A local hospital had a bulletin board up advertising their classes, and in additional to the usual baby-care and cancer support classes, they had the following:
Mother & Daughter Safety Training
For daughters 14 years and older and their mothers.
This 3-hour class addresses the safety issues facing young women on or off high school and college campuses during the activities of daily living. The training is built on increasing the awareness of our surroundings, obeying instincts and employing proactive safety strategies including when socializing and dating.
~ Safety in elevators, parking lots & 'fringe' areas
~ The importance of the Buddy System and team work
~ What to do when approached by a stranger
~ Alcohol and common "Predatory Drugs": What they are and how to avoid them
~ Early recognition of inappropriate acquaintance/date behavior.
Well, that's great, I always wanted to bring my daughter to a three hour class on being terrified of the world! (Not my son, though. He can handle himself.) There's nothing here about self-defense tactics, either. Just a big list of things you should fear and avoid. All flight, no fight, and absolutely no standing your ground and asserting your right to walk around your own goddamn neighborhood.
I'm sure there are some useful lessons. "Keep an eye on your drink" and "dates who cross little boundaries will cross big ones," those are important. And if there's a really super creepy dude in the elevator maybe you should wait for the next? But the number one lesson of this class seems to be that girls should be afraid. Afraid of parking lots! Afraid of being alone! Afraid of strangers! Afraid to drink! Afraid to date!
(The part about "what to do when approached by a stranger" particularly weirds me out since this class is for 14 and over. Stranger Danger is one thing for 8-year-olds, but by the time you're going to college strangers will occasionally approach for non-menacing reasons and you should have the maturity to assess the situation rather than answer "excuse me, which way to James Street" with "OH MY GOD, SECURITY!!!")
Self-defense classes are awesome. Everyone, male and female, should have basic self-defense skills. But there's a difference between "the gift of fear" and just being quiveringly avoidant of everything that isn't background-checked and piss-tested and wrapped in Nerf.
Anyway, strangers aren't the danger. I've seen a couple dozen assaults in my day, and about two of them were between complete strangers. (Both of those, incidentally, weren't in "fringe areas" but in convenience stores. Perhaps we should teach our daughters never to go to 7-11, it's just not worth it.) The rest were committed by partners, siblings, friends, cousins, my boyfriend's weird friends he invites over, this john my pimp said was cool, and of course Sumdood. It's sort of comforting in a way to think that threats come from "outside," but it doesn't reflect reality. You can creep through the parking lot with a can of mace and total situational awareness and then go home and get raped by your husband.
There's a class I'd like to teach young women, actually. (Young people. I've seen a man streaming blood after his wife broke a heavy ceramic mug over his head.) Identifying and getting the fuck out of destructive intimate relationships. Not a brief sideline to Stranger Danger self-defense but a whole class on the real threat. Best for kids young enough to not be in serious relationships yet, but open to any age. It would save ten times as many lives as this "young ladies are fragile flowers that mustn't go into the big bad world alone" bullshit.