This blog is part of the Scáth na Feannóige/Shadow of the Hooded Crow project exploring fénnidecht as a practice to follow the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. This is a less formal place for me to discuss various issues of interest to someone on a modern version of the Outlaw warrior path such as physical training, history, Old Irish literature, pop culture inspirations, werewolves, ecstatic trance (okay, I find that one tough to write about but I may try), gender issues the wilderness....


Monday, October 26, 2009

Reconnections

As I noted previously, when I started this blog it was to write about the warrior path from all the angles I approach it, the spiritual, the ancient literary and historical as well as the actual training and the pop cultural. But by the time I really started working on it, I had backed off of writing about spirituality and my historical studies for various reasons I won't get into right now. I felt more comfortable writing about my training, about self-defense and about how Sarah Connor is a mega inspiration. I threw myself into The Sarah Connor Charm School at the same time I privately got back to work on a lot of very spiritual matters that I didn't write about.

Of course, it all connects for me, when I go out shooting I feel An Morrígan, the Goddess I am oathed to, with me, as I do when I lift, when I run, when I work...all the time. But I don't really mention it much. The pop cultural ties into the ancient literature for me as well and both tie into my training and my spirituality. Story has power, no matter the source. Sometimes, as I've written about, the power is very negative...and sometimes even negative stories end up having power. I need to get into that more here, I think. In fact, I have some ideas.

I think that a part of my problem in writing a lot of this is that I find very few others making the connections that I make. Oh, there are some...some of you reading this, in fact. But I learned several years ago that my outlook is different than a lot of other Pagans. I realized this when I was working on an article for a women's spirituality magazine and I was told it wasn't "Goddess focused" enough. It was to me! But the editor couldn't see it. She saw that I included factual information about violence against women and she couldn't see the spirituality behind it, even with all the woo I thought I was putting in. I suck at writing woo, apparently.

And now, as I take up a writing project about the warrior path for Pagan women, I realize that I'm not in the same space as most who claim similar interests. Part of it is that I do not believe that there were all these huge numbers of women warriors in the past, especially not in Celtic cultures which I am focused on. Oh, I believe they existed, but the evidence isn't there to support it so I can't SAY they existed...which is what so many want to hear. Or others want to say that lack of evidence proves they didn't. This, of course, is where story comes to play for me. What do all these stories mean?

And then there are those who, always mind boggling to me, want to be some sort of pacifist warriors. "Warriors don't really fight, you know. It doesn't mean that." Um, it doesn't? These same people, mostly women but hardly all women, also usually try to transform An Morrígan into some sort of loving Soccer Mom, who protects the weak rather than demands effort from the strong. Sorry, it doesn't wash with either the lore about Her or my own experiences. I can't say whether other people's experiences are valid, but based on all that is know about Her, I can question it. Especially with the bizarre "retellings" of Her stories which are so far from what is in the lore as to, well, break ones brain to read.

When An Morrígan claimed me I had to question a lot about what I believed about myself and my God/desses...and the world. It's still often a long, hard haul. But it's there. Everything I do in life is either part of it or, still, fighting against it. Everything.

Where my training and my studies have taken me in the past few years, since splitting from working with people who I now realize were toxic to me and through the death of my parents, is sometimes mind shattering. While I've been transforming for years, there have been leaps forced by the events in my life and healing I needed to do. And I do believe it has led me to the right place to get back to work on the writing project which will sum this all up.

So things might crop up here of a more spiritual nature or of more ancient "pop culture" of story telling over the coming months. We'll see how the mix goes here, perhaps. And perhaps someday some of you will be interested in this thing that has started to eat my life. Maybe.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Support rape survivors, not rapists...what an idea

I've been posting on my LiveJournal about the Polanski fiasco, in anger, shock and horror that so many celebrities seem to feel he shouldn't be brought to justice because he's supposedly a great artist. I'm horrified by some of his supporters and I can NOT support their work, I just can't.

It's rape survivors who need to be supported, not rapists, no matter what you think of the talent of said rapist. This...man, although it's hardly suiting to give him that much dignity, forcibly raped a 13 year old child then ran from the country to avoid prosecution.

