Since I was a young girl, like most young girls, I have learned how to defend myself against physical and sexual attacks. The lessons taught to me by my parents, teachers, elders and peers haven't been just about making sure how to strike someone in the throat or keep a key sticking out between my knuckles. There have also been informal courses on what to wear or not to wear. How to avert my eyes to not make eye contact. In the age of social media, not to post anything too provocative or how to respond to unwanted private messages. Even on WeChat, I have had to change my settings to not allow anyone the ability to add me from group chats after receiving many random friend requests that mostly resulted in unsolicited obscene messages or photos.
Despite having over 40 years of these "lessons", they have still not prevented me from being physically and sexually harassed. Nor have they stifled the experiences of other females. And it begs the question, why is it up to females to be on the defense? Why is it up to us to remain hypervigilant in our surroundings? It doesn't matter what city or country you're in, it's a problem that has needed to be addressed for centuries.
Some people get offended when women are labeled the "weaker" sex. However, I can admit that, at less than 50 kilograms, and even at my fittest (at one point I did Pilates and lifted weights three hours per day), while I could probably kick the butt of some men, I would probably not be a match for any male who is 20, 30 or 40 kg heavier than me. I am the type of person who likes to believe I'm well-prepared for most scenarios, but I know I wouldn't have been able to defend myself in a situation like the one faced by the four women who were beaten by seven men in Tangshan. And why should I have to be? Why should any female have to?
The video of this attack is very difficult to watch. Even the initial contact the main aggressor made with the principal female victim, when he approaches her and touches her back, is cringeworthy. What makes a man believe he is entitled to touch a woman he obviously isn't acquainted with? Why does he think reacting in a violent manner to being rejected is acceptable? When being touched in an unwanted and unwarranted manner, and to then be attacked for responding in a wholly justifiable fashion, the onus of responsibility should never fall at the feet of the victim.
The online reactions from many regarding the attack, as expected, have been that of outrage. Alcohol cannot be used as an excuse. Females being out late at night cannot be used as an excuse. What the woman was wearing, cannot be used as an excuse. Some comments have said the attack is not about gender, but about public safety in general. However, the guy was clearly not looking to touch another man and outrage over the attack is valid.
What needs to be called out is raising boys to see females for what they are - equal human beings who deserve to be respected and made to feel safe. Instead of teaching girls how to defend themselves from a young age, teaching boys to not commit these offenses in the first place should be encouraged. This is part of the foundation of gender equality, and we need everyone on board.