Take Care Tuesday – The Morons are Out in Full Bloom this Spring!

Women catcalling

Every now and then I find myself posting something I hadn’t planned. And once again I am talking about runner safety and in particular about the treatment of women runners.

Now this is likely going to come as a shock, but I like women. I find all sorts of women attractive, and I have for more of less as long as I can remember. It is a very natural thing – Lisa finds men attractive, and we will occasionally discuss it together. Again, it is a part of life.

Yet for some strange reason I have never had the urge to lean out of my car window and shout ‘woot, woot, hey baby baby’ or whatever.

There must obviously be something wrong with me, because it seems like every woman who is out for a run or even just walking down the street has her pick of guys whistling, cat-calling etc on a regular basis.

Or perhaps there is something wrong with those guys who feel the need to verbally assault women.

Yeah, I think THAT is it.

And more specifically, yesterday on Facebook Lauren (RunSaltRun, #mamaSalt) shared a story from Cynthia at You Signed Up for What that recounts her experience getting grabbed …

No, I’m not going to let it slide like that – she tells her story about being SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. Assaulted by a teenager on a bike while out for a nice little run with her toddler in a jogging stroller. Here is a small quote:

We had a great run – picked up a good pace in miles 2 & 3. We were a half mile from home, when I stopped to help him with his squeeze applesauce – he can never get the last sip out. A teenager on a bike approached, and I realized I was partially blocking the sidewalk and moved to the side as I finished helping my son.

The kid biked past and then stopped ahead. I started running again, looking down to start my Garmin, and didn’t think twice about passing him as I ran by. He started biking again, and as he went by me, he biked very close to me and grabbed my butt very aggressively. This wasn’t just a light pat on the ass, but a full-on grab and squeeze

A couple of weeks ago Susan Lacke at Competitor.com wrote a similar story, saying:

Wearing a sports bra while running in 100-degree weather is not a solicitation of any sort. What those men did was not cute. It wasn’t funny. I was not flattered by the attention. I was scared. Two strangers found it perfectly OK, even humorous, to treat me in a completely vulgar fashion. During the activity that is supposed to make me feel strong and happy, they made me feel powerless and anxious.

That same week there was another article saying ENOUGH and one at Philly.com detailing her personal experiences.

They all come down to a single conclusion that seems so simple and true:

This behavior is unacceptable

And over at Runner’s World they had an open forum on cat-calling experiences.

In fact, just a quick search shows more than a few similar articles including here, here and here. I even wrote about it a little bit last week in the context of getting a ‘nice shorts’ comment.

There are specific ‘women’s running safety’ articles here and here and in countless other places.

Here is an exercise: please post a link of ANY ‘male specific’ running safety articles

You won’t find one. Why? Because it isn’t an issue! Basic safety rules cover everything men need to know, but if you are a woman you need to follow additional rules.

And guess what? No matter what you do, as a woman you will be blamed if you are cat-called, questioned if you are assaulted, and second-guessed even if you are raped and/or murdered.

Because somehow YOU are partially to blame, for wearing shorts and a running tank on a sweltering day, or tights on a coller day, or shorts or a dress when you are out walking, or dress clothes when you go to work. Somehow YOU are at fault.

Um, no. We should not be reading stories like this recounting tragedies and listing ways to stay safe – as a woman, of course.

This behavior is unacceptable

And it is also a disgusting reminder of our ‘rape culture’.

One of the quick ‘rebuttals’ from men is ‘I would love to be cat-called by women’. [cue eye-roll] Seriously, that statement trivializes EVERYTHING. Let’s list a few:
– It ignores the male-dominated power structure
– It makes little of the reality that a women has a legitimate fear of being sexually assaulted, whereas a man does not.
– It trivializes the reality of escalation. A hoot or whistle today, grab tomorrow, sexual assault later. Certainly not everyone does, but as long as we trivialize one aspect – and often the first two – then the leap to the third level is much smaller.

It needs to stop. This behavior is unacceptable

I have talked about my own experiences – like having teenage girls (whose parents I likely work with) hollaring out of the car at me in tights a couple of times, and the one pair of women walking a dog last week who said ‘nice shorts’ (I was wearing compression shorts). Sure I should be annoyed and offended, but I casually smiled and brushed it off – and honestly for someone with an obese self-image, there is a slight ego lift. Not going to lie.

These were the compression shorts that earned me a cat-call last week.

These were the compression shorts that earned me a cat-call last week.

But you know what? I have absolutely no real concern of being physically sexually assaulted. I know it happens, but it is so small compared to the likely hood of a woman being assaulted – even killed – for no more than being a woman out for a run. It is disgusting.

