?
Before we look for possible answers we must of course examine the possible causes. Since I specialise in training women and want to examine how women can be specifically helped how to escape from the victim’s role, I will not discuss the mental problems and childhood traumas suffered by violent men or abused boys. That would exceed the scope of this article and must be discussed elsewhere.
Text: Gudrun Glaser, 2nd TG WT (Written dissertation for the 2nd TG examination, originally posted to: http://www.wingtsunwelt.com/content/statistics-and-old-wives%C2%92-tales-or-how-zebra-bit-crocodile-eye-part-1?language=en)