I'm so angry about this I can barely write, so I'm going to post the link to Kate Harding's Salon.com post because she does a better job than I can.

I posted the names of those who have signed the petition supporting Polanski, supporting rape, standing up for rape, saying that it's okay that this girl was brutilized in this LJ post and do not wish to repeat it again. I will add that Whoopi Goldberg, Harrison Ford, Debra Winger and Tilda Swinton have all publicly stated support as well.

On the plus side there is a growing list of big names who are speaking out against Polanski, for his return to the US for justice and in support of his victim (and other victims) at this link.

There is the "Art Does Not Excuse Rape: Polanski Must Face Justice" petition out there as well and PROMOTING AWARENESS, VICTIM EMPOWERMENT not only has Online petition - Rape IS Rape - Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence going but are calling for rallies at movie theaters across the nation on October 10.

I, for one, do not want my money and support going to any filmmaker, writer, etc. who thinks that rape can be excused because of celebrity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Out of the freezer

When I began this blog I actually intended to have it focused on the combination of my own training, which you will find here, and thoughts about early Gaelic warrior culture especially relating to women and how that influences my physical and spiritual path working, which you probably find lacking. A lot of stuff went on, however, making be back away from writing about my spiritual path. Some was the hells I was going through with all the death, other issues were around a collaboration that went all to hell which has caused me to disassociate from not only everyone I was working with at the time but also the name, I coined, for the religious path. And then there was all the death going on around me. I also had looked back at the writing I did on this when I was in college and that sort of killed any real interest; while I feel I learned a lot while in college, I've learned much more in the years since, making my hope to rework what I wrote back then mostly futile.

So I turned my attention more to "women warriors" in pop culture here, a subject which is, in many ways connects to the other for me. How? Through story.

Whether it's the ancient Irish literature (and yes, it's more correctly "literature" rather than "myth" even if some myth might influence it none was the mythology of those who wrote it down and much was influenced by classical literature that the monks would have been trained in) or a modern movie, story matters. How it matters to a woman today walking a warrior path is a large part of my exploration, no matter the origin of the story. So the focus here changed to exploring how movies and TV can affect us and our path.

However, when I lost internet access, I ended up pulling this project out of the freezer...having long since removed it from even the back burner. Some of it was spoiled, useless, had to be discarded. But there were a few bits still useful, along with other things I've written since then. And others have done research since then that helps.

Land of Women by Lisa Bitel is a wonderful, if often sobering look at the realities of life for women in early Christian Ireland (the first era we have any such information on). A Woman's Words: Emer and Female Speech in the Ulster Cycle by Joanne Findon takes an interesting look at how this woman is presented...not a woman who is going to be much featured in my own work, but it's a tactic that interests me. And was well used by Diana Veronica Dominguez in her dissertation "Is dethbir disi" [It is appropriate (that she behave in this way)]: applying the lens of gender parody to Medb in the Old Irish Ulster Cycle about a woman who does. Are All Warriors Male? Gender Roles on the Ancient Eurasian Steppe edited by Katheryn M. Linduff and Karen S. Rubinson is another exciting find. There are more, really, too many to list, but I thought I'd share these.

So, I may or may not share more about getting back to this study. You might have to wait for the book, provided I can sell it. It's not going to be what many seem to look for, from what I can tell by what is out there, in a "woman warrior book." I'm not giving grand fantasies that women warriors roamed the ancient world in huge numbers, nor am I giving some new age platitudes about "peaceful warriors" or "inner warriors" or any such thing. Of course, this latter, at least, I suppose those who read this should expect. I will be preaching that "warrior" does mean one is at least prepared, if not actually experienced, to fight. That this isn't fantasy, but life.

And yes, while there is a focus in this project on exploring the ancient tales and what history there is, there will be a discussion on how pop culture relates as well as a lot on physical training both in fitness and fighting. So much of what has been here already will be reflected.

