“Never wear overalls”

Gentlewomen, you must have received that email supposedly offering advice on how not to get raped that the author of the email supposedly procured from real rapists and how some of the advice is reasonable, like “Don’t pass out naked in the middle of a men’s prison” (okay, no, that’s actually not a bit of advice in that email, but I couldn’t resist), no, more like “Watch your drink at parties.”

But some of it seems like it’s designed clearly to help men who wish you harm have an easier time of it, like “never wear overalls.”

Courtesy of Say Uncle, we have another bit of advice, this time from the Illinois State Police–“Don’t shoot your attacker; let him get close enough to you where you can stab him.”

Yes, what a great idea that is, since most women are smaller and have less upper body strength than most men. Let those rapists, who are, after all, almost always men, get close enough to you where they can grab a hold of you so that you can be close enough to them to stab them.

Also, I’m sorry, but look at the list of things they recommend we stab potential rapists with:

* nail file
* rat tail comb
* teasing brush
* pens and pencils
* keys
* anything rigid

Notice anything about those items? First, none of them are an actual knife. Second, none of those things cause incapacitating stab wounds, if you even are strong enough to get a piece of plastic through skin. Shoot, I’ve been stabbed by both a pen (in the face) and a pencil (in the thumb) and neither one was even terrible painful.

If you cannot be sure that you will incapacitate your attacker, it is best not to piss him off enough to make him want to kill you. I can assure you that, unless you luck out and hit a major artery or an eyeball, none of these items will do enough damage to stop an attacker.

Isn’t it irresponsible of the police to advocate a defensive strategy that is likely to increase a woman’s chance of getting killed?

35 thoughts on ““Never wear overalls”

  1. I know this isn’t the gist of your post but the one question that came to mind was “Do they still make rat tail combs?”
    I don’t think I’ve seen one for at least a couple of decades.

  2. Ivy, it’s this.

    And, in all fairness, I guess you could stab someone with that, but dang, are you supposed to be all, “hold on, let me dig through my bathroom a second to find something deadly sharp to stab you with.” when you’re being raped?

  3. ?? Why don’t they want us to shoot the guy? Shooting is good. I’m a good shot with either hand. If I shoot him, as opposed to perforating him with a Number 2 pencil, he’s less apt to try to rape someone else. Plus the chance of getting sprayed with some of his “I’m not picky about my sexual encounters” blood is greatly reduced (not to mention having to get those difficult stains out of one’s clothing).

    I fail to see how shooting the guy is not a plus on every possible count.

  4. What do they want us to say?
    “Here let me go through my purse to find something to stab you with?” to a rapist.
    Hell, I found a dog bone in my purse this morning, a reporter’s notebook and about 43 cents in change.
    La BellaDonna, yes.

  5. they don’t want you to shoot him, because this is the *illinois* state police. gun control over there is quite strict, courtesy of Chicago’s political influence.

    what i can’t figure out is why, if they do insist on women stabbing their attackers, these friendly advice-givers are so afraid of recommending a *knife*. y’know, the second-oldest and second-best actual *stabbing* instrument, right after the pointy stick. imagine links to Spyderco’s and Benchmade’s corporate websites right here…

  6. If you are in need of any of the recomended items:

    * nail file
    * rat tail comb
    * teasing brush
    * pens and pencils
    * keys
    * anything rigid

    You may get one from an Illinois State trooper; they carry them in their holsters.

  7. Amen, Exador, amen.

    And Nomen Nescio, exactly. If stabbing someone is better self-defense than a gun (which I don’t buy for a second), why aren’t they recommending women carry knives?

    Plus, I’d like to see the actual stats for this “women end up shooting loved ones on accident almost half the time” bullshit line of thinking. AND even if that’s true, it seems to me that the answer is to insist that women spend real quality time at the range, not to take their guns and give them pens instead.

  8. That’s too practical, Aunt B! You know that we silly women aren’t going to spend time at a range, or know how to wield a knife outside of a kitchen. And we’re all too small and weak to learn any useful self-defense (outside of the halfhearted groin-kick, ridiculous flailing, and oh-so-dangerous purse-thwacking maneuver*), so it’s not like we could disarm an opponent, or hurt them with our hands/feet/teeth.

