Fighting Back on Feminist Terms: Empowerment Through Self-Defence Training in Neoliberal Times

  • Bell A. Murphy


In neoliberal times, patriarchal narratives about “women who ask for it” combine with the myth of meritocracy to make the slippery slope between safety advice and victim-blame slicker than ever. The only interventions that have shown empirical reductions in sexual assaults are “feminist empowerment” programmes that equip women with effective resistance skills. So, how can a feminist approach be distinguished from neoliberal discourses that responsibilise women for crime prevention while claiming to “empower” them? Drawing on the author’s experience as a feminist self-defence teacher in Aotearoa, New Zealand, this chapter suggests that a feminist approach should attend to empowerment as a political process with three interlocking dimensions: personal, collective and subversive. Examples are given of how this is, and could be, attempted through feminist self-defence classes.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bell A. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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