I got harassed while running this morning. I was alone, waiting for the walk signal at an intersection, jogging awkwardly in place. A middle-aged man in a shiny red sports car honked at me as he drove by. I got a clear look at his face as he was pointing and grinning. This was definitely not anybody I knew, and this was not a friendly little wave. It creeped me out.
The fact that this happened today is beyond irony, because I had already planned to dedicate my Sunday morning miles to Mollie Tibbetts, the young Iowa woman who was murdered while jogging.
Runners across the country are responding to Tibbett’s murder not by staying home in fear, but by going out running in defiance. Runner’s World magazine published an article about this movement, stating: “While events like these can often make us question running our remote loops—or avoid the darker hours of dawn or dusk—the female running community instead made a statement. Using the hashtag #MilesforMollie, hundreds posted on social media about dedicating their runs to Tibbetts and refusing to let fear keep them indoors.”
Running Magazine also ran an article, stating: “If we had things our way, running safety would be a non-issue. But as long as certain folks continue to interfere with the agendas of runners, we’ll continue to wrack our brains for the best ways to stay safe and run with confidence. If you ever see or experience anything suspicious while on a run, don’t hesitate to contact the police.”
It’s well-established that women experience harassment and worse when out running. In a 2016 Runner’s World survey of over 2500 women, the majority reported being harassed by men while out for a jog. The results were reported in an article titled “Running While Female”, and included depressing statistics like this: “Among Runner’s World survey respondents with concerns about safety or unwanted attention, 73 percent say those concerns have inspired them to run with a phone, 60 percent to limit their runs to daylight hours, and 52 percent to change running routes… 27 percent of women surveyed say concerns like these have driven them to run indoors at least once.”
In an April 2017 Boston Globe article titled “The Real Dangers of Running While Female”, writer and runner Shira Springer reports on numerous women who were killed while out for a jog. She describes her reaction to that Runner’s World survey: “The survey results aren’t surprising, at least not to this female runner. Surprising or not, the risks of ‘running while female’ should be talked about more often. When female runners have the courage to share what happens to them on a daily basis…. that can start a larger conversation about how to make runs and other activities safer. It’s unacceptable that women who run either to train for marathons or just for fun often expect some form of harassment on roads and trails. Running should be an empowering, stress-relieving escape, not 5 or 10 miles in which you need to be on alert.”
I agree. I like to run, and like most female runners, I’m accustomed to being beeped/ yelled/ whistled at. It’s not flattering, and it’s not okay. But I like to run, dammit. I should not have to consider my attire (Is this modest enough?), look over my shoulder (Is that guy following me?), or wonder why some man is beeping at me (Is that someone I know, or some misogynous asshole?).
This is an important point: Women should never be asked what they were wearing when they were harassed or attacked. Because it doesn’t matter. Nor chided for being out too early or too late, nor admonished for jogging in an urban or a rural area. This is all blaming the victim. The only ones to blame are the men who harass, assault, attack, and kill.
I dedicate this morning’s six miles to Mollie Tibbetts, and Vanessa Marcotte, and Ally Brueger, and Karina Vetrano, and all of the women who have been harmed while out for a peaceful run.
This is me, today, ambling along the Neponset Trail, Milton/ Dorchester, Massachusetts:
Here are a few of the many Tweets from runners dedicating their runs to the memory of Mollie Tibbets today. Check out Twitter and Instagram hashtag #milesformollie to be inspired!
And this is my #milesformollie run from today, harrassing asshole be damned:
You should have been able to run in peace, Mollie.
Rest in peace.