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Pretty Deadly Podcast
A podcast about realistic self defense for women. Hosted by Pretty Deadly founder Susie Kahlich talking to women around the world, addressing common misconceptions about self defense, why we think self defense should be part of self care, and sharing tips, tricks and stories.
Season 5, Episode 82: You Have the Right to Occupy Your Own Space
What exactly ARE your innate rights? Do you have the right to clean air? do you have the right to breathe? Do you have the right to occupy your own space? Susie and Zipporah discuss what it means to occupy your space and the simple fact of our existence.
Pretty Deadly Blog
Thoughts on bodily autonomy and self defense from founder Susie Kahlich
It's Always Been Your Body | 04 July 2022 What my mother taught me about Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court never will When I was about eight years old, my mother tucked me into bed one night and told me this story: When she was about my age (at the time of the story), a man in her small Wisconsin town — a friend of her father’s — took her into the backroom of a local shop and touched her inappropriately. He told my mother that if she shared their encounter with anyone something terrible would happen to her parents. My mother really loved her parents — in fact, everyone in the town really loved her parents. They were pillars of their their Swedish immigrant community: respected, looked up to, admired and cherished. My mother was understandably terrorized. She told me that, over the month following since the man had touched her, it became more and more difficult for her to live with the terrible feeling that the man had produced inside of her by touching her; and (perhaps even more difficult), with keeping a secret from her parents, especially her father, to whom she was very close. Eventually both her mother and her father noticed that she was behaving strangely. They sat her down, and asked her what was going on. She refused to answer for fear of what might happen to them. My grandparents continued to cajole, press, and convince my mother to share what was bothering her, and eventually she did. Not without tears, shaking, and the expected trauma of a child who has been sexually violated. My mother told me that, once the story was out, her mother held her close. But her father — this pillar of the community, and her favorite person on Earth — put on his hat (this was back in the days when men wore hats) buttoned up his coat, and said “don’t wait up”. And left the house. My mother told me that her father came back many hours later, when she was already tucked away in bed and fast asleep. She does not know what happened that. But she never saw that man in her town again. Before I fell asleep that night, my mother went on to tell me the moral of the story. She said: your body is your own. No one can touch it without your permission. No one can tell you what to do with it. No one can force you to harm yourself, or force you to allow others to harm you. Your body is your home, it is your right, and you are the only person who gets to say what happens to it. That includes me, your dad, and anyone else who says they love you. She was very adamant about this. And of course my question was, even you and dad? I remember at the time, I was still reciting prayers before going to sleep. So what about “honor thy father and thy mother?” I asked. To which my mother replied, “yes honor your father and your mother. But you are not obligated to love anyone who hurts you. Even me and even your father.” Itis 46 years later. I no longer remember the chronology of events around this story she told. Was it before or after I got in trouble for kicking a boy at school for looking down my shirt without my permission. Was it before or after the playground monitor, a woman in her 30s, told me that I probably wanted it, and so I was the only one who was punished? Was it before or after men who were strangers to me and my family would look at me thirstily? Was it before or after I would hide behind my parents legs to get away from their stares? Was it before or after my mother started telling people I was shy, when really I was hiding? I do know it was many years before the first time I was date raped, and many years before my therapist at the time told me it was probably my fault. It was many years before I formed a woman’s activist group in response to the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and the St. John’s Lacrosse team rape trial, and even the Tawana Brawley trials; many years before I could not longer sit silently by and watch women be pilloried, blamed and publicly humiliated for merely inhabiting their bodies, for using our bodies to live our lives. I know it was many years before I marched on Washington when Bush Sr. was President and Roe v. Wade was about to be overturned. And it was many years before I chose to have an abortion, before I chose to inform the father, who responded with, “you’re the 5th woman I’ve slept with that this has happened to,” as though we women magically fell pregnant whenever he just happened to be in the room. It was many, many years before I miscarried the second time I became pregnant. And it was many years before I armed myself with a resting bitch face, with a firm stride, with a thousand yard stare, just to navigate the gauntlet of comments and grabs on my way to work every day, and on my way home again every night. It was many years before I learned to grow a skin so thick the things men said would simply bounce off me — things that were often so disgusting it was very difficult to continue walking as though I hadn’t heard them at all. Many years before men started calling me a bitch because I wouldn’t allow them to touch me, wouldn’t hire me because I refused to conduct my interview in their lap, who would tell me I was no fun, I had no sense of humor, or I was cold because I didn’t laugh and go along with their “joking around” that teetered too close to the line when joking becomes action and I would be in danger but nothing would happen to them at all. In all of that time when men seem to think they are entitled to my body, that it is theirs to grab, to grope, to comment on, to regulate; to tell me whether I should have children, or tell me it’s a pity that I never did. And in all of that time, I never once forgot what my mother told me that night before I went to sleep: that my body is my body; it is the only thing I truly have, and no one has a right to it except me; no one is allowed to touch me without my consent, no one is allowed to cause me harm and expect me to accept it, and no one is allowed to force me to harm myself. No one takes responsibility for this body but me, and therefore no one gets to regulate what this body does, but me. That my body is my sovereignty. My body is me.