This behavior is unacceptable

So … WHAT do we do? We all need to ensure that we do what we can to make it stop, one person at a time. As women, it is important to never do anything that suggests it is acceptable.

As a man and a parent of boys, I lead by example, and also have taught my kids the basics of respecting everyone as a person. One thing is clear as you look around the world and throughout history – if you can stop thinking of someone as a human being, you can be detached from anything that happens.

To counter that, I have always pointed out people we see running or biking, men or women. I noted a young women who was taped up siginficantly a couple of weeks ago. When we saw her running on the way to band practice last night the boys noted she wasn’t taped and didn’t seem to limp. She was a person, not a slab of meat.

I just wonder what these cat-callers and shouters and honkers and butt grabbers and so on would think if it was their mother or sister or daughter on the receiving end of this abuse?

It needs to stop. Now.

46 thoughts on “Take Care Tuesday – The Morons are Out in Full Bloom this Spring!

  1. I definitely have mixed feelings about this issue…it’s something I’ve experienced and felt weird about since being 12 years old, and sadly I think it has shaped how I view my appearance and body if I’m going to be honest. I think now I am hardened by so many years of it, and it doesn’t really bother me, I easily brush it off and don’t read into it. Although, now that i’m thinking about it it still does elicit a weird sort of feeling. Not fear, just frustration I think. I have 2 daughters so I need to start thinking about how I’ll deal with this issue from a parents perspective.

    • I do think ‘getting used to it’ is a sad thing, but also reality. And I also think parenting changes it up – suddenly we are looking outside of ourselves, looking at the larger world beyond ourselves and our lifetime. And I was really enjoying the pictures on your post today with your kids – and it always makes me go back and think how fast it flies by, how important it is to instill values and how for many of those values it seems to be ‘too soon’, but they grow up so fast … it is never an easy challenge.

  2. It does need to stop, but how do we change the culture? Certainly acting locally by teaching our kids or other children in our family/community that it is unacceptable is a start. Talking about it on blogs and such is good, but the audience reading and participating is already filtered out to consist of people who are sympathetic to the cause. The morons (to borrow from the title) and their parents who lead the way to moron-ism by example are not changing or even care to consider the impact of their actions.

    For a humbling experience as a man, try wearing your compression gear and running past a middle school or high school right at dismissal/recess/outdoors time. Certainly doesn’t compare to the fear of sexual assault that women face constantly, however protected by the anonymity of the mob, I find teenage kids of both genders to be absolutely brutal slinging insults at a man in tights. I’ve never understood the idea of insulting strangers or anybody, but it is rampant.

    • haha – love that! It was definitely a hurdle for me running in compression tights in the daylight. At this point I really don’t care – and because our area is dominated by one employer it is entirely possible I would know the parents, or that they would recognize me from school things … so it would be interesting.

      But you are right – we only have so much reach. But I look at what has happened in my lifetime – when I was a kid a mixed-race couple took their life in their hands literally by going out in public, working women were openly ridiculed and belittled, the president of the US more or less said they were cutting funding for something because it was happening to gays, and so on. Now things are not perfect, but they are better. So by making it clear that these things are not acceptable, by having more and more people stand up against it – even in our little circle – we can slowly affect change. It is worth fighting for …

  3. I don’t comment here nearly as much as I should, but this is a fantastic post and I’m grateful to you for writing it. I know so many women who won’t run at night, won’t run alone, or won’t run on trails because they are so terrified of being assaulted. As you pointed out, that’s a legitimate fear thanks to the behavior of so many “morons” out there. When I’m home in South Carolina, I live in the country, and I’ve thought more than once that no one would ever find me if I disappeared during a run. The constant cat calls, whistling, comments, etc just reinforce that. I would never even consider running in a sports bra for that exact reason. I don’t know the solution, but I appreciate you for recognizing the problem and discussing it in such a thoughtful way.

    • OMIGOD ROCKSTAR ALERT! We have the newest Women’s Running monthly columnist here! #swoon

      haha – thanks so much for the comment Danielle! And I agree – I don’t pretend to have the answer other than to not stay silent, not accept it … but then again, what is a young woman out running by herself against a car of four teen boys? What will be the result of her righteous indignation?

      Whenever I hear a story I attach a face of someone I know ‘IRL’ – one of my neices, my boys’ friends, co-workers, and so on – and imagine how I would react if I saw it happening to one of them .. and I would be MAD. And I wouldn’t be silent.