    But seriously. Phrased this way, it’s like… are we going to put away the guns we bought for self-defense, then not get something to replace them with? If you’re already at the point where you’re contemplating shooting someone in self-defense, I think you’ve already got a gun in your hand. If you’re at the point of contemplating buying something for self-defense, you’re certainly not at the point where rummaging around for a pencil in your purse is going to make you (feel) safer.


    And it’s annoying, because there is a small, specific level where this is kind of good advice. If you find yourself in a situation where you may need to defend yourself, and you do not have access to a knife, gun, Illinois State Trooper, etc., then it’s useful to know that you (might) have other things at your disposal. Some people need to be reminded that just because something isn’t formally recognized as a weapon doesn’t mean you can’t use it in a pinch to hurt someone. ** That’s good advice, if you’re scared and you don’t already know that. (It also means you need to watch more Jackie Chan movies, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    But saying “oh, please use these stopgap measures to defend yourselves instead of these things which most definitely can change the course of your evening!” is just… silly. And patronizing. And counterproductive.

    I do believe in gun control, to an extent, and I do think that a knife is situationally better for self-defense (if for no other reason than that there are a lot of gropable places nobody expects to find blades hidden, and that most attackers don’t make themselves known at a distance that is good for shooting), but advice like this is just awful. If you’re worried about untrained people shooting themselves, make training a mandatory part of gun ownership. If you’re worried about women not knowing how to use knives, offer training. And for heaven’s sake, support policies that make it less likely that they’ll have to use them. But don’t set them up to fail by believing that their itty bitty plastic comb is going to protect them.

    *Not that I couldn’t wound someone with my purse. I mean, the bloody thing is heavy. what with the laptop, cables, change purses, makeup, food, cat food, pens/pencils/highlighters, music players, comupter accessories, and other stuff, and that’s the cleaned out version. But it’s still no weapon, and the flailing you see on TV is just pathetic.

    ** Which has always been the thing that’s bugged me about the scissors/nail-file/etc. bans at the airport. I could kill someone with a pencil. (Okay, my particular phobias make any sort of killing I could do with a pencil impractical to me, specifically, but I certainly know how.) They still let those in. You can make do with just about anything, if you’re determined enough. And even if they make us go naked, and don’t allow us to use anything rigid, a well-trained (or just strong and/or lucky) person can kill with their hands. Or feet. Or wrists. And so on.

  9. Yes, I know I’m a libertarian gun nut. But am I the only one who sees this type of advice as inherently anti-feminist?

    “Y’all ladies just grab one of your combs and stab the fella in his eye! If that duun’t work, jes’ spray a little a that hairspray in his eyes and that’ll do the trick right there!”

    Because of course, we are incapable of wielding an actual weapon or, as Mag points out, getting advanced training in self-defence. We should stick to our god-given Women’s Things when it comes to safety.

    Of course none of this takes into account the fact that I generally have at least one set of 14″ knitting needles in my purse…

    I get so mad when I see this advice targeted at women. After all, we’re 50+% of the population. If you talk the guns out of our hands, you’ve only got half the rest of the country to deal with when it comes to getting a disarmed, docile populace.

  10. Kat, exactly. God. Yes, exactly. Let’s take the grown-up weapons away from the women and give them combs and brushes to fight with. I think, when you look at the other advice the police hand out on their website (which you can get at from the link at Say Uncle’s), you really see it–“Well, just throw up or shit yourself [I believe that’s implied, though not stated].”

    I mean, really.

    If I have a gun and shoot you before you can touch me, I can both remain unraped and maintain my dignity. If I can stab you with a real stabby item and severely damage you, again, unraped and dignified. Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to do away with dignity to keep from being raped–if throwing up or shitting myself would keep me from being raped and I thought of it in a moment of stress, I be willing to do it–I just think there’s something really shittily anti-woman about suggesting that our first line of defense should be the passive soiling ourselves approach.

    I really don’t consider myself a gun nut, by any stretch of the imagination, but when I see authorities advising that I degrade myself and put myself within reach of a rapist (because, again, if I can reach him with my pencil, he can reach me with his fist) rather than getting and training myself how to use a gun or a knife, it makes me wonder just what the hell is going on with those authorities.

    Just how passive do I have to be to suit them?

  11. Nice. Excuse me, Mr. Attacker, while I’m fumbling around in my purse (because we *always* carry a purse) for something plastic and flimsy to stab at you with. I seem to have forgotten that my fists/feet/knees/teeth are good for anything, since I’ve been so busy teasing my hair and tending to my rat tail.

