I'm a little worried about how the understanding of this problem is again developing to a discussion of extremes while I see real problem in finding the right way which may SEEM something in the middle. (Again poor words for what I mean but there isn't more time for me to consider, so I can only hope that you also spend some effort to understand.)
May I work with some metaphers to illustrate my thoughts:
If somebody spreads his elbows to appear bigger he will always spread them even wider if he never hits some limit with them. If he hits your face he's far beyond the limits of how far elbows may be spread. You have at least the right (if not some kind of duty) of spreading your own elbows at least wide enough that he can't hit your face any more. You do not have the right of hitting his face in return. This would only result in there being two a**h***s where there was just one before. Touch each other with your elbows gently so you can feel that the other one is there while not causing any pain and ensuring that your face is well protected.
Sometimes it might become necessary to hurt, but be sure that only an elbow is hurt by an elbow, never point at faces. Even when your own face was hit. That might seem weak in the short term, but you'll win in the middle term. In the long term we're all dead.
I hope that with this explanations it is possible to say that I can not support that other metapher "fuck'em concept" without offending somebody. That's the last thing I want to do.
Jessica - as far as I know this is the only way to get through meetings like that you mentioned in dignity. Claim your own rights. Show them where the limits are. But show them fair limits, even if you seem to loose the discussion. They will not admit but they will also be unable to neglect that you are fair and they are not (and deep inside they are all calling themselves fair). If you join their "eat or be eaten" philosophy they will think themselves to be right with it (=fair) and just feel stronger than you (=better), where they are only unfair.
Jon - you turned to christianity? I guess it's very, very easy to hurt you and I don't want to. Just one of my thoughts: I think that in general there are three different things: Belief, religion and church (the latter may be called different in different religions). Only confusing one of those three things with another one of them is very likely to destroy the whole peace that all of them are promising.