I like to go running. I find it very therapeutic and cathartic. It’s not for everyone, but it is certainly for me. I go running for the health benefits and for the mental benefits. I like how strong I feel by the end, I like to push through everything and accomplish my goal. I like listening to my music and clearing my head. I like spending time in the sun when the weather is nice.
Running is my me time.
And yet, several of my male neighbors seem to think I run for their benefit.
To clarify, I do not doll myself up when I work out. Some women do (and that is great!). But I am not one of those women. I wear old baggy workout clothes that are neither form fitting or flattering. I turn red in the face almost instantly (#Scottish). I sweat a lot. I have horrible sinus problems so my breathing sounds strained all the time. When I run, I am not putting my sexiest foot forward. And I am not bothered by that one bit. Because running is my me time. I do it for me and me alone.
And yet, so many of the men in my neighborhood seem to think they are welcome to interject into this experience.
I have one neighbor who makes a habit of coming outside to comment on my form and figure when he sees me coming. I actually changed my running route for a while (which was difficult as he is very close to my home, so I was going quite out of my way to avoid his house) because I felt so uncomfortable.
I used to run by some local businesses near my home but too many men would get in my way to try and stop me to talk to me that I, again, changed my running route.
If my male neighbors are doing yard work they will, without fail, shout something at me and expect me to stop and talk to them. I don’t. And so they yell at me about how I am rude.
I regularly have men get in my way on the sidewalk to try and talk to me while running. Men walking their dogs, men out for their own cardio, men running errands. Men who simply refuse to get out of the way because why should they.
Every male I encounter while I go running insists on interacting with me to some degree. Some even insist on stopping me when I won’t interact with them. Every time.
However, I never have women bother me while running. Women step aside and make room, perhaps they will smile politely as we pass by one another. Every so often another woman out running will say something encouraging like “we got this!” or “way to go!” but then they go about their merry way.
A woman has never offered commentary on my figure, my form, or offered any opinion whatsoever while I was out running. A woman has never shouted obscene things at me and then shouted more obscene things when I did my best to ignore them and go about my business. A woman has never tried to stop me while I was running to force an interaction with me. A woman has never stayed in my way while I am running. I have never changed my running route because a woman neighbor made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
Being a woman is exhausting.
The number of times I feel unsafe in my day to day because of men, the amount of times I have changed up my regular routines to avoid men who make me uncomfortable is far too often. I can’t do something as simple as put in headphones and go for a run without being harassed by at least one man.
I am constantly calculating the danger the men around me impose. Should I cross the street? Will avoiding eye contact be enough? Is that car following me? Is it time to just change my routes and routines to avoid these men altogether because clearly this isn’t going away on it’s own? Some days I contemplate dressing differently but I know that doesn’t matter; I get harassed and ogled regardless as to how I look.
And the problem is these creeps aren’t drugged out crazed homeless people in high urban areas. They are my neighbors. They are local business owners. They are “normal” guys in my community. They have wives, children, dogs, they own homes. I actually live in a very safe neighborhood with what are considered respectable people. And yet, these men still make me feel unsafe and uncomfortable often.
As a society, we have a Men Issue. And we aren’t dealing with it. So I have to keep changing my running route to avoid getting harassed by my normal, respectable neighbors because I am not seen as a person but rather a pair of tits on a stick.
And it’s exhausting.