I just thought I'd share where I'm at with this, while I do have a moment with access to the blog. Meanwhile, stay strong!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Year of the Gun: Third Step, Self-Protection with Handguns (SPwH)

It seems to take me at least a month to write these up, which probably seems a long delay. This time is even longer and I have the excuse of not having much online access, but that wasn’t so in the first two. The real problem is that I just feel overwhelmed to find the words to do these classes justice. It just seems impossible to convey either the fun, especially of a shooting focused class like this and Basic Handgun, or the sense of empowerment they and Responsible Use of Lethal Force, give...albeit a very grave empowerment. Given the reality that is the focus of that second class, it also gives me a bit of trepidation into even trying to express how much damn fun the shooting classes are. It seems odd that preparing for something you hope never to use should be such a rush. But they are. It's fun to learn, it's empowering to take on the knowledge to protect ones own life and that of others, it's beyond intense to consider the responsibility of it.

Of course, all these things are true of non-firearms self-defense training and martial arts as well. But with the guns you have, excuse the pun, the bang!

In early June, we returned to the Harvard Sportsman's Club to do the next step with AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment) Self-Protection with Handguns. AWARE VP Lyn Bates again led this class, assisted by Barbara Clorite, Jim Roberts and Roger Lanny, with Lanny joining the class later in the day when Roberts had to leave early. There were six students, giving us an excellent 1 to 2 student to instructor ratio, allowing for a great deal of input and answers to questions through the whole class.

The class started in the club house, with introductions. This time my mate was the token only male student, the other students ranging from the MA coordinator of Second Amendment Sisters, Inc. who has been shooting for awhile to a woman who grew up with guns but wanted formal training knock off some rust to those of us who were new to shooting including one woman who was still unsure if carrying for self-defense was really an option she wanted to take. We then had an overview of basic safety and issues, before heading down to one of the outdoor ranges.

This is when the real fun began?

After all but two of us, who had their own weapons, found our loaner guns, we started with a demonstration of the basic Isosceles stance, with both arms out in a triangle, which Lyn demonstrated with Jim helping her show the importance of putting weight forward to maintain balance, something some of us *ahem* could have done better at. After all, as Jim noted in an aside discussion at one point, this is the basic stance in nearly any self-defense or combat Martial Art system. I plead nerves as a beginner shooter for still standing too far back, according to the photos (which you will never see) and am glad I have those photos to remind me. We began our shooting in this stance.

Lyn then went over the Chapman or Modified Weaver stance, where the shooting arm stays out "like a rifle stock" while the other bends down to secure the hold. The class was fairly evenly divided in which each of us found most comfortable or felt was a better stance for us. I found that while the Chapman was a bit less "natural" to me, it seemed a more secure hold and will likely be the one I practice most to make it more "natural" in the long run. This is despite the fact, that after shooting mostly left-handed in the Basic Class, I exclusively shot right-handed this time making me cross-dominant. This does give some disadvantage, it seems in sighting. We'll see how things go with practice.

We moved onto how to move, both to remove ourselves from another's line of sight and to evaluate the over all situation. This exercise was probably a bit easier for those who know right from left, which I have a huge problem with as I'll note in a moment. However, the couple of bumps that we took, with us all at a safely lined up, also gave us who had them a sense of the importance of keeping our fingers off the triggers when not shooting...and a reminder that if we manage that, the gun won't just go off by itself because of a slight bump.

We then shot from concealment, relating to the cover exercise that was part of RULF. Figuring out a bit, with guns away, did and didn't work to hide us from our targets. We then shot from behind targets, from both the right and left sides, which gave some of us some clues that one might be less advantageous for us than the other was...something to keep working on.

To add another level of reality, the time factor, we got to shoot metal targets, so we could hear when the shots hit, with a timer. Then that was upped by having two of us compete. This gave each of us some sense of how pressure and adrenaline might affect our speed and aim, with some doing better and some worse. Again, information for future training. And a good example of why defensive shooting competition can be an important element of preparedness. One student also learned that some makes of electronic ear protection seem to decide to block the buzzer too.

