Sunday, March 11, 2007

Respect & Denial

This summer we had a new guy come to two classes at the dojo. He was only really new to being on the floor, since he was the father of two of our students and watched class regularly. While he seemed to enjoy class, he ended up dropping out after those two classes for one very specific reason: he couldn't bring himself to hit a woman.

This isn't the first time I've run into a guy that feels this way and it always bothers me. That it bothers me seems to puzzle the guys, since they view it as symptomatic of their deep respect for women. They would never hit any woman, under any circumstances, and that's good, isn't it?

Except that it doesn't seem very respectful to me. It's a blanket rule. One that covers all circumstances for all time, even when the rule is detrimental to the ones it's supposed to show respect for. That Mr. P doesn't go about hitting women as a general rule is good, but to specifically refuse to hit women in an enviroment where the women are learning to protect themselves from people who do hit women, doesn't respect women that I can see. It's refusing to help women become more capable. It seems to go hand in hand with the fact that Mrs. P would never remotely consider joining our class, not even for the one-off self-defense class, nor do I think her spouse would approve of her doing so. Protecting Mrs. P is Mr. P's job; she's not supposed to protect herself. And that hardly seems respectful of Mrs. P's abilities, does it?


Kathryn said...

It's also stupid of people with Mr. P's attitude to assume that they would never be in a situation where they might have to hit a woman to defend themselves or others. Their refusal to ever hit a woman could be a big problem for them. It not only shows disrespect towards women but is also detrimental to themselves.

Melanie Charis Bron said...

How... odd. But it seems some people believe in this sort of erzatz respect - I remember being regarded strangely after a bowling game, in which I'd beaten my Mr Sweetie. He was just fine with it (but then, he has no problems with capable women in general, and celebrates my talents sometimes more assiduously than I do) but the game's other participants seemed to feel that I had disrespected my partner, and in public (oh, noes!). But it's more disrespectful, indeed, to throw the game, and imply thereby that your opponent is not worth your total engagement.

Hard to think, though, what gets people to change to an attitude of showing up, instead of simply mouthing the words...

[Mat] said...

I could never hit a woman either. I admit to going slower, I admit to also slowing some punches.
Even if I'm totally aware that she could kick my ass, I simply can't let go as much.

Blame the hormones. A lady? Beautiful? in a Gi?
Sorry, I can't help it. Even if she does hurt me at times.

I'd die if I found out I hurt her!

blackbeltmama said...

I hope that when I step on the dojo floor, I am viewed as a martial artist. I agree with you. What an unfortunate assumption that he could never be in a situation where a woman could kick his derriere. In a dojo environment where control is key, hitting a woman shouldn't be an issue.

frotoe said...

Wow, that is too bad. He clearly doesn't "get it". or maybe he's really intimidated by the whole thing and doesn't know how to separate "hitting a woman" from "training in the martial arts with women".

Mari said...

A little late, this reply, but just thought I'd mention that my former Wing Tsun teacher (excellent guy) told the class that he had no interest in teaching guys who out of principle would insist on losing to more than 50% of the people they encountered. He also said it doesn't really matter whether the fist that breaks your nose has XX or XY chromosomes, it hurts like ***** regardless.

PerpetualBeginner said...

Wow - this has gotten more comments than any other entry I've put up. Thanks for all the interesting remarks!

Mat - from what you're saying it sounds like you are willing to fight a woman, you just hold back more than you would against a guy, for fear of hurting them (correct me if I'm wrong). While that kind of behavior isn't my favorite thing, I find it a lot more understandable than Mr. P's behavior - he wouldn't even wave a fist in my direction, let alone connect. My husband in similar (to you, not to Mr. P), he's a big, strong guy, and he throttle back a lot when fighting women, exactly because he's afraid of hurting them. He's still providing valuable experience in fighting somebody bigger and stronger with a longer reach - plus he's not (as melanie commented) throwing the game. He's trying to win, he's just not willing to hit hard to do so.

bbm, frotoe and mari - exactly! It's disrespectful to treat a fellow martial artist as if they couldn't possibly defend against your manly muscles. I defend myself just fine, thank you, and so do the other women in the dojo. Mr. P would instantly have recognized it as disrespectful to refuse to even try to punch Sensei, but couldn't see it in respect to me or the other women.