Making Friends with Shame | 24 April 2022 Did you know that icky feeling you get is actually a self defense tool? The last article I published on Medium was a bit unhinged. I was ashamed of it, so I deleted it. Shame is a funny thing: we classify it as an emotion, and it feels so heavy, so toxic, so burning, so awful that we would do anything to avoid feeling it. The problem is, sometimes we do stuff that causes shame, and when that happens, we do anything to avoid feeling it. Including taking responsibility for our actions. What we don’t realize about shame is that it is not an emotion: it is a physical response. And it is a wonderful self-defense tool that gets a very bad rap. Before I go further into the idea of shame as self defense, I want to quickly touch on the nature of our biological self defense systems. What I mean by “biological self defense” is the systems our bodies have in place, and exercise 24 hours a day, to keep us healthy and alive, in spite of our sometimes stupid decisions. The example I like to use when teaching self defense, is: Snacks. Imagine you are in the mood for a snack. In fact you are craving something you have in the fridge as the perfect snack. You open the fridge and discover this food item has past its expiration date, not by a little, but also not by a lot. It’s at that point when things could really go either way. You sniff it: it has the faintest whiff of rancidity. You decide to risk it, and it eat it anyway. By doing this, you have already bypassed your first line of self defense: smell. The way something smells is neutral. The way we smell something is what tells us if it is edible or not. That is different for almost every species: something that smells rotten to you, smells delicious to a seagull. But let’s stick with humans: you’ve eaten your snack, ignoring the warning sign of the bad smell, and now you have a stomach ache. Your body’s biological self defense system is fighting the bacteria in the snack. This may become all-out war, e.g., food poisoning. Or perhaps it’s just a mild skirmish that passes through you somewhat explosively. However, if the snack is posing a very great danger to your well-being, you will throw it up. In fact, you won’t be able to prevent it. Your body will override any attempts to suppress vomiting in its quest to survive. That’s its job. That is the biological self defense system at work, despite your dumb-ass decisions. Sometimes our biological self defense systems have to save us from ourselves. Humans, like many species on earth, are social animals. This is also part of our self defense system: we have a better chance of survival when we are networked, connected, have community. In order for our communities to function, we all must agree on certain behaviors. For the majority of human communities, that usually means don’t hurt, don’t steal, don’t violate, don’t kill. This agreement is known as the “social contract”. Every society — plants, insects, animals, humans — has one. Shame is both an individual and a collective self-defense tool. When we feel shame, it’s a warning sign telling us that we are passing the boundaries of our social contract. It helps us survive and thrive within our own networks, connections, communities. We share the ability to feel shame with many different species on Earth: chimps, apes, elephants, crows, dolphins, dogs… cats, not so much. But it’s a sensory experience that us species with complex societies share as part of our social, and part of our society’s, survival. On an individual level, shame reminds us of our own moral contract, the one we make when defining ourselves. The sensory feeling of shame tells us when we have crossed our own moral boundaries. The problem we have with shame in today’s world is that it has been weaponized. Specifically in cultures where overt narcissism is celebrated, recorded, and even elected president, our societies have learned to use shame to provide boundaries and behavioral tools for people who do not inherently have them. This is especially necessary for our own protection when we grant these people such great power. The United States is particularly guilty of this. It’s combination of puritanical morals combined with idealizing abusive narcissistic behavior to the point of celebrating it as an indicator of power, success, sexiness — even as a definition of masculinity (or, on the flipside, the definition of nasty women), shamelessness itself has been twisted in an almost Darwinian way to be a characteristic of the “alpha“ of our species. But this is inherently untrue. In 2018, when accepting the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, Jim Carrey pointed out, “shamelessness is not, and never will be, a superpower. ” He is correct. Shamelessness is a malfunction, “it is the mark of a villain.” It can be considered a bug. Jim Carrey accepting the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, 2018 The way public shaming is weaponized is that it tells the person being shamed, “this is who you are”. It’s a condemnation, with the goal of knocking someone down a few pegs at the very least, and as a means of protecting ourselves at the most extreme. Sometimes our own self defense systems have to save us from ourselves. The problem is that the weaponization of shame has become so pervasive, we turn it upon ourselves, even in our most private moments. When we, as individuals, do something that we know we shouldn’t do, we feel shame. Because shame has been so weaponized, we interpret the feeling of shame as revealing our true selves. And this in itself is so shameful, that we do everything possible to avoid feeling shame, to avoid facing the idea that this is actually who we are. Afew years ago, when teaching a Pretty Deadly Self Defense course, I rocked up to class without reviewing my class plan first. I was feeling cocky: I’ve been teaching this for so long, I can do it in my sleep, I thought. However, while explaining an interpretation of a technique, I used a metaphor I never had before — it just came tumbling right out of my mouth. And it was like that snack in your fridge: not totally rancid, but not ok, either. It was just on the line. So what did I do? I towed the line. I was ashamed of what I had said, but instead of apologizing — which would have forced me to feel shame — I defended my statement when it was questioned. And then I had to defend that statement, because my original metaphor was indefensible, and every defense I could come up with could only be worse. I ate the bad snack. And the more I furiously pedalled trying to avoid feeling shame and owning up to what I had said as a mistake, the deeper the hole I dug myself until finally I was dancing dangerously close to making statements that are the very antithesis of everything I actually believe in the world. The opposite of shame, of course, is pride.** Pride will make you fall, shame will make you crawl. But at least when you’re crawling, the only direction you can go from there is up. Shame is nothing to be ashamed of. It is nothing to shy away from. Shame is a wonderful tool that reminds us of who we are not. How do we get through shame? How do we allow ourselves to feel shame and let it teach us: about our boundaries, about the boundaries of others, about the way we want to be in our networks, connections, communities, the world? The biggest secret about shame is that the sensation itself only lasts for a maximum of 90 seconds. That means, you can allow it wash over you and it will begin dissipate almost immediately. I am encouraging everyone to not shy away from that feeling of shame. Allow it to reach you, and allow it to teach you. And know that, no matter how awful the feeling is, this too shall pass. I deleted my last article on Medium, not because I was worried that this is how the world would see me. I deleted it because I know I can do better. And the greatest reward for owning up to shame is: you give yourself a second chance.
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