We also were reintroduced to the phone and lock-box scenario, now getting to act it out with a live gun. We were giving options on how to go about the exercise, based on our knowledge of local response systems and with the knowledge we'd received. Mostly it came down to get gun out, make call, pick up gun, but anyone who could juggle it all would probably have an advantage. I felt rather proud of myself for I was "on the line with 911" with the gun in my other hand when informed the intruder was breaking through, I just started shooting, one-handed, while dropping the phone and bringing my other hand up. Lyn noted that I got at least two good chest shots while still one-handed. I admit, I paid for it a bit with a bruise under my thumbnail where got hit by the moving slide but I didn't feel it until the next morning and certainly better than what might happen in such a scenario if I hesitated.

The last shooting was "the decision" with photo targets, each of us turned away while they put them up, and then we were to turn around and figure out if firing was appropriate. Many were absolutely clear, and no one shot grandma, but a couple were just a tad ambiguous without more information making those of us who got them, I was one, hesitate for a moment. I still contemplate if it was too long, but I also consider that in the case of my bad guys, it was probably prudent to be sure and they did not have an advantage on speed in the situation. But, I still mull it over.

Each step of this has left me feeling more prepared, more ready, although I know I still have so far to go. This is not to say this is an incomplete class, it was a totally filled 8 hours, with a lot of knowledge shared as well as practice. Our lunch period included instruction and time before and after shooting involved a great deal of sharing and discussion. This included the showing of various concealment holsters and bags and discussion of their various merits and demerits. But there is always more. Some of which we feel now can be easily extrapolated from what we've learned so far...including things like going over the concealment in our own homes and then mimicking things as much as possible at the range.

Of course, there are other AWARE classes, we're still hoping to get shotgun ones if anyone is interested (the more who ask for them, the greater the chance they can do them) and Lyn also offers personal instruction and can be contacted through the website. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her in the future. And we're both considering the possibility, if we can manage out time, of perhaps getting involved in some competition to work on our stress responses. As I said before, this may be the Year of the Gun because the journey is new and we're giving it a particular focus, but this is a life-time journey we've started.

And, just in case anyone does want to see me as well as my classmates:

I'd like to thank my classmates for agreeing to appear in this blog and all four of our teachers for their wonderful instruction.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert Dhoireann

Monday, May 25, 2009

Terminator Salvation and Physical Feminism at TEOTWAWKI

We went to Terminator Salvation Saturday night and it was an awesome movie on almost every count. Well, written, with the exception to be addressed here, well cast, well directed, with good nods to the first two movies and, of course, state-of-the-art special effects. I've reviewed it for The Sarah Connor Charm School (link will change later when it, probably cobbled with this, is put on the other website). But there is one thing that must be addressed here.

The scene, in fact, exemplifies, negatively, the very reason I have this blog and started the SCCS. Because while today we have to learn to defend ourselves because good men are not always going to be there to save us and we shouldn't expect them to and law enforcement might be callable in most cases but an awful lot of awful things can be done to you in the time it takes for them to get there, which in some places is longer than others but is always a long time, when the shit hits the fan and society breaks down it will be worse. I'm not of the school that says all men are potential rapists, seriously, some men are just not, but when society breaks down those who are will feel more free to act. There are, indeed, some men today who do not rape simply because they do fear punishment, along with it being easier for men who already don't care to get away with it, these men will rape, kidnap, torture and kill as well.

This is why I've always made the connection between physical feminism and preparedness. This is one of the things I hope to get across in this blog as it goes along, along with addressing our needs today. Because the needs are basically the same, it just will be even more dangerous. As women, we must prepare ourselves to be our own champions at all times (and this is not to say it won't be more dangerous for men, as well, but it seems that more men in the survivalist/preparedness movement are gearing up for it, while not all women are...some are, this is good, more need to).

*SPOILER ALERT* This will spoil this one scene, but as it doesn't give away anything more, I would hope those who have not yet seen it will consider reading this, if not, please return.

In the scene, Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), the character most of us had the most hope for in carrying on the original Sarah Connor's (Linda Hamilton) legacy*, has survived bailing from her plane when it is blown and has met Marcus (Sam Worthington) and he goes off while she begins to dress her injuries. She puts her Desert Eagle off her body and moves away from it before she is confronted by three men, one of whom has, of course, acquired her gun. She does tell him he should have chambered a round and takes it from him and begins fighting them. Just as I hope for a real kick-ass scene, she is quickly over powered and Marcus must come and save her. With her hardly having fought at all.

