Most women are accustomed to a constant state of low-level threat assessment. Given that most women are at a distinct physical disadvantage to most men, and that they are likelier targets for a predatory assault than their male counterparts, most of us who have not either been extremely sheltered or made an active choice not to think about it are constantly alert to potential threats.
“How closely is that person following me? Is my path from the store to the parking lot well-lit the whole way? This person keeps creeping just into my personal space and it’s ringing all my internal alarms. I’m meeting someone new for dinner— does someone know where I am, and that I should be checking in with them? I’m really enjoying this party and meeting the people here, but I’d better not take my eyes off my drink, and I need to be very conscious of how much I have...”
Given this, women and firearms seem an obvious match. A gun levels the playing field, and barring injury or disability, it does not depend on upper-body strength, muscle mass or reach. Superior numbers improve one’s odds significantly less against a person carrying a gun than a person without one. A man has no physical advantage over a woman in firearms training. Gun rights should be a criti- cal feminist issue as well as a general human-rights issue. Yet, women are still a minority among shooters and especially as voices in the self defense community.
Women are socialized from birth to be soft and gentle where boys are rough and tumble, to be conscious of their disadvantage in strength and even to exaggerate it as a sign of femininity. Even when being pushed or outright bullied by another child, women are not encouraged to fight back, but rather to seek help from an authority figure—and may be told that if it’s a boy pushing them around, that he’s doing it because he likes her and she should keep that mind, even be flattered. All children are taught not to hit and bite and that starting fights is bad, but a boy is much likelier than a girl to be taught to stand his ground, hold his own, and that defending himself physically is a thing that he may have to do someday. Ironically, though there is no greater physical hurdle for a woman to use firearms to defend herself than a man, the psychological hurdle can be imposing.
Given this, learning to shoot and to come to terms with the idea of trusting and relying on herself to defend herself and her family from others’ violence can be a deeply powerful and transformative journey for a woman. A gun does not remove fear, but it does temper it and replace helplessness with the seed of control, the possibility of turning danger aside through your own actions. The process of learning to shoot can be—should be—inherently pleasurable and rewarding, simply because mastering a new skill is. Especially if guns were an object of fear in themselves beforehand, grasping the basics of the skill and getting to the point where improvement is tangible and mastery is imaginable is a tremendously profound experience.
If you are already living the majority of your life on alert—constantly in condition yellow or orange whenever out of an entirely safe place—then you’re already halfway to a self defense mindset. Taking the other half of the journey and developing the skill and the will to react to danger that comes to you rather than solely hoping to flee, find a defender or “hope and endure” is the next step—the step to self-reliance, self confidence and a wider world.