Jameela Jamil To Host Self-Defense Class, Walk in NYC

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Scroll on TikTok for half an hour and you’ll likely run into a recent trend where users answer the question of, “Would you rather be alone in a forest with a man, or a bear?” The trend has ignited a heated debate surrounding women’s safety, with many women (and men) on the app agreeing that they’d rather be face-to-face with a bear versus a man, sharing personal stories of being targeted and harassed in public, simply because they were women.

This shared fear of safety is, unfortunately, backed by statistics: Surveys show that one in two women feel unsafe walking alone after dark in a public place, compared to one in five men. To take a firm stand against this threat to women’s safety—and reclaim the ability to exercise in public without fear—The Good Place actress, model, and social-rights activist Jameela Jamil is bringing her fitness event series Move For Your Mind from the UK to the US.

Jamil’s inclusive community allyship platform, I Weigh, is partnering with Well+Good to spotlight the current state of women’s safety and how the fear of violence can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Living under a threat of potential violence can keep many women from enjoying of the physical and mental benefits that come from walking outdoors. Move For Your Mind’s solution? Equip women with the skills and tips necessary to be able to defend themselves against a potential attacker so women can get back to enjoying movement in all spaces.

The Move For Your Mind event will kick off on May 20 in New York City with a moderated fireside chat featuring Jamil and Evy Poumpouras, a journalist, author, and former secret service agent. Afterwards, attendees will get to watch a self-defense demonstration before setting off on a three-mile community walk throughout the city as a statement that women should feel safe walking alone in public spaces.

“Very little is being done to make us more safe, therefore we have to take it into our own hands. We have to find ways to take some of this power back.” —Jameela Jamil

The May 20 event will be the second iteration of Move For Your Mind and follows the organization’s first event in London, which took place in January. Jamil launched this event series as a way to foster community through exercise classes and help people unlearn their toxic relationships with fitness, specifically as it pertains to weight loss and body image. “It’s the beginning of many community-building experiences that I’m going to be putting on all over the world to bring people together and move their bodies with intention beyond diet culture,” Jamil tells Well+Good.

Attendees dance at the London Move For Your Mind Event in January 2024. (Photo: David Ranson / Courtesy of I Weigh)

For the upcoming event, Jamil wanted to expand on the mission of I Weigh—to connect, empower, and amplify diverse voices in an accessible way—by using self-defense training as a form of movement and a means to give power back to women. Aligned with Mental Health Awareness Month and National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, this iteration of Move For Your Mind will be focused on the often-underrated benefit of community exercise: safety.

“I’ve done walking clubs before in the past with I Weigh, and the beauty of them is seeing women [be able to] walk in the evening and not look incredibly stressed and terrified,” says Jamil. “I’m able to see women enjoy an evening walk together.” In a perfect world, women should be able to leave their homes and walk in public without fearing for their safety, but Jamil admits it may be a long time before we reach that point.

Instead of focusing on violence prevention, the blame often gets shifted onto the victim, whether it be for wearing revealing clothing, or staying out past sunset. “Women are told to not wear headphones, women are told to not go out late at night, and the onus is always put on us,” says Jamil. “Very little is being done to make us more safe, so therefore we have to take it into our own hands. In the meantime, we have to find ways to empower ourselves and take some of this power back.”

Flyer of Move For Your Mind event hosted by Jameela Jamil.
Photo: Courtesy of I Weigh

One way that women can begin to be able to enjoy outdoor movement alone again is through self-defense, says Jamil. In preparation for her role as Titania in Marvel Studio’s She-Hulk, Jamil shares that she was required to take martial-arts training. Learning how to defend herself through martial arts, says Jamil, gave her a newfound confidence when walking alone as a woman. “A lot of my girlfriends commented that there was like a change in my gait, like in the way that I was walking—I walked with more confidence, because I now know the basics of how to kick the shit out of someone,” she says. “These little things changed how I felt walking in this world, and it made me feel a bit less like prey.”

Another bonus of self-defense training? It’s a great workout, says Jamil. “After you’ve done a class of self-defense, you get all the happy endorphins, you get stress relief, you sleep better that night,” she says, adding that self-defense training married all the benefits of exercise with the mental self-assuredness that she could defend herself against an attacker while out walking alone, if need be. And by incorporating a self-defense demonstration into the Move For Your Mind, Jamil believes women will leave feeling more confident in their ability to fight back. “Feeling empowered with skills is only going to depreciate your level of helplessness,” says Jamil.

Looking back at the success of I Weigh’s London event, Jamil says that the positive responses to these community exercise events have been overwhelming. “So many people came up to me and told me they’ve never had an experience like that where they felt so un-self-conscious exercising,” says Jamil. “They all felt so much better than they did when they walked in, and a lot of people had said that they never felt that they would ever be welcomed into the exercise space.”

Interested in joining I Weigh’s May 20 event? You can get tickets to Move For Your Mind, which takes place at Racket NYC, here.



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