In light of some recent experiences I’ve had, I feel very….frustrated.
Let me just say that I am an active person, I’m constantly on the move trying to keep myself busy. I also enjoy working out, going for runs, hiking, kayaking, really anything to keep myself fit and in-shape. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, right? It’s not wrong to want to be the best version of yourself, wake up and actually be happy with what you see in the mirror. That’s all anyone wants really, to be happy and healthy, and just have overall confidence in yourself. Trying to achieve that confidence, that fulfillment, has its challenges though. For some it can be hard to find that motivation to get up and just go. For others, it can be the fear of failure. What if I try and I don’t succeed, what then?
For me, my challenge has to do with fear, but more complex than the fear of failing. In today’s day and age, I find myself anxious about going out for a leisurely run. I’m afraid to dress appropriately for the scorching summer heat in anticipation of cat-calls from random men on the street. I’m afraid to even stop in my local gas station after having an extremely awkward and uncomfortable confrontation with the sales clerk. I’m afraid to run too close to sunset because what if, someone tries to attack me? We see it on the news, we hear the horror stories and we always say to ourselves, “That won’t happen to me, it couldn’t.” Well, couldn’t it? The horrifying truth is that it very well could, it could happen to anyone at any given time on any given day. Women have been sexually assaulted on trails in broad daylight, kidnapped on their commute back to their apartment, it’s terrifying but true. Last summer, while interning for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I would run from my park housing into town to workout, and then run back. Finally, one of the local police officers that went to the same gym stopped me and asked, “Do you have a license to carry? I only ask because I see you run to get here, but you never have anything on you except for your phone. How do you protect yourself?” How messed up is that? A police officer felt compelled to ask me how I plan to protect myself should anyone try to “snatch” me during my runs to and from the gym. He was right, though. I never carried any weapons on me, and only had my knowledge of self-defense and speed to use as means of escaping, should I ever need to. There was also a documented incident of someone being attacked on the trail that I ran on, so it had happened before.
Here’s the thing though, I love running, especially in the woods. It relaxes me, clears my mind, and is one of my many ways of connecting with nature. So, why should I stop doing what I love because there are psychos out that that get off on attacking women? I’ll give you a hint, I didn’t stop. However, wherever I run to, the reminder to be cautious is always in the back of my mind. I can’t even count how many times friends and family ask me to send them a text so that they know I’m safe. Let me tell you something though, it should not be this way. I, or any other woman in fact, should never feel compelled to think twice about going for a run in fear of being attacked, harassed, or even cat-called. Something needs to give, something needs to change. There’s a lack of respect among people, not just towards women, but towards all different types of gender, race, sexuality, etc. We all need a reminder that we should recognize each other as people, we are all human beings and at the end of the day we are one in the same. Onto advice tip #8: treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect and be kind with your words. Even just in passing, your interaction with someone could alter the course of their entire day, or even the rest of their life.
So, for my final notes, I’m going to list some tips on how to properly approach a woman:
DO: approach her with kindness, and treat her with dignity and respect. Start a conversation if the timing and scenario seems appropriate, and her body language seems open and inviting. Treat her like you would want anyone else to treat your mother, sister, or even your daughter.
DO NOT: approach her with demeaning remarks or act like she owes you any of her time. Yell at her or get nasty with her when she doesn’t give you what you want. Act entitled in any way, shape, or form.
Personally, for me, if I am running, working out, etc., I do not want to be bothered. I’m there to work on me for me, myself, and I. I’m there to decompress and forget all my trouble and stress for this small portion of my day. I’m not there for your viewing pleasure, I am not an item to be gawked it, I am not someone looking to have conversation (other than: are you using those weights?), I am a human being. Let me say it again for the people in the back, I AM A HUMAN BEING. For any guys that might be reading this, this is not an attack on all men, because obviously that would be an unfair generalization. However, if you do this or have done this in the past, think twice about your actions. Your words or advancements could ruin a woman’s favorite running spot, or send her home thinking, “What did I do to cause that? I didn’t ask for that. Was it really the way I was dressed? I didn’t even look at him . . .” Although you may have not meant any harm, your words and actions can have a bigger impact than you’ll ever know.
Until next time, my friends.