There exists a great deal of anxiety where women and self-defense are concerned. For good reason, many women are worried about the threat of a stranger lurking in the shadows, leaping from the bushes to prey on them as they jog through their cul de sac or walk to a parked car. These attacks happen, and with alarming regularity. A search for “jogger raped” or “jogger murdered” will return heart-wrenching results. But much like people prefer fad diets and gimmicks to the tried and true method of, “Eat less, and exercise,” nobody wants to hear that the key to preparing for self-defense is week after month after year of consistent, practical training.
Women are particularly vulnerable to this type of marketing because, let’s be honest, their interest in self-defense is less than that of men overall. Every martial arts class and self-defense seminar you have ever attended, barring the free women’s classes that are often used as sales inducements, was dominated by men. In every martial art, women are the minority. While men are susceptible to martial arts con games, scams, and quick-fix solutions, women are even more so because they are under-represented in serious self-defense study.
If we consider serious students of self-defense to be “in the know,” and those with absolutely no training to be the “uninitiated,” there are far more women than men classified as “uninitiated.” It may also be the case that, per the old Onion headline, the average man is 10,000 percent less effective at fighting than he thinks he is, so he’s less likely to take the “quick” solution because of false confidence. (That’s an issue for another article.)
Quick-Fix Self-Defense Widgets
The point I’m making, though, is that women are the choice demographic for quick-fix self-defense schemes — products that purport to give them the instant solution to self-defense with little or no actual training. They have money, they are afraid, and they are reluctant to enroll in practical self-defense classes or martial arts. They are certainly extremely unlikely to enroll in one of the nastier knife combatives tribes. They are perhaps more inclined to buy guns than to carry knives — “real” knives, mind you, that can maim and kill a person — but few citizens overall buy guns even where it’s legal to carry them. Within that relatively small percentage, women are under-represented among CCW holders.
What this means is there exists a tremendous pool of potential buyers for products like Tiger Lady and Go Guarded… and herein lies the problem. Both products, like so many other similar self-defense gadgets, attempt to hand you a solution. That’s marketing 101: Identify their pain and give them the cure. The pain, in this case, is fear of rape, assault, attack, etc. The cure is a weapon that seems innocuous, that appeals to what are presumed to be feminine sensibilities, that doesn’t scream, “I AM AN ARMED CITIZEN” (because the demographic doesn’t want to take a stand that might reflect poorly during brunch with their progressive, complacent, middle-class friends), and that requires no special training.
This last is particularly important because the demographic to which these products are marketed isn’t going to get training if it’s required. They just don’t want to. (It is for this same reason that distance learning programs are so popular among male consumers of self-defense products, too. A huge segment of the male population doesn’t want to leave the house and go to classes.) Let’s look at each product and its marketing, therefore. Both products are backed by slick, professional websites and great graphics. Tiger Lady even advertises on national radio programs like Rush Limbaugh’s. Go Guarded, or copies of it, has been on the market for long enough that I’ve been aware of it for a while.
Tiger Lady is, I kid you not, a plastic, retractable set of claws you can carry in your hands while running. Marketed as being designed after a cat’s claws (you can almost hear the suits around a boardroom table saying, “Chicks dig cats, right?”), the weapon deploys when you make a fist around it. The claws project between the wearer’s fingers and retract when the unit is released. According to the Tiger Lady website, “The hollow channels on the underside of Tiger Lady’s claws are designed to collect DNA and protect it, to aid in making a positive identification.” The site alleges that “Tiger Lady enhances your ability to scratch an assailant and quickly get to safety. The three steps for using TigerLady are easy to follow, and will facilitate a heightened sense of situational awareness so you’ll feel less vulnerable, and be more prepared.”
This is everything that is wrong with women’s self-defense. It is built around making the wearer feel more prepared. Carrying a weapon, in and of itself, should not “give you a boost of quiet confidence.” It should be a weight, a responsibility, and it should be backed up with training in use-of-force issues. Among the other problems here are that the claws are plastic, not metal, and that you can only “scratch an assailant” with them. While there is a place for inflicting injury (rather than decisive force) in some self-defense scenarios, if that’s all you can do, you’re in big trouble if your “cat scratch” does no more than anger the attacker.
I also have a problem with the way carrying this tool is supposed to increase the user’s situational awareness as if by magic. Situational awareness is a mindset, not something conferred by an object. Carrying the Tiger Lady certainly won’t prepare you for the grisly reality of “collecting DNA” from an attacker. The danger of blood-borne pathogens is bad enough with a conventional knife; you don’t want to be dragging that stuff around with you, regardless of your CSI-driven desires for a “positive identification” of the perpetrator. And do you want to risk the claws retracting through your own fingers while they’re full of “DNA”?
The radio ad for Tiger Lady proclaims it legal in all fifty states. With state and local laws varying as they do, it’s impossible to make blanket proclamations like that. A young lady of my acquaintance once brought one of those plastic “Black Cat” keychains to a courthouse with her, not even realizing that it was illegal. She’s lucky she didn’t get arrested. What happens when some not-so-charitable cop finds the Tiger Lady unit and decides it’s equivalent to brass knuckles?
Go Guarded is slightly more conventional than Tiger Lady, but suffers from similar problems. It’s essentially a serrated ring dagger with a flexible cover. Like the Tiger Lady, it’s a claw, although it’s much longer (and essentially a fixed blade). My assumption is that the blade is metal, although that’s not clear at first glance through the website. The site touts it as a “convenient, comfortable, effective way to defend yourself if the unthinkable should happen when you are out running, hiking, or walking.” The design seems to be intended for the same methodology as the Tiger Lady: scratching and possibly “DNA catching,” perhaps with some poking added, but without any decisive use of potentially lethal force.
Convenient? Only if running with a barely covered, pointed claw seems convenient. Comfortable? I haven’t held it, but that looks unlikely. It looks awkward and silly to me, and you can’t get any real force behind it when it’s worn on a finger as designed. The copy on the website makes it all worse, too: “You will naturally use your hands to fight off an attack,” it reads. “With Go Guarded on your finger, you can increase your effectiveness in escaping an attack and reaching safety. Go Guarded and give yourself a fighting chance.” The implication from the copy is clear: You don’t have to learn anything. Just put this on, run with it, and if the bogeyman lunges from the shadows, scratch him and flee.
Solutions in Search of Problems
The fundamental point is this: It is wildly irresponsible to tell anyone they can defend themselves simply by buying a gadget. To defend yourself successfully against an aggressive attacker — one likely to be larger and stronger than you, who gets to pick the time and place for the encounter — requires training. It requires practice. It requires a specific mindset that can only be developed through training and practice. Almost everyone reading this would agree that you can’t just buy a gun and check the box that says you’re covered if you’re assaulted. You’ve got to get training to use that firearm properly.
So what’s different about buying a dodgy self-defense widget that’s pink or that is designed to make you a feminine wolverine? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. You still need that training… only now you’re armed with a false sense of confidence and a “weapon” that is poorly designed. That poor design is the direct result of placing what we presume to be feminine sensibilities before practical reality.
Both “Tiger Lady” and “Go Guarded” are bad ideas. They’re poorly conceived from the standpoint of practical application. They are marketed in a manner that is both irresponsible and unrealistic. Even a trained individual would have problems using these tools to good effect (although having them would be preferable to having nothing, I suppose). Yet both products make it clear that they are selling to anyone but a trained audience.
These are talismans designed to convey a false sense of preparedness. They are essentially self-defense jewelry for soccer moms. They are not serious self-defense tools and should not be advocated as such.