Now, of course, he needed to save her to carry the plot. But why in this way? Why make her a fucking moron? Why make her an ineffective fighter? There are so many ways this could have been done differently and carried the plot the same way.

Why not have her injured and he needed to save her by stopping her bleeding? Or at least have a machine be the danger, as really these men where just humans? Or if it needed to be an attempted rape scene, and noting the danger is actually a good warning to put out there, why not have her be more efficient, at least let her take out most of them, and Marcus only come in the end when one might have gotten a drop? Three against one are, after all, bad odds...but at least let her, a warrior, be more effective, not so totally helpless against three men who were clearly not real fighters. But really, have her have her frigging gun on her, not having been so stupid to be in open territory without it. That one thing is just mind boggling to me. You do not walk away from and of your weapons in such a situation. Ever.

This message, that women are just plain victims and always will be, needing men to save them is atrocious. It should never have been in a movie franchise which started with a woman who went from being a Final Girl (spunky and can save herself but not a trained warrior) to choosing to become a warrior in the end (which marked the first movie as unique, really, because she is going off to prepare, having already taken the measures of a gun and a dog, something Final Girls do not typically do).

This has basically ruined what was an otherwise great movie, well not quite as great as the first two, but a really good action movie, for me. And one that had such potential. There are many otherwise good female roles, the older and obviously takes -no-shit leader of a group of survivors, Virginia (Jane Alexander), the various women in various positions in the Resistance, yes, even Kate(Bryce Dallas Howard, who does a marvelous job of reclaiming a character who had been rather horrible in the very badly done Terminator 3), yes, rather cliche cute, smart kid, Star (Jadagrace). Blair Williams could have been a real icon for physical feminism and for prepared women, but they chose to portray her as a warning for how "helpless women are by nature" instead.

In fact, such a scene as this, which shows the danger and the need to be prepared, done with Blair winning the fight, with her having her weapon and blowing the hell out of the would-be rapists, perhaps recovering from the wound Marcus had already had to save her from, would have taken this movie from a good action film to an amazing women kick-ass must watch over and over obsession for me that the first two movies are. But no, while it's a good action movie, worth seeing for that, and Christian Bale saves the character of John Connor from the emo legacy that Nick Stahl and Thomas Dekker created and remade him as the real Sarah Connor's son, it doesn't get added to my rotation. I won't watch it after every viewing of Terminator and Terminator 2 (which I run frequently, sometimes to sit and watch and sometimes as background while I do other things in the house). And it could have. It might have even held a special place because of such a scene, a scene that both reminds us that TEOTWAWKI will add to our possible peril AND remind us that we do not need to hope that some man will be there to save us. That we can champion ourselves.

*Yes, in the end of T2 Sarah fell short of the saving shot and the T800 needed to save her and John. It's an annoying event for many of us, done simply because Schwarzenegger had to be the hero of the piece. And yes, he takes on the mere humans during her escape, but she was doing okay until he himself drove her back towards them. The end of the movie was marred, but this scene is even worse. And, of course, we always have the fact that in the fist movie, Sarah saves herself in the end, the man protecting her already dead and so she had to champion herself.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Year of the Gun: Second Step, Responsible Use of Lethal Force (RULF)

In the end of March, we continued our firearms training, following NRA Basic Pistol, this time turning to Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE), a teaching group run by women that I've heard good things about and have wanted to check out for a long time. In short, the good things I heard were verified by this class, which was not only informative but also very well presented by AWARE founding member and vice-president Lyn Bates, who herself has extensive training since 1983 including with Massad Ayoob ("I wanted to learn from the best" she noted), competes in defensive firearms, is a member of the International Law Enforcement Education and Trainer's Association, American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, American Women's Self Defense Association, is a contributing editor of Women & Guns and has written the book Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity and Your Life (she is also mentioned several times in McCaughey's Real Knockouts and in Quigley's Not an Easy Target).

