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Self Defense for Radicals in Feminist Review

By Katy Pine
Feminist Review
January 31st, 2010

While it’s true that most conflict can and should be resolved with nonviolence, even peace-loving radicals like Mickey Z., the author of this alphabetical guide to self-defense, acknowledge that an absolute aversion to violence is nearly impossible in our war-loving (yet God-fearing) society that seems to tolerate blood-n-guts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In a country where a woman is raped every forty-six seconds, peaceful resolution can quickly become a warm fuzzy afterthought. The reality is that standing up for something usually requires standing up against something. That something may be a repressive and stubborn government, or it may be a big, scary and armed figure looming in the dark. Either way, knowing how to use your body in emergencies is as important as knowing how to argue for your beliefs in the face of adversity.

Mickey does not discourage standing firm in pacifism, but advocates that we all (especially women, who are statistically at a greater risk of physical attack) prepare for the worst. You may choose not to live in fear of fire, but this doesn't mean you forgo the fire alarm. In this vein, Mickey has armed us with a manual of self-defense techniques cleverly written with the help of motivating anecdotes and quirky cartoons by fellow radical, Richard Cole. Whether it is mustering every bit of might in our bodies to scream and run, or delivering a precise finger jab to the eyes followed by a hard kick to the balls, Mickey supplies us with a handy bag of tricks to use under pressure. The guy knows what he's talking about—with a personal history of martial arts, kickboxing and personal training—he values equally the power of body with the power of mind.

Sprinkled with quotes from Bruce Lee, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X, and others, Mickey Z.'s Self-Defense for Radicals makes for a quick and entertaining read for anyone conscious of the potential danger we face. Pass it on to your mother, sister, daughter, and anyone else whose safety you worry about. It is an empowering statement dovetailing the greater feminist movement, however personally defined. Mickey states that, "many physical attacks are essentially oppressive gestures spawned by a perceived ability to exploit a weaker (sic) gender. Any struggle to eradicate such gestures is by definition self-defense."

Essentially, we can conceive fighting back as feminism in action. Whether you are a practiced veteran of the martial arts, or a ruthless bar brawler, the fight remains the same and there is only one winner. To dive into the essence of this provocative parallel, start with the section "I" for individuality. Then learn and practice tactics like the left hook, the elbow jab, and scan your surroundings to make sure you have access to such multifaceted weapons as a broom, scarf, pocket change, or a hot drink. And remember, “You are the weapon. Everything else is a tool.”

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