Letters //

In defence of self-defence, mark two

A letter from Mariana Podesta-Diverio.

Dearest Honi,

I write in response to Kate Bullen’s letter, published in last week’s edition (“Victim Blaming?”), accusing the fliers advertising the Women’s Self Defence classes and discussion group of perpetuating a victim-blaming rhetoric. Although I don’t think the letter was written with malicious intent, I believe Bullen has missed the point. What rhetoric is Bullen referring to?

The group organising the classes consists entirely of wom*n, as it is autonomous. I have a number of friends who are involved who are very progressive feminists. I can’t think of anyone less likely to propagate victim-blaming rhetoric (that is, the deeply sexist idea that wom*n should be more careful when they’re on the street or alone and that they’re solely responsible for their safety).

The intent is to create a space that empowers women.

Physical self defence is not the only issue here; the discussion component is crucial. It’s where participants can criticise victim-blaming discourse, which sadly permeates the majority of self-defence programs aimed at wom*n.

I therefore contend Bullen’s allegation that the fliers are promoting a victim-blaming rhetoric, particularly since they clearly state that “Offenders bear sole responsibility for their assaults, but they do not hold all the power”. This will become clear to attendees of the classes and/or discussion groups. This was articulated in last week’s Wom*n’s officers’ report.

The SRC logo is on the fliers because the Wom*n’s Officers endorse the classes and the USU logo is on them because printing was partially funded by the Greens On Campus, a USU club.

I appreciate the underlying sentiment in Bullen’s letter and look forward to building USYD’s feminist community through activities such as the Wom*n’s Self Defence classes. Perhaps the organisers of the classes would be open to suggestions of how the fliers could be improved or clarified to convey that these classes aren’t about making wom*n out to be the victims – although I think this is made clear. They’re about constructively changing the discourse of wom*n’s issues on campus to empower ourselves, educate ourselves, and engage in self-reflexion within the community.

Mariana Podesta-Diverio
Arts (Sociology Hons.)