  4. This is a fantastic post. It’s hard because sometimes as a woman you just want to go out and run and forget about things, but you never can. I NEVER run alone before its light outside. If I have to get up before the sun is up and run I am stuck on the treadmill. Sure, I Might be okay but the fear that I have collected over the years from not-so-pleasant experiences is not easily taken away. When it is 100 degrees outside and I run in a sports bra, I feel uncomfortable. NOT because I am uncomfortable with my body but because of what some people seem to feel that I am saying when I wear it. I hate getting attention and I don’t like being yelled at, whistled at, or whatever else they want to say just because it’s crazy hot outside and I choose to go without the shirt. My husband runs shirtless all the time and sure while he gets occasionally “calls” from girls he never feels unsafe or degraded by it. I don’t know how to change it, or if it will ever change. I do think by talking more about it – it hopefully will make people more aware of their actions!

    • Thanks Sara – that double-standard is really important. The issue of potentially unsafe physical environments is critical – and it is something that is too often overlooked.

      And I agree – finding a solution is not easy, but at least by talking about it and raising awareness that you are not alone or crazy or wrong in your feelings, and that there are many men (I would hope most men) who think this is disrepectful and wrong … hopefully we can bring about change.

  5. Thank you for calling attention to it – the story about being grabbed while pushing a toddler in a jogging stroller is appalling. It’s a really interesting topic, and such a fine line between attention and degradation. Honestly, when most people whistle or yell “heyyy” or whatever, I don’t really mind and don’t feel threatened. But there are some times when they say things that just cross the line, and I’m really not sure what that line is. I think your steps to counter this issue by setting a great example, noticing people, etc., are very admirable – keep it up!

    • “I’m really not sure what that line is”

      That’s the thing – I don’t think there is necessarily ‘a line’ as such, sure there are some things (touching, for example) that are completely unacceptable, but is saying ‘great run, keep up the good work’ from a car so bad?

      There is the old saying that if you would’t want your grandmother reading it, don’t put it online/in an email.

      I like to think that ‘if it would get you a meeting with HR’ is a good mantra here. I told a colleague she looked nice yesterday, she was dressed up for an important meeting – that was all fine. Had I commented on various attributes, how things fit in certain areas and so on … that would have NOT been fine. Know what I mean?

  6. For me, the biggest issue with cat calls is that I am very easily startled. When someone honks or yells at me, I don’t feel unsafe (because I run in a safe area during “busy” daylight hours), but it does scare me. My heart beats fast, my fingers and legs get tingly…the typical things when you get startled except it seems amplified because I’m running. Someday I’ll probably trip and fall. I can’t imagine what I’d do if someone actually grabbed me. That’s horrible.

    • haha – I definitely get that ‘startle’ effect as well, though it is usually from people walking while I’m on my pre-dawn run! I have had cars swerve and push me off the road and other dangerous things, but can’t imagine being physically grabbed like that – especially if I had one of my boys with me when they were little (now they would make people scared to get too close because they tower at 6’2″ and 6’3″)!

  7. “Yet for some strange reason I have never had the urge to lean out of my car window and shout ‘woot, woot, hey baby baby’ or whatever.”
    That sentence made me laugh very hard.

  8. Fantastic post, I had read Cynthia’s article and it enraged me, not only because she was put at risk, but add to that the fact that she was with her toddler hit close to home for me, especially since I run with A in the stroller a lot. I don’t know what I would have done if I were her, but I think I would have ran after the guy too. I have to admit, with the exception of my Road ID, I don’t often think of my safety while running, which is something that is changing NOW.

    • You know, I haven’t really asked local runners too much about it, but I plan to do so … and as for safety, that is definitely something to keep in mind. Now that my iPhone weighs next to nothing and belts are pretty much non-chafing, I have no excuse to NOT be well-lit and have my phone all the time. Safety really matters.

  9. This is a great post, and I really love seeing men talk about this issue. Because frankly, when women only seem to talk about it nobody listens. I live in Los Angeles, and the idea of running alone at night or even near sunset is so beyond my level of comfort. I can barely make it out of my neighborhood without being cat-called and yesterday a middle school student (he seriously couldn’t have been older than 12) leered at me and made explicit comments. The fact that he was so young was what made it so distressing. Somebody is clearly teaching young kids that this kind of behavior is ok.

    The way I see this getting better is through writers and men like you! Teaching your kids to respect women (and all people, as… people!) and letting other dudes know that this sh*t is totally not ok, and shouldn’t be tolerated.

    Thanks so much for this post!

    • Thanks so much for all the great thoughts – and it is really scary to think that someone that young would think those actions are acceptable. I only hope that one person reads this and makes a change in how they behave, or what they will tolerate … and that it passes along from there. Like a pebble rippling in the sea.

