Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Its no big surprise that marketing in the self-defense industry is generally fear-based.
I get it.
Its kinda hard not to be since what we deal with can be scary stuff. That's part of the challenge – and that most people would rather stick their heads in the sand and pretend like bad things won’t happen to them. And statistics are in their favor when we look at the leading causes of injury and death in the U.S.
Ok, statistical rant over and back to the main point.
There are countless personal safety experts online sharing videos getting people worked up over attacks and near misses. Most of these are posted in the guise of being “educational”. But usually the original post and ensuing comments become an orgy of criticizing the target/victim and how the keyboard badasses would never let it happen to them.
Cue the eye roll.
Perhaps the worst of this safety-porn genre is when it is used to attack parents, and most often mothers when their child faces danger (we're talking day-to-day life stuff here. If you really want to feel superior, go read up on the monsters guilty of child abuse and neglect).
This level of misogyny is absolutely unacceptable from instructors purporting to care about their students and who quite often aim their expertise at women.
Especially if we consider the lasting effects these posts can have on people long after we've forgotten about them. And for what? Some likes on a fleeting social media post?
Here's just the most recent example of a video making the rounds lately:
The majority of posts and comments about this video ignore this mother's lightening reflexes and focus on the moment she doesn't have her full attention on the child. Here’s a sample:
You know the commenters here never had an inattentive moment in their lives – (heavy sarcasm). But if they truly have reached this mythical land of being mindful 100% of the time, even with a squirrely toddler in their care – then please… enlighten the rest of us as to HOW to do it, rather than jump on this poor woman for what may have been one of the scariest moments of her life… then publicly shaming her for not living up to their perfection.
But we should note that none of these eagle-eyed observers seem to notice what appears to be a card reader on the right side of the door. If I am reading it correctly, she can't get in the door and she appears to be using her phone's speaker to call someone... perhaps to let her in?
Ignoring this very practical, possible explanation in which using a phone is a completely acceptable solution, you would think by the comments she is obsessively playing Candy Crush… or glued to her Instagram account making stupid comments (note that her hands aren't texting at all). Of course, I could be reading the scenario wrong…
because I WASN’T THERE…
just like the rest of these fucking experts.
Before we might assume it's just guys doing this, a lot of these commenters are women. It seems women are even less sympathetic than men in these scenarios because we are just so.damn.scared that we wrap ourselves in an armor of lies and tell ourselves, “this could never happen to me!”
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about the majority of folks who originally post these types of videos:
They have something to sell – which is their expertise in self-defense and/or situational awareness.
They generally cite their experience in the military and/or law enforcement, convincing the general public that it is applicable in an unrelated context.
The marketing is at best, fear-based. But more and more I am observing that it is shame-based.
But unless you have something more valuable to add than “don’t look at your phone” then you really don’t have anything useful to say about this particular situation.
In a recent conversation about a mom-shaming video with a self-defense instructor, he justified his post by highlighting his experience in the military, as former cop (in a city of less than 90,000) and by once taking his kid to the Vegas Strip with no incident. All of this was to tell me how "easy" it is to be situationally aware.
The hubris, tone-deafness and cluelessness of this response was stunning, but all too common in the self-defense world. I didn't even bother to respond to him. I've trained with some amazing people with similar credentials but who have the humility to know that those experiences don't translate to everyday personal safety. This small town cop wasn't one of them and not worth my breath.
'Cause here’s the thing – while these tough guys do have a lot of wisdom to share – its time they started closing their mouths and listening to the people they say they want to help.
Because it is these very moms we would shame who generally have the primary and solitary responsibility for transporting kids, running errands with them tow and all-around-holding-everything-together. THEY are the experts in navigating their world. And I can't help but wonder what THEIR secrets are to successfully schlepping wiggly little kids around. Because, let's face it, nobody posts videos about the millions of moments each day of moms running around with their kids where nothing happens.
I dare say, there is a ton we can learn from them.
For full disclosure, I don’t have kids of my own. I appreciate my relatively carefree life and the way it allows me to navigate my world with way more ease than if I had a kid or two in tow. But there have been times when I’ve been responsible for children of friends – and I tell you what...
I am exhausted by they time I hand them back.
I don’t know how mom’s juggle it all. So how about we start learning from them rather than shaming them for a momentary lapse of full attention?
Again, I get it. This is a hard industry because the people we want to help are most likely to stick their heads in the sand... or maybe they just don't have the resources to access training. But seriously, the first step to connect with people we care about and want to reach is to stop shaming them.
The business challenges in self-defense parallel the healthcare or financial services industries where the consumer often thinks, "If I don't acknowledge the issue, it won't exist". That's why successful marketing for the financial services industry does not say, “Use my services or you’ll die in poverty!” but instead, “Use my services to build a nest egg and financial stability for yourself!”.
'Cause hey guys, here's a secret most of you don't know:
Women ALREADY KNOW we need to be situationally aware.
We know this down to our bones. Beating us up when we miss, without adding anything valuable, is worthless, condescending and fear-mongering.
We can do better.