Why Women Get Defensive & What to Do About It

The other day I was in a car with a friend of mine, she was driving. We came up to a crosswalk and there was a girl waiting to cross the street so we slowed down.
The girl on the street looked back at us, smiled and began to walk. But just as she did my friend (accidentally) let her foot off the brake a little and the car moved forward. Not aggressively. Not quickly. Just started to move, right toward where the girl was walking.

The look on this girl’s face said everything.

She pointed her finger at us, wrinkled her brow and, with the sheer power of her eyes, let us know that she wished very terrible things for us in the near future… and perhaps forever.

From the drivers seat my friend said, “Sheesh. Calm down. I’m not going to run you over.”

And right after she said it a thought entered my mind – unsolicited, unapologetic, inconvenient. I thought, “Hmm… easy for us to say. We’re the ones with 3,000 pounds of steel protecting us…”

Then I thought,

What an interesting picture for what sometimes happens in our relationships…

I wonder if sometimes, as women, we get defensive because we feel like we’re out in the middle of a crosswalk, just walking along…

When suddenly we worry we might be in danger of being bowled over by a vehicle more industrial, more powerful than we are.

And I wonder if sometimes men feel like they’ve been accused of something they didn’t ever (intend to) do.

In fact I recognize a frightening correlation between the look I saw on that girl’s face – the glare that said, “I hope you die” – and the attitude we, as women, sometimes flip to men – even men who have no intention of hurting us.

I know that many women have reason to be on guard. If you are a woman who has been abused or raped or molested or mistreatedor if you have known other women who have been abused or raped or molested or mistreated…

Fear and anger and defensiveness can feel like the only right response.

But the problem isn’t just that defensiveness is wrong, although in a way, it is.  The problem is that defensiveness is unattractive. Defensiveness is isolating. And defensiveness almost always renders us alone.

So what to do about it? I think there are lots of things. 10 specific things that I want to share with you next week.

What about you? Do you think defensiveness is wrong? How do you find yourself being defensive?

About Allison Vesterfelt

I help people uncover their true self through the art of writing. Author of Packing Light. You can connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Ryan says

    As a guy I’m scared to respond to this.
    I am just bluntly speculating here: Maybe it comes from that “busy” part of the brain that most women have. The part of the brain that can be over-analytical, and immediately jumps to any off the wall conclusion. Sometimes that part can assume the worst and what isn’t there.

    In all fairness though, I think a lot of men who can be defensive too. It probably just comes from a different place: that place where we feel we aren’t being respected (and even if we haven’t earned it by our actions we still crave it).

    Further, I think when fear plays in (getting hit by a car) a lot of people (both men and women) will overreact. Men’s response is usually anger (the physical, violent type) and women’s response is usually anger (the emotional, nasty type).

    Actually, upon further thought, I’m not sure that it’s true that women are more defensive then men. Just the way it’s handled is so different.

    Can I be honest? I’d rather be punched in the face by another guy then get that emotional nasty treatment from a women. Get punched in the face and you know the other guy will be done, his response relatively complete. Whereas women can hold these grudges, angry, emotional responses for days and weeks (if not longer).

    Make sense? I am by no means justifying physical violence at all, but just case in point. Maybe it’s that it’s all in the response – whatever the situation that invokes that response.

    It’s probably why Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek; to be meek and humble; to love our enemies.

    But, if it’s true that women are defensive and assume things that are not there, then men are “fixers” and many can tend to try and fix problems that are not even there. But that maybe is a topic for another time… :)

    PS – And let’s face it: No one likes to be told they are wrong. Most get defensive in that scenario.

  2. says

    As a man, I’d actually rather a woman let me protect her than her be defensive. It’s not that I don’t want her to be able to fight her own battles, I just don’t want her to have to. I think it’s also more of a response than a thought out action. I don’t really know if I have more to add to that thought, especially because you’ve already done a good job writing about men being protective.

    • Ryan says

      I really agree with this Alex. I was thinking about it as I was writing my response, but decided to try and add some thoughts that might further the discussion.
      You worded that very well too: “I’d actually rather a woman let me protect her than her be defensive. It’s not that I don’t want her to be able to fight her own battles, I just don’t want her to have to.” – Gold.

  3. says

    Ally, you caught us! Every woman I know (including myself) has done it- again and again. And what you said is so very wise, we jump to accusing men of intending to hurt us when in reality they just made a mistake. We take it personally. And we turn nasty in the process. You are right, Ally, this is ugly stuff. A beautiful woman does what the “women of old” (I Peter 3:5) did. She entrusts every corner of her life to God to the extent that she knows a certain security no one can breach. Only then can we cease from that ugly response of the girl in the crosswalk.Good words, Ally- wisdom words.

  4. Kate says

    honestly…i think that i find myself being defensive in “sly” (not really) ways…not that i have ever necessarily been clearly “hurt” by a man. yet i am discovering that my response to even AVOID such a situation is the quickest sassy sarcasm you have ever seen. it’s scary, really. i realize that in this sarcasm i can easily undermine any respect my brothers feel, without even intending it. and it is so reactionary, i sometimes don’t catch it until the bomb has dropped from my lips. but i am so afraid of pain, of my insecurities being “true,” that i will fight it off…i’ll show that i’m an “independent, secure woman” with comments that really only show ugly bitterness, resentment, and disrespect. Lord, help me.

  5. Tony says

    The best thing a man can do is to fill his life with lot of things that interest him minus women. In a way that he’ll always have something different than women to have fun with, even when there are other women around.
    This way the women that are truly interested in him will gather around and make themselves available one way or the other. The arrogant, snobby, defensive, disrespecful ones (that, doesn’t matter how pretty, always end up being alone) should be utterly ignored.

    I see too many men with a big big heart, being treated like s**t, even if all they do is to try to understand and respect their feelings.

    We should stick in our mind that we were never supposed to be a woman’s psychoanalyst.

    Man freeing themselves from the idea of having to understand a woman, while receiving no understanding in return, is the first step to a better society.


    A man.

  6. Anna says

    I’m female and I notice that not only am I incredibly defensive and have been since I started puberty, but lots of women are too. It’s not permitted by society for us to be aggressive, violent or very physically present. We face harsh criticism and isolation and harsh legal penalties for carrying ourselves that way. In fact, society has a million rules for everything we do, say, wear, look like, and everything else. Defensiveness is like our armor, the only kind we are allowed to wear. Defensiveness is an excellent preventative measure against being hurt, which makes it incredibly effective. But it’s also a great tool for pushing people away, confusing and usually in such a way that others don’t even realise. Women are the masters of the more subtle, confusing approach to things.

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