“Hello. You’re a pretty lady! You should be careful walking out here all by yourself. Someone might want to kidnap you,” he said as he rode past me on his bicycle.
My first thought was, “What the fuck?”
My second thought was, “I need to write about this.”
I’m very particular about when and where I go running. I never go running at night. When I see a group of men ahead of me on the trail hanging out, I don’t walk, I run or jog past them. I often wear sunglasses and though I actually like to look people in the eye, I make an extra effort not to do this when I’m out, in order to avoid any misinterpretation of my intentions.
I do all of this. On a trail where I feel “safe.” To have some asshole tell me to be careful is laughable and infuriating. As if, despite all the things I already do to protect myself, I would be to blame should someone decide to “kidnap me.”
Running and walking and being outside are when I feel the most free. When I’m out for a run, it’s not uncommon for me to breathe a sigh of relief as I enjoy the wind and the sun on my face. Being by the water, smiling at people’s dogs and dodging little children playing on the trail are all part of the experience of running (and walking) that I find so enjoyable.
Which is why this man’s comment stunned me. And then angered me.
For most women, this kind of situation is shocking but not surprising. I would argue that most women live with and tolerate some kind of violence on a daily basis. At the very least, women live with and are aware of the potential for violence towards their bodies every single day, even if they haven’t consciously acknowledged it. And most women are keenly aware of the harm that could come to them at any moment, even while carrying out the most mundane activities like putting groceries in their car or simply waiting at a bus stop.
So, what to do? Get back into martial arts? Adopt a large dog? Start carrying mace? Run down the street and wave my hands in the air like a crazy person?
Those things might be appropriate, but what I really want to do is educate and make people, especially men, aware of women’s experiences. But not even just aware, I am asking for men (and the women who choose to remain in denial) to really listen to women when they say they feel harassed or when they say they feel unsafe or when they confess that they’ve been abused or assaulted.
Listen to them. Believe them. Because, WOMEN ARE NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP.
I do not plan on stopping running anytime soon. I’ll be damned if some man’s comment is going to stop me from doing what I love, in a public space where I have every right to be and feel safe.
Things do not have to be this way. Let’s change this.
(What I'm listening to right now: Work by Charlotte Day Wilson)