|Friends, I’d like to interrupt our regularly scheduled “look how beautiful California is!” post to share the other side of these pictures.|
I was running in a tank top and shorts on this 70 degree morning, feeling pure joy and gratitude for this beautiful day, my health and the gift of time to do something I love.
That joy was interrupted-as it often is- by unwelcome stares and catcalls from men I don’t know who feel entitled to comment on my body.
And today – after everything that has happened the past few weeks- I’m just done. And I’m angry.
I’m angry that as I’m running by the ocean feeling the warm sun on my shoulders I look over and see an old man looking me up and down. I catch his eye and he doesn’t look away. He keeps ogling me and I feel instant fear and anxiety and shame (as if I’ve done something wrong by daring to wear a tank top for a run on a 70 degree day #thankspurityculture). I feel my blood run cold and I pick up my pace to put distance between me and this man who has made me feel violated with a look.
I’m angry for all the times the past year I’ve been catcalled as I walk and run outside during a freaking pandemic. I thought being harassed in non-pandemic times was bad, turns out being catcalled when you’re wearing a mask is even more dehumanizing.
I’m angry thinking about the purity culture that was baked into the evangelical churches I grew up in – and that is still going strong – that taught me women’s bodies are sexual objects men can’t resist and the onus is on us to cover up. I’m angry thinking about being told to put on a jacket to cover my sleeveless shirt on a 95 degree warm NYC day lest my bare shoulders cause the men sitting next to me in church to “stumble.”
I’m angry knowing how much worse this harassment is for women of color and trans folks in ways my whiteness and cisgender-ness protects me from. If it’s this shitty for me, with my layers of protection and privilege, thinking about how much worse it is for so many others makes me feel bowed down with the weight and grief of it all.
I’m angry at the perfect storm of purity culture, racism and misogyny that was the breeding ground for the Atlanta shooter committing a hate crime and robbing 7 women of their lives.
I’m angry knowing that the fact the words and looks I’ve experienced over the last 20 years have never turned to physical assault makes me one of the “lucky” ones.
I’m angry knowing that no matter how many ways I restrict my life and my choices to try to “keep myself safe” (as if it’s women’s responsibility to protect ourselves from men) – it’s not enough to guarantee my safety. I think about how Sarah Everard did everything “right” – wore bright running clothes, let someone know where she was going- and was still murdered.
I’m angry thinking about all the strong, smart, hilarious, fearless little girls I know and how I’m ready to fight tooth and nail so they don’t have to spend one second of time in their precious lives dealing with this bullshit.
Men – I’m done. This is on you.
Step One: Treat women as human beings deserving of your respect, not sexual objects that exist for your gratification. We are not decorative.
Step Two: Call out your friends and coworkers and family members when they don’t follow Step One. I get that it’s uncomfortable. You know what’s really uncomfortable? Knowing that every woman you know has a 1 in 3 chance of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime. You can have the hard conversations. You can be a part of changing this toxic culture in how women are treated. Women have been doing this work for years. We’re tired. I’m tired. Nothing is going to change unless you proactively change. Be the change, friends.
Step Three- Do the work. Learn about women’s experiences, the historical roots of sexism and misogyny and racism. Recognize the myriad privileges you have in this world because you happened to be born male. Safety and success and dignity and human flourishing isn’t a pie with only so many slices to go around. Women’s lives getting better makes ALL our lives better.
Now excuse me while I go donate to organizations fighting racism and misogyny, keep running and boxing and celebrating the fact that my body is functional not decorative, and also go find some little girls to encourage that they are strong and smart and capable and brave and that we are all fighting for a better world for them to grow up in.