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.