The small class was equally men and women, with one man joining us at the last minute, having been a long time shooter and member of the Harvard Sportsman's Club who saw the information. While started, as Lyn explained, as a "women teaching women" school, they soon began teaching men as well. This, of course, could bring up a common problem seen when women have positions of power in what is considered a "man's world" where some men feel compelled to "take over" ...this was not going to happen with Lyn, that was clear (any more than any of the men who were, in fact, helping with Evelyn Logan's class we took previously would have had a chance). (This subject will probably end up being a future post here)

This class, is a vital step in preparing to defend oneself with a firearm, although it might not be the funnest step as it's a non-shooting course and deals with the hard, sobering facts that must be faced. It is, of course, a prerequisite for AWARE's Self-Protection with Handguns and Defensive Shotgun courses.

This is not to say it's all lecture and sitting, there were several exercises, such as the Tueller Drill and Using Cover and Concealment, to break up the talk and video tapes. The class starts with Introduction to Self-Defense, going over, among much else, the reasons for it, when it's required, what deadly force is and when it's justified and when it's not, not breaking the basic safety rules and what determines who wins.

The class then goes over what happens before and during a violent attack. This includes what the signs of aggression and imminent attack, what fear and trauma are, how the body and mind react to danger and how to harness that reaction and gives a guideline for interaction with an attacker.

After a lunch that included the video Home Defense, we moved into what happens if you have to shoot. As well as explaining the duty to retreat if possible under most circumstances (especially in states without "Castle Laws" like MA), shooting to stop (as opposed to even thinking "kill or wound"), not being focused on it went over the physical and cognitive after affects and what might happen to you with the law. Yes, you are probably going to be arrested. "The police will treat the person with a gun as a suspect." Do not have gun in hand when they arrive, give clear, calm information that you are the one attacked and that you want time to calm down before you give a statement. The importance of knowing who to contact if this happens, before it happens, was noted, this includes that those of us who train with AWARE can contact them, or have our lawyer contact them, for help with resources for your defense.

The last segment was on gun storage, including lock boxes and other devices and what to do should your home be invaded, including the cover and concealment exercise and how to determine if someone is in your home. The class finished up with a video of Massad Ayoob discussing Post Shooting Trauma.

During breaks Lyn kept herself approachable for questions and informal discussion, as well as having put out over a hundred handouts related to the subject, from serious articles to cartoons (this is in addition to several books that come with the class, two of Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme and The Truth About Self-Protection, Bo Hardy's Defensive Living and Gila Hayes' Effective Defense). I found Lyn's teaching style approachable and open, while she also kept the class moving along and cleanly organized. The information was often grim, but the importance of getting the reality of the consequences was always obvious. This class is an absolute necessity for anyone considering using a gun for self-defense as much as learning the actual techniques, which will be the next step.

So I feel totally vindicated already in having promoted AWARE since hearing what others said, even though it took me awhile to get there. Especially if a non-shooting class was this interesting and strengthening. I can't say enough about how important I feel this class is, these are things we always have to consider. We will be taking Self-Protection with Handguns next month and I'm hoping they eventually offer a Defensive Shotgun class (interest will likely make it happen *hinthint*). AWARE isn't limited to firearms training, either, they also offer Pepper Gas and Persuader/Kubotan training, as well as an Assault Prevention class they offer free for groups of ten or more.

I highly recommend AWARE for both women and men for any of these purposes. And, always remember, you cannot take too many classes, even the "same class" because it will never be the same. I note this as I will be doing defensive training at Major Wadron's at some point too. And, yes, I'm still hoping to train with Ayoob myself one day.

(for the Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns click this link)
Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The real reason everyone is nuts over Michelle Obama's arms

When I first saw Michelle Obama's arms bared, I did notice she was in fairly good shape. As always, I thought it was wonderful to see some muscle on a woman, but I really didn't think much of it. She is buff, but not exactly that buff. It was just nice to know she wasn't afraid to become strong.

Yes, I admit it, for all my focus on women's physical strength, most of my concern about an Obama was whether Barack really was going to dig us out of the legacy of the last administration. Oh, and if they would set a good example by adopting a shelter dog rather than buying a puppy.

