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The surprising roots of the self-defense movement and the history of women's empowerment. At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women's self-defense movement. It is nearly impossible in today's The surprising roots of the self-defense movement and the history of women's empowerment. At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women's self-defense movement. It is nearly impossible in today's day and age to imagine a world without the concept of women's self defense. Some women were inspired to take up boxing and jiu-jitsu for very personal reasons that ranged from protecting themselves from attacks by strangers on the street to rejecting gendered notions about feminine weakness and empowering themselves as their own protectors. Women's training in self defense was both a reflection of and a response to the broader cultural issues of the time, including the women's rights movement and the campaign for the vote. Perhaps more importantly, the discussion surrounding women's self-defense revealed powerful myths about the source of violence against women and opened up conversations about the less visible violence that many women faced in their own homes. Through self-defense training, women debunked patriarchal myths about inherent feminine weakness, creating a new image of women as powerful and self-reliant. Whether or not women consciously pursued self-defense for these reasons, their actions embodied feminist politics. Although their individual motivations may have varied, their collective action echoed through the twentieth century, demanding emancipation from the constrictions that prevented women from exercising their full rights as citizens and human beings. This book is a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to one of the most important women's issues of all time. This book will provoke good debate and offer distinct responses and solutions.


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The surprising roots of the self-defense movement and the history of women's empowerment. At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women's self-defense movement. It is nearly impossible in today's The surprising roots of the self-defense movement and the history of women's empowerment. At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women's self-defense movement. It is nearly impossible in today's day and age to imagine a world without the concept of women's self defense. Some women were inspired to take up boxing and jiu-jitsu for very personal reasons that ranged from protecting themselves from attacks by strangers on the street to rejecting gendered notions about feminine weakness and empowering themselves as their own protectors. Women's training in self defense was both a reflection of and a response to the broader cultural issues of the time, including the women's rights movement and the campaign for the vote. Perhaps more importantly, the discussion surrounding women's self-defense revealed powerful myths about the source of violence against women and opened up conversations about the less visible violence that many women faced in their own homes. Through self-defense training, women debunked patriarchal myths about inherent feminine weakness, creating a new image of women as powerful and self-reliant. Whether or not women consciously pursued self-defense for these reasons, their actions embodied feminist politics. Although their individual motivations may have varied, their collective action echoed through the twentieth century, demanding emancipation from the constrictions that prevented women from exercising their full rights as citizens and human beings. This book is a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to one of the most important women's issues of all time. This book will provoke good debate and offer distinct responses and solutions.

30 review for Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women's Self-Defense Movement

  1. 4 out of 5

    Romie

    This book is so quotable . . . if it were only up to me, I'd just leave all my favourite quotes from the book here and that'd be the review, but let's try to write something. This book is about how white middle-and-upper-class women started to realize the 'women are weak' stereotype was only that. A stereotype. Nothing more. Precision : the events here take place between late 19th and early 20th centuries. Women’s self-defense became a rejection of the doctrine of protectionism and a means for whit This book is so quotable . . . if it were only up to me, I'd just leave all my favourite quotes from the book here and that'd be the review, but let's try to write something. This book is about how white middle-and-upper-class women started to realize the 'women are weak' stereotype was only that. A stereotype. Nothing more. Precision : the events here take place between late 19th and early 20th centuries. Women’s self-defense became a rejection of the doctrine of protectionism and a means for white women to empower themselves against attacks from their alleged natural protectors - white men. Until I'd the say middle/late 20th century, women were taught that they were weak and needed a protect them, they needed the ‘male strength’ because they would never be able to defend themselves. *coughs* BS *cough* But hey, who were they supposed to not defend themselves against? You got it : white men. White men you can't take no for an answer and get angry when women/people they feel are inferior to them resist them. The women who were subject to these repeated insults described feeling annoyed, threatened, and even fearful. The constant harassment felt like a barrage of assaults, and many women expressed a sense of violation of their person. As women increasingly found themselves the objects of unwanted sexual attention in a variety of public places, they demanded protection against these insults. There is this myth that black men were more dangerous than white men. Of course, blame the minority, it always works. But as I said, it's just that : a myth. It's so much easier to point the finger elsewhere, to say it's not your fault, to see yourself as the good protector. Yeah . . . but women also learned self-defense to protect themselves from men in their own family. Men who ‘owned’ them, at least that's what they believed. Nowhere were the myth of stranger danger and the myth of the male protector more obviously disproved than in the homes of women who were subject to violence perpetrated by the men they loved. The discourse surrounding women’s self-defense helped dispel powerful myths about the sources of violence against women. As said previously, women were taught to go to their husband/brother/father when they needed help or felt threatened . . . they were taught to feel vulnerable and to be helpless on their own. Men made sure they were ‘indispensable’ so they could act like total jerks and women would say nothing because they felt like they needed them. The self-defense movement proved how wrong it was. By promoting an attitude of fear about the outside world and the “other”, men encouraged women to seek security in the home and look to them for protection. Patriarchal authority was thus reinforced as men took on the role of protectors and women as the protected. By buying into this notion, women capitulated to their insecurities and may have even believed stereotypes about feminine weakness and their inability to defend themselves, thus making them more vulnerable to assault. I think men forgot that it's when you feel the most vulnerable and weak that you find a strength inside you you never knew existed. In a way - and it hurts me to say that - men made of us the women we are today : strong, independent, brilliant. They treated us like second-class citizens for centuries, and proving them wrong made us fight harder. So thanks guys, your evil plan didn't work. Although the reasons women pursued self-defense training may have varied dramatically, the very act of learning a traditionally male-dominated physical art contested gender stereotypes and stretched the boundaries of acceptable female behavior. 3.75 Thank you Netgalley for providing me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lima Reads

