Originally published 13 May 2015
The views contained in this article are those of the author.
By: Rebecca Glass
Note: This blog is a copy from the original text publish an written by Rebecca Glass. Esfinges got her direct permission to re-publish her work on this blog.
I am a woman; I am a fencer.
I engage in consensual violence.
I hit people; they hit me (and sometimes I let them). I hit people with a steel blade, that, even though blunted, can still easily do serious physical harm without the right protective gear. I get hit with the same style weapon. I hit women, I hit men. I get hit by women, I get hit by men.
Longsword is a full-contact martial art. This doesn’t mean that I enjoy getting hit, but it means that I know well enough to expect that it will happen. My success as a fencer depends on my ability to gradually reduce the number of times in which I do get hit, but even the best—the Axel Petterssons and Ties Kools of the world—get hit.
Consensual violence, especially in the form of sports and martial arts, for men, is a readily-accepted part of our society. Consider the massive audience for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on May 2nd (there were fears in the Philippines about electricity shortages because of too many people watching), or the annual audience in the U.S. for the Super Bowl.
It is, however, even in 2015 it is not as accepted for women. Girls are told by Disney heroines (with Mulan a notable exception) that their roles are peacemakers, when they are lucky enough to have roles at all (I’m looking at you, Toy Story franchise). Men’s lacrosse involves a full set of upper body pads; women’s lacrosse an eye mask. The most famous women athletes of our era are arguably tennis players, figure skaters, and gymnasts; Ronda Rousey aside, they are not fighters. Despite all of this, in the U.S., we’re considered relatively enlightened when it comes to women’s sports and martial arts—just think about how our female athletes dominated the 2012 Summer Olympics.
HEMA is consensual violence, and it is consensual violence that does not care if you are male or female. When the mask goes on, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s male, and who’s female (no, you cannot use hair length, or the SPES skirt, as a barometer). If you want to be a fighter, you’re welcome to come and learn, male or female. You will learn that you can either learn to accept getting hit by (or hitting) your club mates, male or female, or you can find a different pastime. Sometimes you can learn this quickly, like a fish to water; other times it might come more slowly, like weaning a baby from the bottle.
So if you, The New Student, say you don’t want to hit me because “you’re a girl”, I’m not offended. I’m not offended because you are a HEMA newborn, just like the rest of us were at some point (many would still consider me relatively new), and yes, it’s weird to all of a sudden be told “it’s okay to hit her here” after what’s likely been a lifetime of being told not to hit women.
You’ve come here to learn, so let us teach you your first lesson: I am a woman, I am a fencer. In the ring only one of these things matter.