  12. On a related note, said to the husband on the last flight – “I don’t see why I can’t have nail clippers when I could totally punch you in the face.”

  13. You’re definitely not the only one, Kat. It’s very antifeminist. I don’t think it’s a gun-nut or not-gun-nut issue, however. I think you can be a not-gun-nut and still be outraged at it, and I think there are not a few gun-nuts who would see no problem with this kind of argumentation.

    I do think, however, that this is one of the big things that pro-gun arguments are really useful for. If your argument in favor of restriction is that people are going to harm themselves instead of their attackers, then it’s absolutely useful to argue for more widespread use and training; if everyone knows how to do it (regardless of whether they personally plan on ever shooting one, or if they actually own one themselves), then people are less likely to miss in critical situations. And yes, if the attackers are armed (and c’mon, anything more violent than date rape, excepting bar fights and certain crimes of passion, is probably perpetrated by an armed and/or trained person… criminals may often be dumb, but they’re not generally that dumb), it makes a certain amount of sense to increase the possibilty that the target is also armed.

    (What I don’t think is that many of the things I often hear bandied about by hardcore gun nuts will actually help any of the situations we’re talking about. That’s pretty much the main reason I don’t find myself in that camp. I think restrictions are necessary because people are going to be stupid, and that those restrictions ought take that into account. That doesn’t mean all guns should go away – that’s impossible, even if we did legislate it – but rather that we still need to think about who can have guns, what kind of guns they can have, and when and where they can use them, bearing in mind that some people are stupid, some people are mean, and sometimes people are in circumstances where their ability to do things well is impaired.)

  14. but rather that we still need to think about who can have guns, what kind of guns they can have, and when and where they can use them, bearing in mind that some people are stupid, some people are mean, and sometimes people are in circumstances where their ability to do things well is impaired.

    You realise that the libertarian in me just had a tiny bit of a heart-attack upon reading these words, right? ;-p

  15. Ha, and yet, you have all us liberal girls talking about the benefits of guns. It’s like a double heart attack situation for you.

  16. I live to serve, Kat!

    *laughs* Seriously, though. That’s the core of my non-libertarianness. I think that it would be really lovely to live in a libertarian world, where people were always (or generally) good/smart/strong/able enough to make their own choices, and the coercion/pressure/guidance of larger institutions like the government weren’t necessary. I just don’t think that’s possible/practical, given the systems, history, and people we have.

    At the micro-level, this means that I think the nuts, sadists, and idiots can do enough damage that we need to have some insititutional heft to keep that mitigated. That should be accomplished with as little infringement upon individual rights as possible, and as much respect for reality as one can find (which means, yes, that someone shoud be noting that taking away my blunt nailclippers while leaving me with pencils and knitting needles is dumb, and – more importantly – not making us any safer. Pretending that this will stop terrorism is not respecting reality one whit.), but it needs to happen anyway.

    At the macro level, it means that I think we live in the midst of a lot of systems which keep people from actually being able to express that goodness/intelligence/strength/ability. People who are disenfranchised by these systems do not, in general, have the resources/knowledge/ability to opt out of them (or otherwise influence them via the market or market-proxy available), and thus wind up systematically oppressed. I think insitutional intervention is necessary to mediate the cyclic, accumulative nature of this problem. It suffers from the same problems of implementation that the micro-level issues do (how do we do this without squishing everyone for nothing?), and is often used more like a hammer than a scalpel. I would love to change this, and I think discussion of how best to proceed is useful – with people of all stripes, including libertarians – I just don’t think that tossing it all out (or paring it down to nothiingness, or what have you) is the answer.

    Heh. Probably a bit of a derailment, that. But Aunt B. is right… you did get me talking about how nifty guns are. ;)

  17. It’s sort of like I get the heart attack from the whole “we get to decide who else is stupid and undeserving of THEIR freedoms” part, but then the Gun Love shocks me back into working order.

    The circle of life is perpetuated by the liberal feminists at TCP.

  18. *laughs!*

    Yar. My “we” in the “we need to think” bits is always kind of fuzzy/universal. Of course I think I have a decent line on it, but I’m not willing to assert that categorically. Mostly, I just think that someone needs to be thinking about stuff, because whether we correctly identify them or not, there really are dumb people out there and/or situations where the problem is bigger than individual action/preparedness to account for.

