The mediated missions of Stiletto Spy School.
Like many women, I have often longed for the power to avert the unwanted male gaze—for the proverbial cloak of invisibility, allowing me to avoid unsolicited comments from strangers while buying groceries, or catcalls when walking home at night.
Since invisibility technology is still in the works, though, I’ve resorted to other solutions: poring over statistics to avoid becoming one, learning conflict-avoidance strategies, biking and driving rather than walking, living in the safest neighborhoods I can afford, and taking self-defense classes.
My goal with the latter is to be prepared for worst-case-scenario events. So I had to look twice when I heard about a new program that encompasses traditional self-defense, but couches it in a peculiar mix of you-go-girl empowerment and action-heroine aspirations. Its name? Stiletto Spy School.
Ken Cohen is one of my heroes. His book, Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native American Healing, is one of the best books on healing that I’ve come across. In addition to his knowledge of Native American wisdom and healing, Mr. Cohen is also an initiate of Filipino oracion, has studied with Zulu shaman Ingwe, and is trained as an Igbo priest/shaman. He has studied with numerous Qigong masters and apprenticed to Dr. K.S. Wong from China’s sacred mountains. He is widely renowned for his research, writing and work on Qigong. And, he’s Jewish. We met one morning in early November in Tucson, and I had the pleasure of introducing him to Seven Cups, a beautiful traditional tea shop. An enthusiastic tea lover, Mr. Cohen was in heaven! He recited poetry in Chinese to the beaming owners, who brought out choice cakes of tea to show us. We shared three small pots of tea and a huge variety of mooncakes and mochi treats during our conversation.
Question Do you think that society is evolving spiritually?
Ken Cohen No. I would say we are de-evolving. Our brain size is smaller than the Neanderthals’. I’m a follower of Jerry Mander, and he says in his book, In the Absence of the Sacred, that evolution requires interaction between people and natural environments. Since we are now interacting mostly with objects of our own creation, humankind has an incestuous relationship with itself. We have stopped the process of evolution because, again, we need the stimulation of natural environments in order to evolve.
Renee Angle is the program coordinator at the UA Poetry Center. Angle grew up in Phoenix and attended Northern Arizona University, where she studied music and received a bachelor’s degree in English. She earned an MFA in creative writing at George Mason University. A poet in her own right, Angle’s work has been featured in Practice: New Writing + Art, Poet Lore, New Orleans Review and Diagram. She has taught workshops by (Kore Press, a feminist literary-arts press which publishes and distributes works by women, and she will be one of the teachers for the Grrls Literary Activism Workshop, a summer camp for girls age 13-17 taking place June 9-20. The camp costs $175, and some scholarships are available. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, June 4. For more information or to register, contact Lisa Bowden at 629-9752, ext. 227, or by e-mail.
What exactly is literary activism?
I think that is different for everyone. That’s a term that we ask students to define for themselves in the course of the class, but certainly, some examples of literary activism that we’ve put forth have some kind of written component as well as some kind of visual or performance component, and they’re somehow displayed or performed or being brought forth into public space. There are certainly exceptions to that, I think, and ways that it gets played with, but I think literary activism and what the girls perceive it to be is different from class to class, and also personal to any artist’s notion of their work.
How to defend yourself at your most vulnerable.
It’s every woman’s worst nightmare. Being stuck in a parking garage with an unknown assailant, or worse, waking up to a strange man with bad intentions standing right there. Finding yourself helpless in the face of imminent danger, with little or no chance of escape. How do you turn the odds and learn to defend yourself in this type of situation?
Michael Ellefson, a self-defense instructor and BJJ brown belt instructor at the Midwest Center for Movement, stresses the importance of developing a proper self-defense mindset and habits. Taking precautions to avoid potential danger is the best solution, whether that involves walking home with a friend or listening to one’s intuition when something doesn’t feel quite right. It is these crucial components of self-defense that he believes will best protect people.