Self defense: Why only for girls?

Alex Pearson, Staff Opinion Columnist

Last week, the school informed us of the increasingly talked about self defense classes for senior girls. And really, it’s about time. However, I, and a large number of students, have a couple of problems with this. Self-defense for the girls is one of the better ideas this school has had, and now, in 2015, we’re finally coming up with ways for women to express themselves so they don’t end up attacked or vilified. Thank you, PVHS.


Notice how this is not geared at all equally. The abused have always been taught by people and by their environment that it is always their fault if they are attacked. Now it may not be in so many words, but the message is definitely pushed across.

“What was she wearing?”

“Was she drinking?”

“Was she flirting?”

“Was she walking by herself?”

“Did she say ‘no’?”

These words can do more harm to a person than you think, and under no circumstances is the abused at fault. However, with examples such as the above questions, that fact is completely marred.

In these recent self-defense classes for the senior girls, I learned they were being taught to be aware of their surroundings, to not trust other people, and if they drink, to watch them and know their limits. The last overlaying rule I became aware of was “if it comes to having to fight someone, the first punch should be the hardest so it is easier to get away.” All are good rules that could potentially save them in a bad situation. But this shouldn’t be something we have to learn in a class in high school. It’s 2015 and women are afraid to walk down a street.

So why aren’t we teaching the boys the same and to not abuse their power? I understand that this is more of a problem with society as a whole, but the education has to start somewhere. Why not in a school?

Instead of telling boys not to rape or abuse, we’re telling girls to watch themselves and be wary. In the senior girls’ course, the female officer stressed that it was not their fault if they were assaulted and nobody should be touching their bodies. Amen to that. I totally agree.

But again, why aren’t we teaching the boys “hands off” and also how to defend themselves? Surely, if we can come up with an entire self-defense lesson for the girls, we can put together a little educational seminar for the boys, too? I see no problem with that. After all, if there’s a problem with it, it’s society’s fault. It’s not just the girls who get abused, but they’re the only ones getting a definitive lesson.

“I think self-defense is great for everyone to learn, not just females who are being prepared for when they get raped,” Melissa Gargiulo, a senior, said amidst the second day of her self-defense class.

Next to her, Colee Bellmay, also a senior, stated, “They’re important things to know, but the boys should also be taught not only self-defense but about rape culture and sexual assault itself.”

Phys ed teacher and boys soccer coach Mr. Roy Nygren agreed.

“There’s a different set of needs,” Nygren said. “Yeah, you could put me down for both the boys and girls getting classes, but with a different regimen. It’s good that girls are being taught self-defense, but the boys should also be taught that violence is not the answer. There are laws and they need to be taught what is appropriate and what is not.”

After a short period of observation of the girls’ physical class, I saw them learn to correctly punch and also how to firmly elbow an attacker. The girls looked like they were learning a lot in addition to having some good fun.

Many boys want to believe that they will never be in that situation where they’ll rape, or somebody they know will rape, or they themselves will be raped. The girls want to believe the same. They don’t want to have to be scared of that possibility. But it’s important to educate ourselves about this because it is an unfortunate fact of society. We want to say “Not OUR friends.” But then whose friends are it?

Brandon Alvarado, a senior, told me, “I definitely think that boys and girls should both be taught self-defense. To have only girls learn about how to defend themselves enables the idea that women have to constantly be on the defense against the big and powerful ‘man,’ when that absolutely should not be the case. It also enables the idea that boys are not sexually assaulted, which is the wrong message to send to students. Both boys and girls should be taught how to defend themselves and, in blatant terms, to not sexually assault anyone.”

I definitely agree. It’s not only the girls who get assaulted, but they’re the only ones being put in mandatory self defense classes.

Another problem is that the girls are being taught different possible ways to prevent it, but not what to do if it does happen, what to do it they see it happening, and also to respect other people.

This class should most definitely not be a “girls only” club. Defending yourself and respecting others is apart of being a human being. Gender has absolutely nothing to do with it.

(Alex Pearson’s opinions are not necessarily those of The Smoke Signal or its staff. The Smoke Signal welcomes dissenting opinions via Op Eds or Letters to the Editor.)