I need feminism because…

Recently I’ve been seeing photos from a project showing that feminism benefits everyone. I don’t know a whole lot about these campaigns, but the majority of the pictures are very good. Men and women, young and old write their reason why they need feminism. A few weeks ago I saw the one included here. I have never been in a situation where I felt like I would be attacked, but it is infuriating that I have to plan my workouts for times and places that are safe. Just because I am a woman.

A few times a week I am harassed in some way while running. Cat calls, whistles, shouting, honking are all to be expected. It’s unpleasant and degrading that I can’t go on a run without being uncomfortable at least part of the time. What infuriates me more is that I expect it. It’s normal. It’s rare when this doesn’t happen so I usually brush it off and keep running.

A couple times recently I haven’t been able to just brush it off. A couple weeks ago I ran down a busy street that I don’t often run on but I wanted to switch up my route a bit. A couple miles from home, there was a man waiting at a bus stop who started shouting at me to take a pit stop to shower with him. He continued shouting for so long that I could still hear him for about a block beyond the bus stop where he was waiting. I felt gross and dirty and like I had done something wrong for the rest of the run and even for a few hours after I got home. This man clearly had some sort of disability which probably had something to do with his incredibly inappropriate behavior, but that didn’t change how he made me feel. And there were a lot of other people on the street who didn’t respond in any way.

Just a few days after this, I was walking to the gym for a yoga class. As I was waiting at a stop light, a man came to the stop light as well and said, “hey sexy, you’re heading to the gym?” I didn’t respond. I don’t remember what he said after that but he was mad I hadn’t responded. I’m always confused in these situations about what to do. They make me feel small and vulnerable. This particular encounter was different because we were so close to each other and were waiting at a stop light so unless I changed course completely, there wasn’t an easy way to exit. Part of me wanted to explain to him that he was making me uncomfortable but I doubted that would actually help anything.

When the light changed and I crossed the street, for the first time in my life I thought, “I hate being a woman.” Sure, there have been times when I knew that my life would often be easier if I were a man, but I had never hated being a woman before. That made me sad.

I need feminism so I can workout without being harassed.

Tips for running alone:

  • Run during hours when people will be out — not early in the morning or late at night. I’m lucky enough that I can do this. I know many people who have to run at those times or not at all.
  • Run on well-traveled, well-lit roads.
  • Don’t wear ear phones! I know this is hard. I sometimes wear earphones, but only the kind that let in ambient noise and I never wear earphones if I’m running at dusk.
  • Wear bright colors and/or reflective gear.
  • Be aware of what’s happening around you. It’s easy to get lost in a run and zone out, but always survey what else is happening.