Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dear Drivers (feminist thoughts from a 6-mile run)

Dear Drivers,

So we're clear:  I do not enjoy cat calls, whistles, or shouts of "nice ass."

I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.  I am hoping that you believe these actions to be some sort of service to me, some sort of buttress for my self-esteem. 

They aren't.

When you shout or whistle out of your car window, I do not feel sexy.  On the contrary, I am startled and feel threatened.  I wonder for a block or two whether you are still there, watching me.  Or whether someone else is watching.

It is also possible that you are making fun of me, as I still wear my headlamp and reflective suspenders after the sun has come up.  Or perhaps it is the pack around my waist that sends my sexiness over the edge for you and you just cannot contain yourself.

Again, to be clear:  I do not run for you.  I do not care to be looked at.

That you are looking at women while they exercise - and perhaps actually believe so deeply that they do it for your gaze or your approval - is a problem.  This is a barrier for women to exercise.  We should not be concerned about what we look like while we exercise.  We should not need to worry that you think we are there for your benefit.  And we should not be there for your benefit, but for our own!

And I don't want to look good three miles in.  If I look "pretty" by mile 6, I have done something wrong.

To be clear:  I run for me.

And further, I no longer care what you think of my body.  I know the hard-won sag of my breasts and the wonderment of my stretchmarks.  I know the things this body has endured and what it has conquered.

I am out there testing my limits and sometimes that isn't pretty.  But it is awesome.

Stop undermining my accomplishments.  I'm so much more than sexiness.  I am so much more than an object to be looked at.

And, while we're at it, next time you are speeding through a residential area, stop on a crosswalk, and see a runner stepping off the curb because there was no way to know you were coming?  At least acknowledge her.  Don't just look past her and take off.  At least make it clear you know you screwed up and will try to do better.
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