Jezebel featured another thing I wrote! This one is about the horrifying student manual for Rape Aggression Defense, the most popular women’s self defense program on college campuses. Take a RAD class and you will learn, among other things, that you shouldn’t try to run away from an attacker unless you get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times per week. Otherwise, running may make you too tired to fight. Yes, they really tell you that.
I have new column up at McSweeney’s as well–this one about those darling Do-It-Yourself “anti-rape gloves” featured recently on Instructables:
What I find fascinating, reading through these directions, is the way the glove-maker’s amorphous anxiety about his sister’s safety is transformed, through a laborious 15-step process, into a tangible object, a comforting piece of proof against the risks his sister faces: a weapon. You can almost see the therapeutic benefits accrue as the worried man applies his knowledge and skills to the problem. In his workshop, he has tools to help him create safety: clamps, vice grips, an angle grinder, a drill press, an automatic center punch, a vernier caliper. Every material he handles is measured, every step is planned. The process offers control. It requires precision. It lets the glove-maker think creatively, consider options, make choices—all things that help us feel we’re in command of our lives.
Are the gloves he produces going to help to his sister? It’s possible. Unfortunately they aren’t dressy enough to wear on dates, which is when women are most likely to be assaulted.
I have a new column up at McSweeney’s about my family’s annual tree-decorating traditions:
My father designed our family home in Texas with a 12-foot cathedral ceiling in the living room, for the sole purpose of accommodating extra-large Christmas trees. This may sound terribly jolly of him but in fact, the ritual of putting up the Christmas tree at our house did not involve a lot of merriment. It was more a demonstration of faith, consisting of 10% piety and 90% brute force—rather like building Stonehenge or re-taking the Holy Land.
For everyone suffering through some more or less beloved holiday traditions at this time of year, remember that any lessons you learned in childhood can be helpful to you in adulthood–even the lesson was to form new traditions, and let go of the old.
In light of the many recent shootings by law enforcement personnel, I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues addressed in this McSweeney’s column on de-escalation. Having done quite a bit of scenario training, I’m convinced that how, and how much, we practice for crisis situations is a huge factor in the level of force we end up using in those situations:
The key factor is experience. Cops need training and practice with de-escalation skills, or they won’t use them successfully, if at all. That fact that we’re seeing so much escalation in cops’ response to threats indicates they aren’t getting that training. That’s a failure of leadership, and it’s occurring both locally and nationally.
I’m working on a targeted project for local action on this front, and hope to share it shortly. There are ways we can all help to make our communities less violent, and police training is one of them.
I had a piece over at Jezebel recently–something I never really expected to happen given that when my very first McSweeney’s column ran, waaaaaay back in 2009 (!), they didn’t like it much. But Emma Carmichael and Jia Tolentino were a delight to work with, and the finished piece is lushly illustrated with clips from various MMA fights, demonstrating the effects of groin shots on some unlucky fighters.
These days, only Muay Thai fighters strike to the groin—and they only do it in Thailand, where they wear groin protection made from fucking steel. But even armor plating isn’t enough for western sportsmen; in addition to groin protection devices, they shield their balls with every rule, regulation, law, and covenant they can think of. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, for example, list 31 official fouls, with myriad subtle variations on things like kidney strikes (only a foul if you kick with your heel) and elbows (disallowed if striking downward; OK in other directions). And then there’s Item vii: “Groin attacks of any kind.”
My latest McSweeney’s column, Cage Match: Victorian Novelist Edition, addresses the important question of how to choose the best 19th-century writer for your side in a gang war:
Authors of marriage-plot novels might not be the first place you’d look for fighting prowess, but I see them as a deep talent pool. Seriously, go read Middlemarch and then tell me with a straight face that George Eliot wasn’t capable of terrible things. Or pick up any of Madame de Staël’s novels (go on, I dare you). Hell, Harriet Beecher Stowe started a war. These ladies knew some shit about conflict, even if they did bury it under calling cards and teacups.