Running From Street Harassment

31 Oct

A couple of months ago, I was out walking my dog before my run. I was wearing what most runners wear: capris, a dri-fit T-shirt and running shoes. It was a nice day, so we took a longer walk than usual.

A young man crossed the street while Xander was doing his thing and said, “Hello.” “Hi,” I responded and kept it moving. When we got to the park, he showed up again and asked how my day was. I said fine, and moved along. A block later he caught up with me again and continued to try to carry on a conversation with me. I told him I wasn’t interested, but he kept walking with me. I used the usual tropes a woman uses when trying to get a persistent guy away from her: I have a boyfriend; I have to get going; I don’t have time; Take care. For almost five blocks, this guy followed me until I raised my voice and told him, “You’re just going to have to take no for an answer!” The rest of the way home, I was looking over my shoulder to make sure he didn’t follow me back to my apartment.

This was the second time I’d been followed by a man in less than two weeks. This type of harassment is something I’ve been dealing with since I was 11 years old.

I’ve mentioned several times on here how I’m an avid runner. What I haven’t mentioned are some of the comments, the leers, the striking sense of discomfort I get at times on these runs. I’ve had a guy cross over and nearly block my path to stare me down while I’m out. I’ve had men clap like I’m putting on a show when I’m just trying to get in some exercise. But I’ve often heard, “Damn!” “Look at that ass!” “Don’t lose too much now!”

These are just some examples from when I’m trying to maintain a certain level of health. I’d need another blog post to run down the instances when I’ve been objectified for just trying to get from Point A to Point B. Every morning on my five-minute walk from my building to the train station, I hear something from at least one guy. Every morning.

The woman featured in Hollaback’s catcall video was showing a slice of life that nearly every woman has to deal with on a regular basis. For detractors to belittle her experience by saying, “It doesn’t happen that often,” or “It was staged,” or (my personal favorite) “We can’t say ‘hi’ anymore,” is insulting, unnerving and misses the entire point.

There are women being verbally and physically assaulted for not giving some man the attention he feels he deserves. Some women are even being killed.

My walking down the street has nothing to do with anyone else’s desires. My desire to go about my day without having to appease some stranger’s need for attention outweighs any man’s need for a reciprocal hello. As one of my friend’s pointed out, some men need to learn to read social cues. Many men need to ask themselves a few questions before they speak:

  • Do you know this woman?
  • Did you two make eye contact?
  • Did she drop something and you need to get her attention to give it back?
  • Will both of you benefit from an interaction?
  • Are you going to say something to her that wouldn’t offend your mother, sister, aunt, cousin, etc.?
  • Does what you want to say absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt need to be said?

If you answered no to any of these questions, your best bet is to keep your thoughts to yourself.

This isn’t a new conversation. Women have been talking about this for years. Jessica Williams of “The Daily Show” did a segment on it earlier this month.

And still there are some men who refuse to recognize the annoyance that can lead to discomfort that does lead to fear for personal safety when dozens of strangers are trying to get your attention in one day. So, men, get over yourselves and recognize that my not talking to you has everything to do with my personal safety and nothing to do with your feelings.

I’m not going to ask if you’ve been street harassed. I’ll just ask what’s an instance that sticks out in your mind when you think of street harassment?

6 Responses to “Running From Street Harassment”

  1. Michelle A Dowell-Vest October 31, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. The more we speak up the more attention the issue gets.

  2. Brittany October 31, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    This is soo frustrating. I’ve started carrying mace on all my runs just in case. It’s better than nothing!

  3. Bubbles and Booyah October 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Ughhh…I feel you girl! I usually have my tunes turned up so loud on my runs I don’t actually hear what they say but I see their mouths move and the LOOK they give me. It’s SO unnecessary. And annoying! There isn’t any instance in particular, but you’ve really hit the nail on the head here.


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    […] Street Harassment […]

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    […] Posts that speak to current events, like Prince Fielder’s Body Issue cover or the recent street harassment post, I had a feeling would do well. But personal stories like The Gym Rat’s Ugly Truth or How I […]

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