    That’s the bigger bit for me. I could almost get behind a libertarian micro-policy (kill the restrictions on drugs… but keep the restrictions on things you can do where your inebriation would be blatantly dangerous to other people; I can’t opt out of your drunk driving. Okay, I said “almost”), but the macro bits just don’t compute.

  19. of all the classic R/D “issues” out there, gun control is probably the one i’ve rethought most. still not sure how i feel about guns, but on the whole…well, besides the “handier than a nail file” argument, i guess i just feel like, yeah, some countries do seem to get along just fine without legal guns ownership, possibly better than we do in many respects; otoh, it -is- really written into the original template; and while i’m not down with the NRA/absolutist business, just in general i kind of feel like enough of the Constitution/original Documents have been shredded these past six years that i’m just mostly interested in trying to tape the thing back together again, rather than being on the other end of arguing about any Amendment…

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  21. Rat tail comb and teasing brush. Well.

    I’ve just been transported back to my childhood watching my grandmother carefully build her beehive hairdo with those implements and a righteous amount of toxic hairspray.

    Hey, hairspray would be a good weapon. Hairspray and a lighter.

  22. my perspective on the gun control debate may be a bit unusual, since i’m a recent (going on nine years) immigrant from an EU member country. partly, that’s taught me how little to trust in comparisons between countries; the cultural differences, even between fairly similar places, are so great that i can’t think of a good way to make valid comparative statistics. and partly, that also means i’m not strictly wedded to the U.S. constitution or its amendments. my native country’s got one of those things too, but we see it very much as a living document, as it must be.

    on the whole, though, i’m starting to think the U.S. has it right on this issue. adult citizens with no criminal records by and large *should* be trusted with weaponry, i think, simply because there should be a default presumption that they’re responsible, sensible people up until they prove they’re not. most people won’t want or use the right to arms, but the ones who might will feel patronized and insulted if they’re not allowed to — and routinely patronizing the citizenry just on general principles is a bad thing for the state to be doing. some people will be afraid of their fellow citizens for thinking there’s guns in the neighborhood, but frankly, such fears are their own problems up until a real, demonstrable _risk_ can be shown. it’s not the job of society at large to make everybody feel comfortable and warm and fuzzy; it’s not possible to please everybody that way, anyway.

    some people will abuse any right you give them, of course, but we can’t and shouldn’t turn society into a padded cell for fear of them. they’re a minority, and will need to be dealt with individually even *if* we turn society into a padded cell; they’d *still* be dangerous to the rest of us, even then. it’s insulting to their intelligence as adult human beings to believe they couldn’t find a way to be.

    Europe has a lot of features the U.S. could and should copy. universal health care. decent public schooling (don’t get me started on the crazy way U.S. schools are funded; inequity is built right into your system!). a sensible approach to illegal drugs, their criminalization, and their treatment. a basic sense that social equality is actually a _good_ thing. but Europe isn’t perfect, and gun rights — along with a right to defend yourself, as well as weaponry in general — really are starting to look like a civil rights issue to me.

  23. gun rights — along with a right to defend yourself, as well as weaponry in general — really are starting to look like a civil rights issue to me.

    Gun rights are THE civil rights issue. Without gun rights, you have no way to absolutely ensure any of your other civil rights.

    The basic tenets of our government are to allow the citizens life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Guns keep you alive, safeguard your liberty.

    My “we” in the “we need to think” bits is always kind of fuzzy/universal.

    Oh, I know it is. As I know it is with most well-meaning people of a liberal bent. What scares me is that as well-meaning as us folks on the ground can be, what happens when some fellow in power decides that the “We” means “He and His Friends”? All of a sudden what sounded like a good idea in the halls is a dictatorship in practice. I’d just as soon let most of us decide our own path in all matters and allow Darwinism to sort it out.

    there really are dumb people out there and/or situations where the problem is bigger than individual action/preparedness to account for.

    I agree. But to me the biggest test of libertarianism is to turn the tables on yourself and then see where you’re at. Yes, there are really dumb people out there. But let’s pretend (very briefly) that I’m Terry Coulter. And I think you and B. and Hutch are the “really dumb people” because of your liberal beliefs. And since I think you are really dumb I decide that you should be deprived of a Constitutionally-guaranteed liberty. Like, say, I dunno…the right to vote.

    It’s because of nightmare scenarios like this one that I cling to libertarianism. Because no matter how smart anyone is, there’s someone else out there who thinks that person is dumb.