    This book is about the history of the self defence movment for women. It is thoroughly researched and it lets readers know a lot about the early days of womens self defence. I liked this book and I liked the way the aurhor presented this topic. The publisher kindly allowed me to read a Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Law

    Really informative and written in an engaging way. I loved the illustrations that accompany the text. My only (unfulfilled) wish is that Rouse doesn't examine the criminalization of women who physically defended themselves from acquaintances, loved ones, bosses or strangers on the street. It would be interesting to note whether the courts viewed women's self-defense acts differently during the Progressive Era, the role played by class and race in legal consequences (or lack thereof), and whether Really informative and written in an engaging way. I loved the illustrations that accompany the text. My only (unfulfilled) wish is that Rouse doesn't examine the criminalization of women who physically defended themselves from acquaintances, loved ones, bosses or strangers on the street. It would be interesting to note whether the courts viewed women's self-defense acts differently during the Progressive Era, the role played by class and race in legal consequences (or lack thereof), and whether/how legal attitudes changed over time. For those interested in learning more about the imprisonment of women for self-defense in later eras, check out No Selves to Defend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    https://nursingclio.org/2019/04/04/he... https://nursingclio.org/2019/04/04/he...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Truce

    Wendy Rouse’s Her Own Hero goes deep into the Progressive Era and describes how industrialization, racism, xenophobia, and a fear of the decline of the Anglo race led to a promotion of physical culture and a sort of hypermasculinity. At the same time, upper- and middle-class white women were moving into the public sphere and wanted in on physical culture too, and had ways of justifying their participation in “manly arts” such as boxing and self-defense both by appealing to the rules of respectab Wendy Rouse’s Her Own Hero goes deep into the Progressive Era and describes how industrialization, racism, xenophobia, and a fear of the decline of the Anglo race led to a promotion of physical culture and a sort of hypermasculinity. At the same time, upper- and middle-class white women were moving into the public sphere and wanted in on physical culture too, and had ways of justifying their participation in “manly arts” such as boxing and self-defense both by appealing to the rules of respectable femininity (“It cures hysteria!”) and circumventing gender norms entirely. Rouse makes clear that racism was a significant component in shaping women’s participation in martial arts and boxing. From the fear of Anglo population decline to Yellow Peril to the differences in how black women and white women were treated/harassed in the public sphere, racial politics often played a part in whether or not women would get to participate in martial arts and even what type of martial arts they could learn. However, at least for white women, physical empowerment led to more opportunities to be visible in the public sphere, which eventually translated to political empowerment and the right to vote. Now that we live in a world where athletes like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey and Mia Hamm are household names and women’s self-defense courses can be found at even the tiniest of suburbs, it almost seems quaint that women were once discouraged from physical activity. But though this book focuses on the Progressive era, so many of the attitudes about femininity and fears of racial “others” are still prevalent even in 2017. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is a thoroughly researched academic book, well-suited for people who really want to dig deep into the history of women’s participation in combat sports. It also offers a really fascinating look at how gender norms are influenced by race, and how these old narratives about women in sports still linger today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Her Own Hero by Wendy Rouse is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early July. Rouse looks into the use of self-defense (including, yet not exclusive to boxing and jiu-jitsu) by women during the Progressive Era (1850s to the late 1910s) for fitness, protection, and empowerment. It is written quite a lot like a chaptered textbook from a not-so-diverse American perspective that reluctantly learns and embraces international combat styles.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sinistmer

    A well-written history of women's self-defense during the Progressive era (late 19th-early 20th century)--Rouse analyzes and synthesizes the information in an interesting well. She also does a good job of tying the concepts to later waves of feminism to show how some of those issues have continued to be issues.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The book took much too long to get to the point: talking about women's self-defense, and ultimately spent little time talking about that history, instead recycling many other narratives (that of the changing roles of white upper- and middle-class women, suffragettes, etc).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    A bit academic in the writing (each chapter tells you what she's going to tell you, tells you, then concludes with what she told you). Overall a very informative book on an intriguing topic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine Herbon

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leilani Ricardo

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Laurel Overstreet

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gena

  14. 4 out of 5

    oscar smith

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Holly George

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Sell

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  19. 4 out of 5

    Poornima Vijayashanker

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth B

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liliyana Shadowlyn

    As a woman, I can't imagine NOT knowing at least the basics of self-defense. Learning the history behind what led us to today's world where the norm is no longer women who are unable to physically defend themselves is absolutely fascinating. A great read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Claire Shaw

  23. 4 out of 5

    My crazy book

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Lee

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    613.66082 R863 2017

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is an interesting nonfiction book on the history of the women's self-defense movement in the US. Reading about how and why women decided to become their own protectors was fascinating, giving me a better idea of the women's suffrage movement of the time and women's life experience in general. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to learning more about women's life during the era in general, and the women's movement in particular.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Bringman

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Ann

  30. 4 out of 5

    Olmosmx_gyime

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