Odd man out at the Women’s Seminar
By Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL (ret.)
About five years ago, Calibre Press began holding Street Survival Seminars that are conducted specifically for female law enforcement officers. The seminars are held twice a year, one in Las Vegas, NV and the other in Atlantic City, N.J. For the past four years I’ve been the third wheel – the odd-man-out if you will – as the sole male instructor. The Lead Instructor and architect of this seminar is Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith who also happens to be one of the five instructors for the other 40-plus Seminars we conduct annually.
Along with Betsy and me, we have Officer Lou Ann Hamblin, a police officer from the great state of Michigan. Lou Ann Hamblin first became a police officer in 1990 and holds a Masters degree in Human Performance Technology and Instructional Design. During her career she has become a firearms instructor, a defensive tactics instructor, and was an H&K Master Pistol Instructor who now conducts training for Team One Network. During the seminar, Lou Ann lectures about subject control and demonstrates the skills necessary to manage physically large and/or generally uncooperative subjects.
On rare occasion (three or four times in five years) Calibre Press will field a phone call from a male officer questioning the reason that the company feels they must host “Women’s Only” Seminars. Probably because I’m male I get the task of calling the inquisitor to speak ‘mano-a-mano.’ After the initial guttural grunting ritual is out of the way, I ask the caller what his specific issues are about the women’s seminar. The primary complaint of each has been basically the same, which I'll paraphrase here: “Why do they get their own seminar and we don’t? Why can’t we have one to talk about men’s issues and keep them out of ours?”
I always respond by telling them one thing and asking them another: “First of all,” I tell them, “men are certainly allowed to attend the Women’s Seminar and many actually do. And second, what are the “men’s issues” you think we need to discuss out of earshot of the females?”
Listen, I’m a guy, so I understand how guys think (as I generalize about the male gender) so I’m not surprised at the response of the male on the other end of the phone, which is usually something to the effect of: “Uh, umm, duh, I dunno, there must be something we need to talk about.”
As the conversation continues and the caller feels more comfortable, two issues usually come up.
First, that there seems to be something inherently unfair about having a seminar that is titled: Street Survival for Female Officers while there is no seminar titled: Street Survival: Here’s One for Da-Guys. I then point out that 80 – 85 percent of the attendees in the other 30+ Street Survival seminars are males, and in all my years as an instructor I’ve never had a guy walk up and say that we need to have some “me time” with other male cops. The second issue involves their curiosity about what – exactly – is talked about in the Women’s Seminar.
While I will tell that handful of callers what is presented and said at the Women’s Seminar, I absolutely will not give out the details in this column. Why? Cuz’ I’m a spineless chicken, that’s why.
Let me explain.
When Betsy first asked me to be one of the instructors in a seminar that she has been conducting on other levels for nearly 20 years, I was, to say the least; skeptical. I hemmed and I hawed and finally asked if the Seminar was just basically “Man-Bashing 101.” Restraining herself long enough to refrain from cracking my Neanderthal cranium, she explained – s-l-o-w-l-y – what the seminar really was, what she talked about, what Lou Ann demonstrated, and what she thought I could contribute.
So I signed on and pretty soon these Seminars became my favorite and, jokes aside, here are the real reasons why. The ladies are enthused, involved, passionate about law enforcement, honest about their thoughts, unbelievably reasonable about the reality of the profession, and protective of each other. This is not to imply that they are of a collective mind. They certainly are not. They argue points, get angry about certain realities, disagree with each other, gossip like men, and get catty (if I can say catty) about stupid stuff. But the vast majority simply wants to have the opportunity to contribute to their chosen profession, train to be the best, and WIN on the streets.
As for the Seminar; 35 – 40 percent of the curriculum is a variation of the regular Street Survival seminar: Making us Harder to Kill, Expecting the Unexpected, Developing a 5%er Mindset, Understanding righteous Use of Force, Winning, etc. But the rest of what the attendees pay for is a loosely-structured freakin’ free-for-all. Controlled chaos. At least from my (male) perspective it is.
Here is a brief summary of how some of it plays out:
Betsy shows the crowd a video clip of a guy who points a rifle at a SWAT officer only to find the SWAT guy is faster and more committed so he drops the would-be murderer by shooting the bad guy at point blank range. At the conclusion of that short clip the crowd cheers long and loud. That doesn’t happen in the regular Seminar.
Lou Ann – who teaches hands-on, kick-butt female officer survival all over the country and has a class co-located with the upcoming Women’s Seminar in Atlantic City – then discusses being mentally and tactically prepared to shoot a human being. She also talks about physically controlling suspects and then proceeds to beat the hell out of me right on center stage for all to see.
After another break I then limp onto the stage and speak for an hour while the assembly ignore me and talk amongst themselves.
Betsy then comes back and discusses that stuff that I will not talk about here. And while I almost had the proverbial grabber the first time I heard her openly address these censored issues, what amazed me is that the women in attendance were totally unaffected with content that I thought was supposed to be oh-so politically incorrect.
And that is only a portion of Day One.
My point? It is an experience. It is not a love fest, it is most certainly not, by any means, man-bashing, and it is not filled with tiresome clichés. They argue with each other, they disagree with proposed tactics, they counter each other’s points, they demonstrate tactical and emotional awareness, but most of all they get the opportunity to share their passion for their chosen profession.
Not a bad way to spend a couple of days in Vegas or Atlantic City.