Feminist self-defence: victim empowering or victim blaming?

July 2018

Once considered a radical intervention in the 1970s, feminist self defence is no longer a key part of rape prevention initiatives in the UK. However an international knowledge base is pointing to its revolutionary possibilities, speaking back to critiques that teaching women self defence invariably blames the victim.

This event discussed the revolutionary history of feminist self defence, from its use by the suffragettes through to its place in the Rojava revolution in Syria. Speakers Rahila Gupta, a freelance journalist, Jan Jordan, Associate Professor of Criminology at Victoria University in Wellington, NZ, Liz Kelly, CBE, Professor of Sexualised Violence at London Metropolitan University and Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) and Fiona Vera-Gray, Research Fellow in Durham Law School, discussed their own research on the use of self-defence in different international contexts, and responded to key concerns and questions from both the literature and the audience.

This event hosted the launch of Fiona Vera Gray’s new book The Right Amount of Panic: How women trade freedom for safety – which discusses the possibilities of feminist self-defence as a way of “learning to unlearn” the socialisation of the female body.