A few weeks ago I was so lucky to be inspired to write this post by a real life event that happened to me after a five mile run. I had finished my workout and I was leaving the parking lot area. It was a relatively hot day and the sun was out so I rolled my windows down, plus I love fresh air versus air conditioning on days like these. I came out of the parking lot and stopped at a red light, and there he was. An average looking, gross middle-aged man, with a short build and greying hair looking for his chance to make a woman feel uncomfortable.
I avert my eyes and I try to ignore this guy, avoiding eye contact usually works but this guy had balls. “Hey, you look really good.” I wanted to drive off into the oncoming traffic. Yuck! How does he even know if I look good? I’m sitting in my car! He’s looking at me from the street on the passenger side of my car! A few awkward seconds passed and I drove away. Reverse catcalling, yeah apparently it’s a thing. I’ve had men yell things at me from their cars while I’ve been running on the roads. Some “nice” things and others not so nice things—starts with F ends with AT. But never have I ever been catcalled from inside of my car.
“Hey, you look really good.”
Maybe it’s because I was glistening in sweat, maybe it’s because I’m blond or maybe it’s because the Ray Ban sunglasses I was wearing make me look really hot. I did not know this man. I appreciate compliments from people I know, men I know, trust me, your positive comments are welcome. But in this context, what this man said was just awkward and creepy. “Hey, you look really good” is something I would expect to hear from my girlfriends after a workout or my boyfriend after he’s had three drinks, but a total stranger? It’s just too weird! Catcalling is one of the reasons that women don’t like to run alone. We don’t know who you are, and we don’t know if you want to hurt us. Thankfully we’re fast and we can probably out run you, but we’d rather run with our guy friends than alone or carry a can of pepper spray to stay safe than feel threatened by you. It’s not in our imagination either. Women really are at risk.
Last year in 2014 RunWashington posted an article documenting the assaults and rapes on DC-area running paths and trails. After the story was published assaults continued to happen. This is common throughout the U.S., it’s not just limited to the DC-area. Natalie DiBlasio shared her story on RunHaven of how she told authorities about being followed during a run by a suspicious car. She said the police downplayed her accusations and said “Are you sure he didn’t just think you were cute?” OK, whoa! If some stranger is following me in a car, I don’t care if he thinks I’m cute, arrest his ass for being creepy. Natalie also shared her response to Doree Lewak’s article which is sensitively titled “Hey ladies — Catcalls are flattering! Deal with it”, in USA Today, brining national attention to the issue of catcalling female athletes.
It makes me want to quit a sport I love so I never have to wonder if someone who shouts, “Come over here and let me get a look at that ass,” is harmless or is dangerous. Because I never know. –Natalie DiBlasio
My story, Natalie’s story, like many other stories of women runners, share a powerful message. We have to stop accepting catcalling as “flirting” or “harmless” because it can pose a real threat.
Have an opinion about catcalling? Sound off in the comments section below.
Image via Flickr/anna yoo