Feminist Self-Defense

Feminist Self Defence (FSD) is a physical expression of women’s self-determination, an embodiment of feminist politics, and a means of expressing personal and political power all at once.

As author and self defence teacher Annie Neligan put it when talking about the feminist self defence movement from the ’70s:

We soon discovered that self defence is not only about our fear of violent attack but about having to deal with the day to day experiences of being made to feel powerless when we are patronised, ignored, bullied, harassed or intimidated. We understood that they are part of the web of a culture of violence that has sapped our warrior power, a web so suble and pervasive that we can’t always see it, but one whoch lies between us and transforming the world into a welcoming and nurturing place for us and for all our hopes and dreams. Staying safe is an important first step and self defence is above all about safety. Many of us found that it was about much more than this: we were finding a new power to defend not just our own bodies but our values, our integrity and our independence.”

Feminist self defence provides its participants with a safer space to reflect on their experiences of sexism and violence, develop prevention strategies, and learn and test verbal and physical defence techniques to provide them with choices when faced with discrimination and violence. FSD focuses on a holistic approach to violence and self-defence. This also means that we in Slagtog include emotional, verbal, psychological as well as physical self defence in our trainings.

FSD is situated in critical feminist pedagogy and relies on the co-construction of knowledge which enables a richer co-construction process during trainings, where the typical hierarchy between trainer and trainees, teacher and students, is deconstructed to a big extent.

Scientific evaluations have demonstrated that FSD training, compared to non-intervention control groups, increases girls’ and young women’s self-confidence and self-efficacy, decreases their fear of crime and avoidance strategies, and reduces not only the number of sexual assaults, but also the number of attempts, proving its preventative impact. It has been internationally recognised (e.g. UN WOMEN, European Parliament) as an effective and efficient tool for the primary prevention of gender-based violence, and for girls’, women’s and queer peoples’ emancipation. Furthermore, FSD has proven its beneficial impact for female participants over a range of psychological variables (fear and anxiety, anger, PTSD symptoms, self-image and body image, self-defence, and general self-efficacy and rape myth belief). What is more, FSD training significantly reduces sexual and physical victimisation in adult women and improves the physical and mental well-being of participants who have previously experienced traumatising violence.