I don’t particularly like running. By that, I mean that in the scale of ‘great things that I like’, it perhaps lies just above dropping a nail gun on my foot, but far far below eating Kettle Chips on the sofa. However, I like to eat pizza and this seems like the best way to ensure my body shape doesn’t engorge to vast proportions, like Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The most off-putting part of running now is the heckling you get from men when all you’re trying to do is run as fast as you can to Eye of the Tiger goddamit. It feels as if heckling lone women out running is becoming an acceptable activity; casually walk to the pub, chat with your mates, get a drink in, repeatedly scream “OI SLUT!” at the top of your voice at the female running past, return to your conversation, get more drinks in.
The idea that this is acceptable feels completely alien to me, but apparently not to the strangers who have shouted at me about my tits, or my arse, or that I should lie down on their lap. I respond with a poker face, to not give anybody the pleasure of seeing me flustered but sometimes I want to stop and challenge them because I’m not sure they realise how utterly terrifying it is for me. It’s not harmless banter, it’s a group of men baying at a twenty-year old whose primary motivation for running is to stave off becoming Channel 4’s next insensitive documentary topic.
RunnersWorld.co.uk has a list of ‘30 Things Every Woman Should Know About Running’. Six of the tips relate to how women can keep themselves safe whilst running; such as not to wear jewellery, or run at night, to carry a personal alarm and leave a route of where you’re running when you leave the house. The advice that we’re given is to protect ourselves, rather than for the culprits to be taught not to harass, but in practical terms it feels like that’s all I can do - the onus is always on us to protect ourselves by running earlier, or running with a partner, rather than for certain men to change their behaviour. It’s an entirely different sort of abuse that women receive too, it always seems to be much more personal; the comments are often aggressively sexual or about the women’s body (it’s too fat, it’s too thin, my tits are too small to be wearing a running bra), and I don’t think the comments men receive are often of that ilk.
It’s a dispiriting realisation that you have can do absolutely nothing about the heckling without potentially putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Very little can be done about others’ lack of self-control unless they physically assault you, and by then it’s too late. It’s 2012 and there is no better protection for women to protect them from heckling. I always want to stop and ask how they would react if they found someone had made the same comment to their daughter or mother. On the few occasions I have stopped and confronted them, I’ve been told it was a joke and nothing to be taken seriously.
The idea that I should be flattered by the braying of these cretins who have singled me out is ridiculous. I don’t run for self affirmation and I’m not looking for compliments from the fat pisshead who’s just commented on my tits. It’s certainly a minority of men that harass women, but other men need to step in and point out that it’s not acceptable, whether the comments are meant to be insulting or not - I feel that if I stand and confront somebody I’ll either be laughed at or punched.
In the meantime, I just like to run faster and harder, stamping their stupid faces into the mud.
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