But a lot of other people apparently noticed and seemed to feel it was a big deal. I won't round up all the chatter as Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press managed to pin down most of it already in Why all the fuss over a first lady's bare arms?.

The thing is though, she failed to answer it. In fact, there were things she reports in this that are glaringly wrong, sexist, strong-woman phobic and point right to the answer. Yet she never hits on it.

In Noveck's section entitled "MRS. OBAMA'S ARMS COINCIDE WITH A FASHION TREND" she quotes Glamour magazine's Susan Cernek saying that erogenous zones vary with styles, implying apparently that buff arms are current (this is not, actually, said here by Cernek so we don't know if that's what she meant or not). Noveck then goes on to note that Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor, started the trend of muscular arms but that Madonna was the most famous celebrity with them. Oddly enough, she makes Hamilton's buffness out to be even earlier than it was, mistakenly saying that it was in the '80s. As it is, of course, the trend of mainstream female muscle started and died in the 1990s, it is not in any way a current trend.

This actually is the reason for the big deal about Michelle Obama's arms, because they are not the trend. Yes we had a few short years of buff actresses and sports models, but for the past ten years or so both Hollywood and Madison Avenue have given us thinner and thinner images once again. Madonna is one that didn't follow this trend and there are a scant few others, as I post about often here, such as actresses Evangeline Lilly, Rhona Mitra, Jessica Biel and very few others. Now we have female "action stars" whose biceps I could touch my fingers around. No, the very reason for all this fuss is because this is simply not accepted.

And we can see why in other statements made, especially by the men who commented, along with some major fallacies again. Noveck quotes Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of men.style.com, as saying "When I look at Madonna's arms I see someone whose priorities are way out of whack. It takes hours a day to keep them that way. Why not volunteer instead at a soup kitchen?"

No, it does not take hours a day to build and keep that sort of muscle, that's a common cry by those who do not work out or who work out ineffectively and therefore figure those who have more success must be doing something unreasonable rather than right. Building muscle, in fact, requires rest, you can't work them too much or you over train and you can't work them daily. Now Madonna is not just big but very cut, so she may well spend a lot of time doing cardio, but correct me if I'm wrong as I'm not a big fan, but I think cardio is part of her actual job. Doesn't she dance a great deal in her shows? So I think it's probably a wise priority for her.

Thoreson himself doesn't look like fitness is a key part of his life (I Googled him and there are lots of photos to go by) but one might hope a fitness trainer like David Kirsch would know better. But he too is quoted attacking Madonna by saying that unlike her arms "Mrs. Obama's are feminine. She looks like a woman." Um, sorry, Madonna is a woman so,you know, she looks like a woman too. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

Because people like this are telling us constantly that if we get too big we suddenly become men.

One might, then look at the three clients of Kirsch who are noted, does he know how to train women this man who says that just by doing more and more push-ups everyday any of us could look like Michelle Obama (which someone with training in fitness would know is not true at all...it just doesn't work that way)? Well, of the three famous clients noted, I will say Ellen Barkin is rather buff, while the other two all photos I could find show them painfully thin. Perhaps those are from before they trained with him? If dozens of push-ups does that, I think I'll stick with my more diverse training (which does include push-ups, of various types and difficulty...hardly any just standard anymore).

Only Gloria Steinem comes close to the answer, this is sexism plain and simple. But it's not clear if she gets the point about exactly what the message is, she's only quoted as noting that if Hilary Clinton had become President Bill Clinton's arms wouldn't be a subject of discussion. The sexism is that it's that these muscles are on a woman and that is supposed to be abnormal. They'd not be abnormal on a man.

The message is that Michelle Obama's arms are a big deal because it's still considered abnormal for women to be strong. And that's the message many who are noting it want us to keep getting. And in case we don't accept it, then we'll be given bad fitness advice, that great contradiction of "women can't get as big as men but make sure you don't work out the 'wrong way' or you'll end up looking like a man."

