How bloody predictable it is to see you every time I go outside to exercise – leering out of cars, shouting out your assessments of me in the park, following me round creepily in your van or forming a human archway (original!) for me to run through with your mates.
How inevitable it is for all women who run to experience this kind of bullsh*t when they’re just trying to get fit, because HEAVEN FORBID they should just be left alone to pace out the miles without comment.
I’ve got a surprising revelation for you, lads, and it’s this: when I go out to exercise, I would really prefer that you leave me the hell alone, ta.
I’m not actually interested in your opinion on how I look. In fact, my thoughts are far more likely to revolve around my timing, why I found that last hill so goddamn hard, what I’m going to have for dinner once I’m done – basically anything except, ‘ooh, I wonder if that guy thinks I look hot right now? Or perhaps like a fat b***h? I wish he’d tell me.’
Of course, cat-calling is something most women who live in urban areas are used to, but it seems that going out for a run opens up a whole new level of objectification, as if the fact a woman is a bit hot, sweaty, dressed in Lycra and engaging in a physical act means she must be GAGGING for your gaze and crude assessment.
Ask any female runner, and she’ll have experienced the rude gestures, the indecipherable shouts, the creepy stares, the clapping (oh GOD, the clapping!) And guess what? We don’t find it flattering, or funny. We’d just like to run without having to hear about how much you want to bone us, or otherwise.
What makes me bloody furious is that for many women, particularly those just starting to exercise, running alone can make them feel pretty vulnerable at the best of times. They’re out of their comfort zone, huffing and puffing along, and the absolute last thing they need is a bunch of idiotic guys hollering about what their bum looks like in leggings. I wouldn’t be surprised if it puts some women off forever.
And what do you get out of this situation, anyway? Does being able to pass judgement makes you feel superior? Do you think we’ll be flattered? Is it to look cool in front of your mates? Have we actually not grown up since P.E. in year 7?
I really hate that I let it bother me, but I have to say, even if I’m feeling totally badass after smashing a 10k, the minute I spot a bunch of pervy men in my path I come over all self-conscious. Crazy thoughts start to run through my head: how am I holding my face – nonchalant or moody cow? If it’s the latter, they’ll definitely let me know! Do I need to pull my top down a bit to cover my stomach? Are they going to point out my wobbly thighs?
It goes without saying that most men aren’t like you – they would be shocked if they saw what their sisters, wives or girlfriends have to go through when they run. But if you do think it’s ok to catcall women who’re running, then it’s time to learn the different between being friendly and being creepy, a compliment and an unwelcome judgement. Keep your eyes and your thoughts to yourself, and let us get in the zone.