  10. THANK YOU for this post. One of my experiences that stands out the most to me right now is when I went for a run with my boyfriend during the winter. We were both wearing tights and long sleeves. My shirt was loose and my tights were, as you would know, hardly different from leggings. And yet, as we stood stopped at a street corner waiting for a light to change, a group of guys in their car saw fit to cat-call us, mostly talking about me and my butt. This wasn’t a short light, and if I wasn’t with Matt I probably wouldn’t have felt safe and would have turned and ran another way. We were able to laugh it off, but that doesn’t make things like that any more acceptable, and clearly I didn’t laugh it off entirely if I’m still remembering it six months later.

    • EXACTLY – in the moment you could laugh it off, but it still sticks in your head. My wife remembers a time from 30 years ago where she found herself in a potentially rough situation in college, and managed to get away, and laughed it off … but all these years later still feels that fear of how close she was to getting assaulted. It is not funny, not harmless, and not acceptable. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  11. Thank you so much for writing this. Cat calling and that kind of attention is a topic that I have never been able to wrap my brain around, whether I was out running or just walking someplace. I never understood what those men were trying to accomplish by yelling at me that way. Was I supposed to fall all over myself swooning on the sidewalk because they whistled at me? It’s not a compliment. It makes me uncomfortable. And I’ve found it makes me even MORE uncomfortable when I’m out for a run.

    Cynthia’s story bothered me so much obviously for what happened, but also because of the fact that she was with her son. I worry about things like this happening when I’m out with Betty. Especially as she’s getting older, more aware of her surroundings, and maybe she will wonder why those men are yelling at mommy like that and I would have to explain it to her. I shouldn’t have to explain it to her and it should never have to happen to her in her life, but sadly it probably will.

    • I never ran with my boys when they were little – I was always a pre-dawn runner, so they were in bed. So I can’t even imagine having any sort of safety concern out with a stroller … let alone something like this. And no, you shouldn’t have to explain it to her … but yes, you will. Sure there will always be crazies and all kids should learn ‘stranger danger’ … but having gender specificstuff like that should be long gone by now.

  12. Excellently written – thank you for this. Like the comments above says, I don’t know what the solution is but the first stage is definitely recognising the problems – even if it is just initially within a smaller community, the more it’s spoken about the more it will spread.

    I live in Buenos Aires and never run after dark as I don’t feel safe (I live in a well let, pretty well off, safe area). Everyday here all women get cat calls in the street – beautiful, sexy, princess, I want to take you home, and a whole other bunch of things I don’t understand and I am glad that I do not. At first it got to me a lot more but now – after nearly 6 months – I am able to block it out. The sad thing is though that when a man does just say good morning or hello to me on the street I tend to freak out a little and ignore him as I can never tell if a rude comment is following or if he is just being sociable…

    At home in the UK it is definitely less common but is still there, especially when running or cycling through built up areas where there are lots of teenagers around. I remember one time, just before I left, I was cycling home through the (lit) park from the gym and got a puncture (my rubbish old bike with no repair kit) and ended up calling my dad to come ‘rescue’ me rather than walking the 20 mins home with my bike as there was a group of boys making comments and I just felt so uncomfortable. It’s can be such a shame.

    • Thanks Pip! Where we live now is such a polite and open place, whereas around the city was more reserved. My wife would talk about working in Boston (before we were together) and taking the T, she would put on her headphones, turn on her Walkman, open her book and ignore the crazies 🙂

      It is sad that we have to still address this in 2014, though.

      • Excellent tactic! I have before worn my headphones without music just to block them out – which seems a little sad writing it down!

        I hope – and believe – things will improve. Stepping stones.

      • When my wife was doing it was more than 25 years ago … so when we were in Boston on vacation in 2012 seeing girls on the T doing the same thing with iPhones and Kindles, it was a bit sad.

        I am also hopeful things will get better.

  13. I love this, especially coming from a man. I think that this cat calling thing is just a lack of respect, for anyone. You don’t respect yourself enough to act in a proper manner, and you don’t respect the people you are yelling at enough to leave them alone, or to at least approach in a benevolent manner. And I agree, there is absolutely a safety issue–you are taking my concentration off of the road ahead of/surroundings about me, and that can lead to injury and serious situations. Thank you for pointing this issue out.

  14. Some guys are just idiots.. It’s that plan and simple. There is no excuse for grabbing a woman, or even for yelling at her. Unless she (or he) is a friend of yours, don’t yell or whistle. It *is* degrading, and it does absolutely no good. Do these idiots think that the pretty girl they just cat called is going to stop her run and come over and chat because they think that she is attractive? It’s just stupid..

