Marches and Protests Can’t Safeguard Women’s Rights; Here’s What Will

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Bonnie Pyle - Lance Cayko

Women’s rights.

We hear that phrase a lot, but what does it really mean? What are women’s rights, and how are they different from human rights? Of course, the debate over what constitutes a human right is never ending, so let’s simplify: Human rights are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone is entitled to those rights so long as they don’t trample on the same rights of anyone else.

Are women inherently more susceptible to having their basic human rights taken away? Perhaps. Women are often the victims of a variety of crimes, especially if you pay attention to headlines. We hear a lot about violence towards and the victimization of women. The media loves a good victim story.

News headlines assault us daily with tragedies involving women, causing us outrage and even fear. Why are women so often “victims”? In the world of human services and adult protection, one of the main criteria for determining if someone is at risk is their ability to self-protect. Are women mistreated and in danger of losing rights because they are unable to effectively self-protect?

At this moment millions of women are afraid. Maybe there is an imminent threat of an abuser or someone actively threatening them. Perhaps it is something even more insidious, the ingrained fear response that so many women have learned from constantly being told they are victims, and in danger of losing their rights.

This is the time of year when millions of women gather to join in women’s marches. Some will wear silly hats, vagina costumes, or signs expressing anger and hatred. These marches draw a lot of publicity. These women are supposedly marching for their rights, but what happens after the march? Far too many of those women will leave with their silly hats, their phones with 911 on speed dial, and they will scurry home to hide behind locked doors where they live in fear of being a “victim”.

From behind their locked doors many of these women will make social media posts about women’s rights, and the part they’ve played in advocating for women’s rights. The hats, the vagina costumes, the anger and hatred, and of course the attempts to strip away others’ rights so that these women may have the illusion of safety.

The truth is that the greatest threat to women is our own fear. Far too often our actions are driven by fear rather than a real, imminent threat. Our perceived inability to self-protect leaves us angry, afraid and determined to persecute others because of it.

Do marches, signs and hats really solve anything? Is scurrying along from locked door to locked door really freedom? Will taking away the rights of others really empower us?

For me, personally, I don’t go to marches. I would never wear a hat or anything else that resembles a vagina. I don’t have 911 on speed dial, and I rarely lock my doors.

Instead, I’ve taken self-defense classes. I taught kickboxing for several years. I’ve trained and certified with the Crisis Prevention Institute in holds, takedowns, and escape and evasion techniques. I have a Mandt certification in preventing and de-escalating crises. I’ve trained with firearms and have held a concealed carry permit for many years. I have taken advantage of every tool available to keep me safe from victimization and fear.

Marches and “girl-power” will not keep us safe. Taking away the rights of others inevitably leads to the loss of rights for all of us. What if you were no longer able to hold your marches and demonstrations because the protected rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech were so badly eroded by your attempt to limit those rights for others you disagree with? If someone truly wants to cause you physical harm, will your locked door and pepper spray really keep you safe? It’s time for a reality check.

The solution to fear is not the oppression or control of others. Safety will never be obtained by depending on someone else to provide it, and freedom will most definitely not be protected by a hat. The solution to fear is to equip yourself with the ability to protect against whatever you fear.

A woman’s right is the ability to leave your doors unlocked and walk down the street with confidence. By understanding that you don’t have to be a victim, you are far less likely to ever become one. Knowledge may be power but living without fear is empowerment.

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Bonnie Pyle

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