I think that's very true, up to a point. My only hesitation on that score is that it's socially acceptable for a person being beaten or robbed to defend themselves if they know how. It is rarely socially acceptable for a woman to draw a line in the sand when everyone else is wearing the mask of playing nice. Nor is it something we are taught how to do, which is why people go along when they want to say STOP. Sometimes the consequences are disastrous, sometimes one is just left stewing about it & thinking, "I should have said..."
One of the most important attributes for a woman to have in American culture is for her to be compliant. Nobody in class believes me when I say that, but then I tell them "Have you ever tried to set a lunch date with someone you don't know well? Here's how the conversation goes:
Where would you like to go?
Oh, I don't care, where would you like to go?
Oh, anything. What kind of food do you like to eat?
I like everything, really. Let's just do whatever you like.
No, no, I'm happy with whatever you'd prefer....
This continues until one lady can't take it anymore & gives in and chooses a restaurant. The one who chooses, loses the game. Am I lyin'? You know I'm not!
Since we generally aren't taught how to say what we want in social situations, that's what we practice sometimes in class. It was awesome last week because a new student was an 18 year old girl about to go away to college, prime time for being taken advantage of for being too "nice".
Here's the exercise: your partner, preferably someone you aren't friends with (so there will be some social stigma about being rude to them & therefore add tension to the game) crosses a social line with you. Maybe they just stand uncomfortably close and stare at you. Maybe they stand behind you and whisper in your ear (it doesn't even have to be inappropriate words. In case I actually need to say it, people you don't know well shouldn't be creeping up on you and whispering.) Maybe they don't stand very close, but they look you up and down and say, "That is one fine ass." Whatever.
None of those actions is appropriate, but they don't necessarily earn 15 palm heel punches in the face either. The student's job is simply to verbally tell the person their behavior is unwelcome, and to emphasize that with body language and voice. It's one of the most tense classes we have. People turn red, they sweat, they giggle, they stammer. They almost never, in their first several tries, successfully tell their harasser to stop. Usually they'll freeze, then they'll get upset that they're frozen, then once I insist they keep at it they ask their partner to stop in a small voice, THEN once they've exhausted all other possibilities they insist in no uncertain terms that they be left alone. Then they're physically exhausted.
I love this drill because I'm convinced it's so necessary, and we learn things about ourselves we would never have guessed. Most of us think we're assertive. Nope. What's even cooler is the second time someone does the exercise she usually OWNS it. From the very beginning.
If you don't have anyone you can practice with (it's easy to tell your friends to get lost when you're "playing"), set yourself a goal. Next time you want to say no or draw a boundary, do it. If you find that you can't do it, figure out why. Are you afraid they won't like you? Are you afraid they'll hurt you? Is your self image that of "the nice one"? Once you figure that out, resolve to try again and then do it.
I'll tell you, I told someone no today and I think I hurt her feelings a little bit. I feel a little badly about that, but I wanted to continue what I was doing and if I'd stopped for her I would have smiled about it on the outside but resented it on the inside. I don't want to do that any more, so I said no. And I don't regret it. I'll pay extra attention to her later, and she'll get over it or she won't. I can't control that. But I do prefer to be in control of how I spend my time, so that's the choice I made.
What choice will you make?