Nonprofit Alleges Discrimination in Women's Self-Defense Classes

A letter from the National Coalition for Men wants the city to advertise and offer self-defense classes that include boys and men -- not just girls and women

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    NEWSLETTERS

    No boys allowed? That's not fair, so says an equal-rights nonprofit that has called out the city of Glendale and its Commission on the Status of Women for planning exclusive self-defense classes.

    The National Coalition For Men (NCFM) sent a letter to Glendale's government entities in mid-March asserting that two “no-men-or-boys-allowed self-defense classes,” which are planned to take place in April on city property, run the risk of violating certain federal and state anti-discriminatory laws.

    The letter, which was dated March 13, presses for equal treatment of men and women.

    The classes, according to the city’s flier and website, are aimed at equipping women and girls with the tools necessary to prevent sexual assault, as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

    NCFM's President Harry Crouch said the goal of the letter is not to oppose or shut down the women’s classes, but to encourage the city to open up the classes to include boys, girls, men and women.

    “Do all men come out of the womb with a black belt in karate?” Crouch told NBC4. “Treat us fairly. We have a penis -- so we’re not entitled to anything?”

    Both sexes can be victims of sexual assault, he notes in the letter, citing examples with Hervey Coronado Medellin, who was murdered by a man he had been in a relationship with, as well as two female high school teachers who were both accused of sexually assaulting male students.

    NBC4 sent requests for comment to individuals from the Glendale City Attorney's office, the city’s Commission on the Status of Women and SHIELD Self Defense, all organizations that were addressed in the letter. As of Monday, NBC4 had received no update or response from the commission.

    Nelson Nio, the founder of SHIELD Women's Self Defense, said in an email Monday that as a man, he appreciated NCFM's concerns, but that in this case, the letter is "misguided."

    "Women's self-defense training is entirely different than self-defense training for men because women are attacked differently and for different reasons," said Nio, who in the past 11 years has taught more than 10,000 women and girls.

    Nio conceded that NCFM might have a point in their argument, but he wants to know "at what cost?"

    "There are groups of women who simply cannot tolerate having men participating in class with them," he added. "They are victims of rape and abuse. ... (Exclusion) is not done to discriminate men, it is done to respect women."

    Glendale's City Attorney Michael Garcia told NBC4 on the phone Monday that his team is "analyzing the letter and looking at research" to see if holding the classes breaks any laws or infringes upon any civil rights.

    As of Monday, Garcia said they had found no evidence that gives ballast to NCFM's claims, but he added that they are "still looking into it."

    In his letter, Crouch also writes that simply advertising the event for girls and women could be discriminatory. He likens the act to advertising a job opening for a police officer or librarian -- for men only.

    Although SHIELD and the city of Glendale have advertised and held the women’s self-defense classes for eight years, this is the first year the more-than-30-year-old NCFM has called them out.

    As of Monday afternoon, neither Crouch nor his SoCal organization had yet received a response to the letter.

    "I'm not going to be surprised if I don't get (a response), usually we get the cold shoulder," Crouch said of his organization. “The minute we talk about equity, people go nuts, like we're the big bad men who want to return women to the cave.”

    If Garcia's team finds any statutes that prohibit the classes from being held, Garcia said the City Council could be pushed to explore options ranging from opening the classes up to boys and men, to discontinuing the classes altogether.

    Garcia said Crouch and NCFM will receive a response "as soon as possible."

    The classes, as originally advertised, are currently scheduled to take place April 9 and 16, at Glendale Community College and Glendale Police Department, respectively.