Feminist Author Says Teaching Women Self-Defense Has Racist Roots

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Grace Carr Reporter
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Women’s self-defense is grounded in racist and anti-immigrant sentiments, according to feminist author Wendy L. Rouse.

In her new book, “In Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement,” Rouse describes the study of self-defense through an intersectional feminist lens, and posits that self-protection has a history of bigotry.

While learning self-defense allowed white women to work outside the home, “it also allowed those same women to teach working-class and immigrant women the tactics in a white savior–esque fashion,” Rouse wrote, according to author Britni de la Cretaz’s book review. Self-defense is, therefore, highly problematic because it unloads the same male-female hierarchy of the past upon immigrant classes today, Rouse claimed.

“Marginalized folks have signed up for classes in droves following the election of Donald Trump, mirroring the historical purpose of self-defense as a means of empowerment and protection for oppressed people,” Cretaz summarized. “In the current political moment, similar concerns are manifesting with the rise of white supremacy and white nationalist movements.”

Rouse concluded that whenever white people feel threatened, their cultural anxiety reflects and therefore enforces the feelings of inferiority marginalized groups experience.

“[W]omen’s self-defense training disrupted existing gender stereotypes and countered the myth that men were women’s natural protectors,” Rouse wrote.

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