Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Street Harassers

Dear Sir(s):

At some point in your life, you must have gotten it stuck in your head that women really appreciate it when unfamiliar men comment on their bodies.

Maybe you saw other men in your life do it without repercussion. Maybe you feel a need to assert your (very warped) sense of masculinity. Maybe one woman responded positively to your inappropriate advance because she thought it was "cute."

Maybe you were raised by a pack of wolves and have only just started the acculturation process.

I don't know and, frankly, don't care to know why you have such an idea. But, just so we're crystal clear on the matter, seeing a woman in public is not an open invitation to her body.  You do not have the right to make comments. You do not have the right to touch her.  You do not have the right to whistle, bark, or howl.  (Seriously, were you raised by wolves?)  You do not have the right to enter her personal space without her permission.

This might come as a surprise to you, but your invasion of physical and emotional space is harassment.  It is unwelcome, insulting, and disrespectful.

I say this to you as a woman and a runner.  Unfortunately, I'm no stranger to this type of behavior, but there's something about it happening when I run that I can't let go.  I feel vulnerable, especially when I'm running solo. Why? Because we live in a world where female runners are targets for assault. I don't know your intention.  You could be harmless, sure, but you might also be a wack-job who's out to do serious harm -- especially if you don't like the idea of a woman standing up to you.

When I run, I'm doing it for me.  The clothes that I wear have a purpose, and I can assure you that I didn't think "Gee, I really hope that someone thinks of me as a piece of meat today" when I put on my running tights.

I think it's fair to have a reasonable expectation that you will treat women as human beings who deserve respect.  If you want to say hello, smile, nod, and say hello. You do not have to whistle or howl to get our attention.  If you don't know us, don't refer to us as "baby, " "cutie," or "honey."  And, if we ignore you when you try to say hello, leave it alone and be respectful.

I wish that these things didn't have to be said, but that's not where we are.  Let's try to work together on this.



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