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  25. Katharine,

    what happens when some fellow in power decides that the “We” means “He and His Friends”?

    Love that. I think it’s going into my quote file.

    Though as a minor point, there is no such thing as a Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote. T’ain’t in thar (and is therefore much easier to take away). The right to bear arms, however, IS explicitly guaranteed.

  26. Ericdub, I have a constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote and I think you could make the argument that, if the right is being extended to me, someone (namely you) must have already held it.

  27. But let’s pretend (very briefly) that I’m Terry Coulter. And I think you and B. and Hutch are the “really dumb people” because of your liberal beliefs. And since I think you are really dumb I decide that you should be deprived of a Constitutionally-guaranteed liberty.

    Aaaaah! Don’t scare me like that!

    Hoo. I just read about half of that sentence, imagined what that would look like, and ran around screaming and flapping my arms (mentally, of course) for a bit.

    But that, to me, is the difference between libertarian micro-policy and macro-policy. On things like that, as Nomen says, “there should be a default presumption that they’re responsible, sensible people up until they prove they’re not.” At that level… can you have guns, can you use drugs, where and how and when can you vote, etc., I think the libertarian position is (relatively) reasonable. A little idealistic for my tastes, but relatively reasonable.

    At the slightly-less-micro levels, I think it’s different. Use all the drugs you want, but don’t drive/shoot/operate impaired, because your impairment is not something I can reasonably guard against. Yes, most people will use impairing drugs responsibly, or what they think is responsibly, but because of the nature of the things involved, and the immense potential for harm, I think something more is needed than a presumption that people will do the right thing. Buy all the guns you want, but demonstrate that you know the parts and can hit something at least in the area of what you’re aiming at before you get to keep it.

    At the really-macro level, it’s the same, but different. Presuming that most people are going to be at least a little reasonable works, with precaution, but presuming that of companies/governments/institutions is … more idealistic than I can manage. Especially because the way things currently are, there are too many entrenched oppressive systems for the regulatory measures generally proposed to work properly. If we all started off at an actually similar level, I could see it working. If problems like poverty and geographic locking weren’t persistent and accumulative, I could see it working. But the way we have it is broken, and the options seem to be to patch it, scrap it and start over, or pretend it’s really okay. Since scrapping it is infeasible, I’d rather patch than pretend it’s okay. Even though there are a significant number of outliers to any of the things I’m talking about, they’re still outliers, and prove the rule as much as anything else.

    So yar. I do worry like hell about when some guy in charge decides that the deciding should go to him and his cronies, but I think that’s just one of the things that should be dealt with in the making. A really good system doesn’t rely on the individual characteristics of either its users or its maintaners to work well. I just don’t think any of the ones we have right now do that, either.

  28. Y’know, Mag, per airports, I always figured this: if you’re a competent enough fighter to kill someone with a nail clipper or a comb, you’re sure as hell much more dangerous with your hands free and empty. Period.

    As to the guns thing–well. Guns make me profoundly twitchy, but I’m also a rural girl, and I have some sense and some practicality. I’m all for controls on gun ownership, and I’m all for ensuring that gun ownership stays legal. Once details get into it, that’s up for a lot of debate in my head, but suffice it to say, even though guns make me, personally, deeply uncomfortable, I’ll be learning to use one soon, and it makes sense to me that my grandfather insisted that all of his children be competent shots. I wouldn’t deny that to other folk readily.

    For my part, I always used to look after myself with a four-and-a-half-inch half-serrated Smith and Wesson lockback knife, with a loosened bolt for gravity action, named Betsy. I know my way around a knife, I know what to do with one and, more importantly, if someone gets it away from me, I think I have a much better chance defending myself against a knife than a gun. That, and nobody expects the pretty young thing to whip out a big freaking blade from her sleeve and look competent with it.
    I miss that knife. She needs replacing.

  29. four and a half inches of serrated blade?!

    and here i’m thinking my *three*-and-a-half inch Benchmade Griptilian is too large for everyday carry. you might consider a Spyderco Civilian for Betsy’s replacement, or maybe something from Emerson’s product line; they’re about in that size range, and known as good quality manufacturers. the Benchmade Rukus is up there, too, and possibly a bit cheaper.

  30. Thanks for the tips, Nomen. I think three and a half will be perfectly sufficient for me from here on, as it is–I do a lot less camping, and somewhat more purse-carrying these days, now that I’m all citified. I’ll have a look.

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