In a world where women are discouraged to fight, it takes only the efforts of a few individuals to help change this way of thought.

On Wednesday evening, folks gathered in Slayter Auditorium for the screening of “Beauty Bites Beast”. This powerful documentary revolves around self-defense for women, and how important it is to challenge the patriarchal norms that pressure women into being submissive.

The film was written and directed by Ellen Snortland, who travelled the world with her crew to teach women about self-defense. They visited North Dakota, Mexico and Jerusalem as they conducted classes and workshops to teach women how to fight to put an end to physical violence. The documentary is a compilation of interviews, footage from travelling to different countries and empowering scenes where women learn how to defend themselves.                                                                          

The documentary challenges the gender binary and the common stereotypes revolving around how men and women are expected to behave. It talks about how beginning in early childhood, young boys are encouraged to fight and behave aggressively. Girls, on the other hand, are told not to act this way because it is “unfeminine” in nature.

At the end of the film, director Ellen Snortland appeared to answer any questions from the audience. She offered insight into the goals behind her work and why it was important for women to learn self-defense.

“It is our birth right as mammals to protect ourselves,” said Snortland. “The degree to which people don’t regard women’s rights as human rights is an important issue to address. In so many cultures, women are regarded as livestock, especially in South East Asia and areas of Africa. They’re usually the last fed, they’re malnourished and it’s just beyond anything I can imagine. If we were to empower women in this way, they would be able to solve their own problems in the future.”

During the scenes about the self-defense classes, a man would dress up in large, bulky gear while the other students would take turns fighting him off. Along with Snortland, Matt O’Brien (one of the men in gear) also came up to talk to the audience.

When asked about how he felt wearing the large, uncomfortable outfit, O’Brien replied, “It’s a small price to pay to have the privilege of working with somebody and teach them the art of self-defense. There’s always one moment during class where a student will realize, ‘wait a moment, I can do this’, and that’s what’s most inspiring to see.”