The old saying goes something like this: “God may have made us Man and Woman, but Samuel Colt made us equal.” It might be a little clichéd, but like all clichés this sentiment has a heart of truth: When it comes to shooting, the sexes are on a very equal playing field. Personal defense firearms are, hands down and no question, the most effective way for women to protect themselves against the superior physical strength of men. So why is it that women get so much push-back when we decide to buy a gun and learn how to use it? I have my own theories (and I’m sure you have yours), but the fact remains that we do get that push-back. What’s more, that resistance usually comes complete with some alternative self-defense suggestions…most of which are rather dumb.
DUMB: “Just get a dog!”
Don’t get me wrong; dogs aren’t dumb and neither is owning one (or a few). Dogs can and do serve as part of your personal-defense plan; they’ve been doing it for millennia.
What’s “dumb” about this suggestion is that it’s usually proffered as the only self-protection measure a woman needs to take. First, not all dogs are particularly well-suited as “guard” or “attack” dogs, and the ones that are require careful training. Secondly, although dogs generally will “sound off” when an uninvited stranger encroaches on their territory—dogs are the original security alarm—they can’t always be relied upon to do so, especially if a home invader targets them first. Finally, the dogs that are compact enough to go in your pocket or purse don’t offer good terminal ballistics at all (although I must admit the recoil is negligible).
DUMBER: “Just get some pepper spray/a Taser!”
Once again, there’s nothing particularly dumb about less-lethal self-defense methods like OC spray or electronic disabling devices like the Taser. Every one of us has to make her own decisions about what kind of force we’re comfortable using within our own moral framework, and within our unique living situations.
What’s “dumb” about this suggestion is that it’s usually proffered as if less-lethal tools were every bit as effective as firearms. Sadly, that’s not always true. Yes, oleoresin capsaicin is awful stuff—ask anyone who’s ever been pepper-sprayed—but not everyone reacts to it the same way. Some folks are just less sensitive to it than others, and that sensitivity can be reduced further by alcohol and other drugs, as well as by repeated exposure. The Taser is much more difficult to “fight through” than chemical deterrents, but it does not render the attacker unconscious. Once the electricity ceases to flow, the attacker will recover…and you won’t really be sure exactly how long that will take.
DUMBEST: “Just get a whistle!”
This particular bon mot isn’t going to get a nice caveat like the first two—the “just get a whistle” suggestion is just plain dumb. At least dogs do bark and bite, and at least pepper sprays and Tasers cause pain and temporary incapacitation. Whistles, no matter how loud, don’t.
The original idea behind the loud-whistle-as-self-defense-mechanism was that a woman could use it to summon help. There’s just one problem with that…there’s nothing about a whistle that makes the people who hear it think that there’s an emergency to attend to. Ask anyone who lives in an apartment complex how much attention they pay to a blaring car alarm, and you’ll know how much attention people pay to an even more ambiguous noise like a whistle.
Sadly, even if people universally recognized that a loud whistle means there’s a woman being attacked, it’s shockingly unlikely that they would intervene. There’s a chilling phenomenon at play here that’s called the “bystander effect.” Essentially, the more people around to observe when something terrible is happening, the less likely it is that any one of them will actually try to stop it. It’s an awful thing to contemplate, but it demonstrates the reality that in the gravest extreme the person upon whom you must rely is you…and that the best tool to make you self-reliant is a firearm.