Given recent events in my local community and our nation as a whole many of us are filled fear and uncertainty. As women many of us live with an undercurrent of fear, we exist, we work, we laugh, we love and we worry. Worry about our safety, worry about our children, worry about our families. As girls and young ladies, we are given instructions to dress appropriately, not call attention to ourselves. Be quiet. That’s the instructions the patriarchy gives. Those are the rules given to us ‘girls’ they are usually vague, unclear and without remorse or understanding. They don’t take into the account who and what we have to protect ourselves from. The enemy who lie amongst us. The men and women who physically our attack and violate our temples the bodies that we call home. The enemy who lays in wait to object fear and heartbreak into our spirits by attacking everything we hold sacred: they come into our homes and rob us blind. They creep their way into our beds as children, as friends as our mates, our cars after a great night out with friends, our offices when their misogyny and fragile male ego cannot handle our command and prowess of our professional self and they feel threatened so they ravage our femininity.
There are too many stories amongst us time and time again that I hear. Too many that I’ve seen, lived and experienced myself. Too many stories of pain, aggression, and war committed against us just simply because we are women. Because we are considered the ‘weaker’ sex because we didn’t ‘listen’ and adhere to the instructions given to us as girls. Do you remember them? Don’t dress inappropriately. Don’t drink too much. Don’t talk back. Listen to your husband/boyfriend/partner/lover even if he beats your ass every day when he comes home drunk from a night out in front of your children. He is the king of the castle he is the breadwinner. Listen to that man even when you try to fight off his sexual advances and scream no as he rapes you, impregnates you with a baby that you did not want and are unsure of how to protect. Shut up and do the work for your misogynistic boss who uses every chance he gets to remind you to ‘know your place’. Have your ideas and vision diluted and dumb downed because your male counterparts cannot accept that you may, in fact, be smarter than them and should not only have a seat at the table but be at the head of the table leading the discussion and the charge. Accept the unwanted male gaze when strangers cat call and size you up against your will. Tell you how broad your back is, how fat your ass is and all the things they want and would do to you if given the chance. How dare you speak up and say ‘No thank you. I’m not interested.’ How dare you use your voice to defend your own honor?
Not anymore. We cannot continue to feel weak, we cannot continue to live in fear of living a life and existence we have all worked so hard to forge. It’s is our birthright not only as women but as human beings to live and express ourselves freely, love deeply and to exist in a world that provides a safe harbor for us all no matter who we may be and regardless of the choices we make.
I say all of this to say we can no longer remain weak, afraid and to live in fear. Someone once said ‘on the other side of fear is freedom’ and I agree. We have to figure out how to set ourselves free and protect ourselves. One way is thru self-care and self-defence.
I’ve always wanted to learn to shoot a gun. I was always afraid. Not quite sure why. Was it the noise? Was it knowing that with a live round in a loaded weapon I could possibly change the course of fate for myself of someone else? Was I afraid to protect myself? My family? Would it come to that? Having to defend myself and everything I love against foreign and domestic enemies? Thinking back now I believe it was a bit of everything. And that’s totally fine. I’ve been afraid of many things before and I’m sure there are many things that I’ll still be afraid of after I finish writing this post but it’s all good. Me being afraid does not stop me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Me being afraid just makes me approach things cautiously but approach nonetheless.
Last night I had the opportunity to join a great group of women from my community at a local shooting range, D & J Shooting Gallery. This gathering was organized my one of my favorite bloggers and foodies, the Tanisha Bailey-Roka aka The Crucian Contessa. Due to recent events occurring in our community, we do not feel safe.
But expressing that concern is only half the battle. We need to put our fear in front of us, form a plan to conquer it. Using her contacts Tanisha organized a Facebook group for Women’s Self Defense. It hasn’t even been a week and its numbers are steadily growing day by day, which to me shows many other women feel just like us, afraid. It also shows that those same women are ready and willing to conquer their fears and defend themselves if and when necessary. There’s power in that. Last night I met Tanisha and Dynel of Island Moms Rock along with 5 other women at the range.
I went in saying I never shot a gun in my life. I went in cautious, afraid of the noise, the recoil, the fear of red hot shell casings falling down my shirt (which happened more than I care to share). I was afraid of the pain and the lack of control in my wrist brought on my bouts with both chikungunya and tenosynovitis both of which the aftermath still linger in my body. I thought that it would hinder me from learning, from shooting, from doing it right. The noise startled me. It made me hesitant. My instructor told me to disregard the noise, relax, take my stance, line up my target and squeeze my trigger…slowly. Control my thoughts. Do not give in to distractions. So I stood there, sweat beading up on my forehead, earplugs in, headphones doing their best to drown out the communion of chaotic gunfire around me, nervous. A voice in my head saying ‘You are NOT ready for this. You CAN NOT do this.’ Then I took a deep breath, stared down at my target and told myself “You are afraid, and that’s okay. You’ve been afraid before.” And then I released the trigger. I felt the power. I smelled the smoke. I felt the pain in my fingers, the burn of the shell casing on my chest. I peered at my target with one eye closed, imagining it to be something standing in the way of my safety or that of my family or friends, I shot again and again. Then I paused and walked away, switching with my partner. I had to mentally gather myself. Then I came back and did it again, and again until there were no more rounds left to shoot. That’s when I knew I had crossed over to the other side. The side where fear does not control me. I was afraid when I walked into that shooting range last night, fearing the unknown, fear of how I would do it. If I could do it at all. But I did, and I am no longer afraid, I am capable. And in that capability is where my power lies and no one can take that from me.
Have you ever shot a gun or take any self-defense classes? How did it make you feel? Let me know in the comments!