So it's time to stop making a big deal and just accept it, yes! women get muscles, we are strong! We do all have this potential, some of us might look like Michelle Obama, others might look like Madonna or Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, still others might fit the "farm wife" or "bull dyke" stereotypical images while others might be plumply hiding muscle and most of us won't look like anyone else at all. But none of us, barring extreme medical conditions, need to be frail and weak. Rather than making a fuss, we need to make it not a concern at all because too many of us are strong.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Year of the Gun: First Step, Basic Pistol

I have written in the past that one should train with any weapon she intends to use for self-defense. In believing this, the only guns I have ever previously owned for self-defense or otherwise has been shotguns, having had some training, mostly informal, in using them. I have shot rifles, but not since my youth. I had never shot a pistol before last weekend other than an Air Soft. Last year I decided that 2009 would be the year I truly trained in guns, got better with shotguns but also got trained in others. Handguns were first, not only because they were the least familiar but because I want to train at AWARE and this year that is all they are offering.

I chose, however, to take an NRA Basic Pistol class in NH first, rather than AWARE's Basic Pistol, simply because I wanted to do so with my mate. I do not want to have a gun in the house that he does not know, he may well need it to defend himself for while this blog might focus on women's self-defense, men are crime-victims, even rape victims too, and he is interested in shooting. I could find no available classes near us, so I looked close to where my sister and his mother live so that we could combine trips with family visits and found courses offered at Major Waldron Sportsmen's Association and signed us up.

This class was led by Evelyn Logan, a sharp outspoken woman with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger belief in self-defense. Or, as she put it, the right to survive, "If someone attacks me, he's infringing on my right to survive." Evelyn was very open about being a rape survivor and an attempted rape survivor, "Anyone want to guess why the second was an attempt?" (there are some factual mistakes, like her husband's last name and I think she's younger than this indicates). It turns out that Evelyn has taught at AWARE and she was thrilled to hear that I was going to be training there as well.

As there were many instructors working with her, we also got a taste of various reasons people where enthusiastic about shooting handguns. Along with self-defense and tactical some of the instructors did Bullseye and at least one does Cowboy shooting. We also were able to glean information about why some preferred certain guns over others and how that varied, sometimes picking up things that we might not have expected (for instance, because I am most comfortable shooting left-handed despite being right-handed, probably due both to shooting shotgun and a touch of arthritis developing in my right hand, I noted one instructor mention that being left-handed Glock magazine releases pinched his finger...I might not have noticed this as we only got three shots at the end of class in trying different models, but yes, even with three shots I noted a mark which would likely mean much more discomfort after far more shooting so perhaps no Glock for me).

There were moments of sadness for me. Several women actually noted that they were there to "humor" their husband, boyfriend or father. My mate and I joked that if we were not among the first to introduce ourselves he should have said he was there to humor me (although not actually true, and even less so by the end, he really got into it). Some of these same women also began hanging back when we were able to try out different guns and were quick to say they enjoyed shooting the .22s we trained with but the higher calibers were just too much. I am hoping that as they shoot more this might be something they get past. Hearing it made me, tired as I was from switching my hours and many other reasons for having had little sleep that weekend, head back to try out another .45.

I thought the class we well organized and feel I'm well on my way to becoming knowledgeable enough that handguns will be a part of my self-protection arsenal. But, yes, this is a first step and training will be ongoing. I was thrilled to have a teacher such as Evelyn who has such a passion for women's self-defense and who has actually stopped a rape using a gun. I will undoubtedly train with her more in the future, as I intend to take more classes at MWSA and she has said she'd try to volunteer when I do. Along with the AWARE classes, the first of which I hope will be next month, I intend to do Persona Protection in the Home, Basic Shotgun (because you never can learn too much) and Basic Rifle at MWSA. I hope, too, to eventually be able to get down to some of their monthly Tactical shoots. It's good to see a range such as this one with such a great focus on defensive shooting, when most I found closer to me seem focused almost exclusively on shooting sports.

If you are in the region and looking for training in guns for self-defense and/or sport, I do recommend MWSA. Hopefully, if you're looking for self-defense inspiration, you'll get to meet Evelyn as one of your instructors.

(For the Second Step: Responsible Use of Lethal Force and Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns clink on these links)

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann