About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

#86 - A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do

A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do: The Ultimate Guide to Living Safe & Smart, by Kathleen Baty (New York: Rodale, 2003)

Jacket Summary: "Sassy single gal, high-powered exec in high heels, carefree college co-ed, harried soccer mom -- no matter who you are, you deserve to feel secure doing your own thing anytime, anywhere. With a little help from the Safety Chick, it's a cinch. Sharing lesson's she's learned -- the hard way -- along with proven tips from a battery of experts in street smarts, Kathleen Baty gets specific about what to pack for a business trip, where it's safe to shop online, when to report a creepy co-worker, and how to tell that guy who's bothering you at the bar to get lost -- for good. Complete with step-by-step instructions on how to stop an assailant dead in his tracks with your words, your hands, or, if necessary, a few easy-to-use self-defense weapons, this book is a master class in personal safety for women of all ages."

Table of Contents:
  • Foreward by Gavin de Becker
  • Preface: So ... Who Is This 'Safety Chick'?
  • Introduction: Safety Savvy - Why It's Hip to Be an Empowered Chick
  • Chapter 1: Intuition - An Absolute 'Must Have' in Your Personal Safety Wardrobe
  • Chapter 2: Girl on the Go - Travel and Hotel Safety Tips for Women on the Road
  • Chapter 3: Party Girl, Watch Your Cocktail - How to Protect Yourself from Being Slipped a Mickey Out on the Town
  • Chapter 4: Beauty Night - How to Feel Safe When It's Girls' Night In
  • Chapter 5: A Girl's Gotta Shop - How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off When You're Trying to Buy
  • Chapter 6: Guys Who Won't Take No for an Answer - How to Protect Yourself from a Stalker
  • Chapter 7: Working Girl - Tips on Recognizing and Avoiding Workplace Violence
  • Chapter 8: CyberGirl - Inside Tips to Help You Minimize the Dangers of Surfing the Net
  • Chapter 9: Keep Your Hands to Yourself! Domestic Violence Is Not a Family Matter ... It's a Crime
  • Chapter 10: Hand-to-Hand Combat - Should You Stay or Should You Go?
  • Chapter 11: Pick Your Poison - Self-Defense Products to Help You Stay Safe and Feel Empowered
  • Afterword: You Go, Girl! Taking Your Safety Chick Smarts to the Streets
  • A Resource Guide: Empower Yourself - Organizations That Can Assist You in Your Time of Need
My Take: In a word (or a grunt), eh. I'm not quite sure why I picked this one up; I think it was a catchy title on a yellow spine, shelved near something else I was actively looking for. Serves me right for going on first impressions. The too-jiggly descriptions of "carefree college co-eds" and "sassy single gals" on the back cover should have been a clue that I'd find the book's tone annoying; well, I did. While you can't fully learn self-defense from a book, this one does offer some useful and important general pointers, chiefly about trusting your intuition and staying aware of your surroundings. I also found the chapter on travel safety (from hotels to airports to taxis) to be pretty good overall -- not over-the-top hysterical, and offers some pointers I might not have though of on my own. Even the "Party Girl" chapter, on safe dating and clubbing, was OK; the emphasis on date rape drugs seemed a bit excessive, but hey, this is a book on personal safety, and I was in college wwwaaayyy back in the day when we were just starting to hear sensationalist newspaper articles about something called rohypnol.

Then Baty gets to the "Beauty Night" chapter, on home safety ... and things start to get a wee bit silly. She starts out asserting that all women deserve to feel safe in their own homes, but then delves into a list of rather excessive suggestions that a) probably won't make much difference, and b) would tend to make me feel more paranoid and unsafe, rather than less. Yes, it's just common sense that one shouldn't open the door without knowing who's there, shouldn't engage with the Fuller Brush Man or other door-to-door salesperson if your hinky meter is going off, and so on ... but buying men's workboots to leave by the door? Equipping a windowless safety bunker with a flashlight, phone, and weapon? Keeping pepper spray or foam under the bed? Playing a tape recording of a barking dog? Maybe I've been living in a small town for too long, or am just naive, but in the absence of a clear, specific threat, this seems like overkill. The subsequent chapters weren't quite as bad (at least not consistently), but from that point on, I couldn't help thinking of a posting I'd read last week on Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids blog. Yes, it makes sense to pay attention to both your surroundings and your gut; sometimes, it can even take some practice to know what one or the other is telling you. But Baty's book seems to take a Homeland Security/ TSA approach: you must do something to make yourself feel safer, even if it's out of proportion to any real threat and not all that effective, anyway. Admittedly, I've never been the victim of a crime, and Baty has (she talks in the preface about a former high school classmate stalking and ultimately attempting to kidnap her before he was arrested) -- but if the alternative is a level of Constant! Vigilance! that would make Mad-Eye Moody proud, I think I'll take the risk.

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