    • Last week I made a quick comment about cat calls because it came up in a Facebook group, and one comment talked about a guy following her, then telling her he bought her a lighted hat. I was really creeped out by that … it is a very dangerous potential situation. And what did he REALLY think was going to happen – she was going to leave husband and kids to run away with him?

  15. I’m so glad you wrote this about my experience being grabbed, as well as others’ experiences being cat-called and having other inappropriate things happen. I forgot to add to my blog post that a year or so ago I was running and had a pickup truck follow me for a bit until I ducked into a church parking lot and called a friend to pick me up. That’s another reason i always run with my phone.

    And yes, having my toddler with me is especially disconcerting with regard to this whole incident – what on earth would a teenager be thinking if he is going to grab a woman pushing a baby while she runs? How sick is he? I am glad the nice neighborhood kids saw him too, they’re keeing an eye out if they ever see him again and will let me (and the police) know.

    • No – thank YOU for writing such an amazing post that totally infuriated and energized me … and I wish I never had to write it!

      It happening while you pushed a stroller left me slack-jawed. I got in a late-afternoon run today, and saw a woman walking with a stroller and the kid was very interested in me, and as I waved to mom and child it just made me think of your situation and drove home the bizarre-ness even more!

  16. Thanks for posting this! I’m new to your blog and was sucked in when I read this post. I recently ran the NJ Marathon and the pace group I ran with (3:05) were all men. At the starting line, they kept bringing up that maybe I should start somewhere else since it was my first marathon and maybe I didn’t belong up there. Well let me tell you, I not only kept up with those 6 foot monsters (I’m 5’7″) but I beat many of them across the line. My friend took a hilarious photo of me as I was running, All the guys around me look exhausted and look like they are going to die and there I am smack dab in the middle with a smile on my face waving to the camera. It’s not fair how women runners are treated but hey only challenges us to do better right?!

    • I have never understood the concept of ‘getting chick’d’ … I mean, in everything we do in life there are those behind and in front of us. Sense of self comes along with the realization that we cannot expect to be the best at all things, but so what we can to be the best version of ourselves possible.

      And as runners we should all celebrate what everyone does – it doesn’t matter whether someone is breaking a 5 hour time for a marathon or a 20 minute 5K – all accomplishments are personal. Why should I be bothered because a good work friend just broke 22 minutes in a 5K this weekemd – a time I never expect to see? I have no idea why people do that – I was excited to check in with her on Monday to offer congratulations! Just like she did when I got a marathon PR last fall – it is about celebrating our personal victories, not about ‘who is faster’ .. and certainly gender should never enter into it.

      Oh well, the important thing is you got out there, refused to let anyone intimidate you and ran your race! Congrats!

  17. Such a good post – and so heartening to hear about it from a male perspective. It is indicative of our rape culture and needs to stop. No matter how okay one is with it, it still is wrong (especially because we’ve been socialized to be that way).

    • Thanks Laura! And you are right – and I know it sometimes bugs me hearing that to some it isn’t a big deal … because like you say, it should be.

  18. This is a great post. I never understood that behavior either and I never know how to respond. Although one time I was running and people kept leaning out the cars and staring at me. I wanted to shout profanities as they slowed down. Later I realized that the soap hadn’t rinsed out of my clothes in the wash and as I sweated in the humidity it was causing suds to form in my shorts and run down my legs. Oops. I stick with keeping my mouth shut these days.

    • That is hilarious – you are thinking ‘more GD creeps than normal today’ and they’re thinking ‘what is up with Sudsy Runner’? Classic story! 🙂

  19. I’m so glad you posted this. I can’t count how many times I’ve had some guy do or say something inappropriate — from one who grabbed my breast in a public situation and leered at me when I turned towards him in shock to the man who pulled his car over when I was running and asked me if he could “pay you to get me in shape” or the guy who wouldn’t stop staring at me, and when I asked him to stop said he was going to make himself my problem. Wtf?

    Most guys are great, so don’t get me wrong. It’s these creeps that ruin it for everyone.

    • Thanks so much – Laura called me a ‘male feminist’ once, and I don’t know, but I get all fired up about anyone being treated poorly due to things like gender, race religion, sexual orientation or whatever. No one deserves it.

      And you are right – most people are great, but between this post, other blogs, asking around with friends and coworkers and so on – guess what …

      I have not heard ONE SINGLE WOMAN say she has never been cat-called, honked at, or whatever. Not one. And that isn’t OK.

  20. Pingback: 10 Day You Challenge, A Great ‘Enough’ Post, National Running Day | Running Around the Bend

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