New feature: On kickboxing, women’s aggression and self-defence

// 16 May 2009

Jessica Burton explains how kickboxing changed how she feels about her own body and her confidence in the face of harassment and potential violence

Once a week for more than an hour I release tension, build fitness and luxuriate in my body’s physicality by running around kicking people in the head. I’m not a menace to society; I attend a kickboxing class. And I love it.

Both my mother and society have repeatedly told me (and all women) that it is unsafe to be a woman, the environment around us is to be feared and if you’re out alone at night, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be attacked. “There’s a pervert behind every bush,” as my granny was wont to proclaim. If you do get attacked at night, you are considered partly to blame, especially if you’re dressed for a night out.

The recent Reclaim the Night marches have highlighted this blame culture and the wrongheaded advice given to us to prevent attacks. Those most likely to suffer an attack from a stranger – young men – are not told to live in fear, stay at home, modify the way they dress or keep in pairs when the sun goes down. If they are attacked, no one ever asks them: “Well, what were you doing in a dark alley by yourself in the first place?”

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