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We have been conceptualizing feminist self-defense for many years. In our beginnings in the 80s, in the women’s assemblies of Euskal Herria, we called it Self Defence classes for women. So, we decided that it was time to take a new approach to sexist violence, aware of the need to face violence with another approach and, above all, to find other tools. As a result of these reflections, work began on women’s self-defense.

A whole learning process has been necessary, among all the women who practice feminist self-defense (ADF), to endow what the ADF is today with diverse political content and practices. In other words, the change from women’s self-defense to ADF is not only a change of name, it is a change in the analysis, methodology and intervention, the result of decades of work and research.

Feminist self-defense is a political tool for feminist empowerment, not only to learn physical or psychological techniques, this is what is called self-defense that is practiced in different areas and with different objectives. We have never said that self-defense is useless, whoever wants to practice it has numerous spaces in which to practice it, but in the case of the ADF it needs to be reinforced by the political approach to decipher the world in which we live, to identify the female gender does not as one more element, but as a political construct that disempowers us. Translating what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal system that not only expresses itself aesthetically but also implies a social position of subordination. Understand compulsory bonding, sexual terror, learned helplessness,

Confronting sexist violence in its physical format is just one of the tasks that we have ahead of us. Patriarchy extends its tentacles and disempowers us in multiple ways, that is why the ADF seeks not only to act but previously to inquire about what those disempowering effects are in each one of us and collectively. How else can we work on empowerment if we don’t know how disempowered we are? Reviewing socialization and unmasking gender allows us to see our degree of freedom, work on the necessary gender dissidence to break stereotypes and mandates. And another very important thing, it allows us not to judge those who follow the norm, being able to establish a true sisterhood that allows us to accompany ourselves from every point of gender normativity that crosses us and, above all, allows us to understand and understand gender relations as a system of domination / subordination. To explain the feminine gender is to explain the masculine with an oppositional relationship.

This summer, in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to participate in an explanatory session on a model of self-defense and empowerment for women, that’s what they called it. The designer of the model pointed out that if all women knew how to defend themselves physically, gender violence would end. This is not only not true, but it is also extremely dangerous as a message because it places the problem of violence merely in its physical expression and as a problem for women for not knowing how to defend themselves. At that same meeting, an Argentine colleague from “Ni una menos” pointed out to me the importance of recovering the “right to violence.” I believe that what we have to recover, as a right, is the right to legitimate defense, something denied to women.

A few weeks ago, I was reading an article by MarĂ­a San Silvestre, former director of Emakunde, in which she pointed out that it was necessary for women to stop being afraid and for the aggressors to be afraid. Susan Faludi already taught us that the patriarchal reaction began to incubate not because we had achieved equality, but because of the patriarchy’s fear that it would occur. Years ago when I gave courses to adolescents and asked the boys why they would not rape a woman, a high percentage of them that ranged from 30 to 50%, answered that for fear of legal repercussions. The new ways of exercising violence, drugging women are one of the new examples of the fear of the aggressors.

We have always pointed out the importance of the ADF, not as a tool, but as one of the resources that we have to implement to act against violence and above all to eradicate the patriarchy from our bodies and heads.

Being a feminist is not enough for the workshops to be ADF workshops, it would be like thinking, in my case, that because I am a feminist, in Osakidetza I practice feminist physiotherapy. We would like feminist women to be able to have that impact in all our spaces. Undoubtedly, everything I do will be impregnated with feminism, but that does not mean that Osakidetza allows me to integrate my work from a feminist perspective because to be able to do it requires analysis, methodology and intervention with that perspective.

In the training workshops, the ADF is a political tool not only because the trainers are feminists but because the contents of the workshops are based on feminist theory, that is, we have feminist training to carry out that intervention that seeks not only to act but to transform the world; not only learn to defend ourselves but to live looking for new relational models and new ways of being in the world. The workshops should promote the empowerment process as an individual and, necessarily, collective, it is not going to be that we will empower ourselves neoliberally, that is why now we speak of feminist empowerment, not as a nuance but as a political concept.

The feminist conferences convened for next November offer us a new opportunity to debate what we understand by feminist self-defense, because we are armed, but of feminism.