Empowering Strong Women: Does Having A Voice Count As Self Defense?
You’ve heard of the women warriors in the news lately. We have women standing up against abuse, de-stigmatizing victimization, and claiming their strength. But what is the pyschology behind building a strong woman? And why does our culture still misunderstand strong women?
Allyson Peterson, an advocate for women, states that women “finding their voice and being able to use it” is the first step in cultivating strength. Therapists agree that the concept of finding voice is essential to mental well-being, particularly for women, who are often silenced in both covert and overt ways by society or culture.
Peterson helps women find their voices to speak out against abuse. She has a black belt in traditional Taekwondo and teaches women’s self defense classes. As a much smaller woman in stature only, she understands the struggle for personal space and the need for all women’s voices to be heard and respected. Just how does a woman find her voice? Peterson describes that the realization must “come down to not wanting to be a target any longer.” She adds, “being blunt is your friend. Being absolutely open and honest and real.”
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, states, “the process of finding our voices takes time and effort.” There may not be a clear cut path to becoming a strong woman with a voice, but there are common components in this process.
Strong Women Have A Voice Of Their Own
Three components to finding voice:
- Developing clear boundaries,
- Practicing assertiveness
- Letting go of stigma to embrace strength
Predators prey upon those who seem vulnerable. Recently, a prison worker described the psychology of predation, “IIf women knew the power they have by just making eye contact–which says you aren’t going to put up with it–these men want an easy target; someone who isn’t going to scream. Even a tone of voice can change their mind, and it can often stop them. That right there is power.”
But there is an undeniable component of confidence and self-assurity. Peterson states, “Do not think you are powerless as a woman, because you aren’t.” Women must first see and believe that they have innate power that can be channeled and cultivated to grow inner strength which effects choices and actions.
Anne describes the misunderstanding that is enveloped within our culture, “The entitlement that men have that they can ignore a women’s voice if it not something they agree with shows the heart of the issue. They can keep pressing boundaries and they still expect women to react to those violations as friendly, happy people.”
Why Assertiveness Is Essential For A Strong Woman
“Assertiveness is essential. We have been conditioned to think it is not a desirable trait. We need to change that,” states Anne, “Women have the right to tell any man ‘no’ and that should be respected.”
Peterson states, “I think the most intimidating thing ever is to be facing your harasser and have the presence of mind to know exactly what to say. We must cultivate strength for women to be able to start doing this more.”
In situations of abuse, it can be even more important to develop inner personal strength, as abusers can be masters of manipulation. We have also seen this recently with high-profile cases in the news.
Strong Women Can Identify Gas-Lighting And Manipulation
Peterson describes a familiar mechanism at play in situations of abuse, “Abusers rationalize like crazy and then the victim goes away wondering if they are the crazy one. They question their reality. This is called gas-lighting. So putting this barrier of strength between a person who is unsafe and having peace in that is important.”
What can women continue to do to develop their strength? Experts state that finding an outlet that brings them joy and encourages confidence can help. One expert states, “Women can find such strength and confidence in following their passion. Perhaps an activity or something that does not care what her background is. Surrounding herself with supportive people that are there are to shape her, to give her the self-control and confidence, and that feeling that she can do anything.”
Anne adds, “We are all on our own journey to finding out how we can find our voice. This is also being reflected within society today.”
“Cultivating strength as a woman is essential social skill. It’s very important,” Peterson states. “Recently, I have felt that it is my empowerment as a female and as a mother to teach my boys that if a girl says ‘no’, then it is their job to move on. It is her right to say no. Everyone has that right to say no.”
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Until next week, stay safe out there!