On October 26, Runner’s World published a special report, “Running While Female,” that provided an in-depth discussion on the harassment many women runners have to stomach.
The statistics in the report came from a RW survey about midrun safety and harassment concerns, which collected responses from 4,670 runners (2,533 women and 2,137 men).
I don’t think it will be a surprise to tell you that women get harassed and threatened more often than men.
Forty-three percent (43%) of female runners who took the poll said they receive unsolicited sexual attention, comments about their bodies, honks, whistles, and other types of harassment. Only four percent (4%) of male runners said they experience the same thing.
And if you are a younger woman, it’s a larger issue: Fifty-eight percent (58%) of women under the age of 30 reported being harassed while running.
The women surveyed reported hearing such comments as “let’s gang rape her,” “nice tits,” “Hey, I can show you a real workout,” and “ungrateful bitch” when she wouldn’t engage in conversation while jogging.
Female runners said that they have been propositioned, followed, or intimidated into changing their routes because they were frightened of being assaulted.
Sixty percent (60%) also said potential threats discouraged them from running in the evening, which feeds into the age-old tale that only bad women go outside after the sun goes down.
I’m sure that most women have had to adapt their lifestyle at some point because they were afraid of being harassed.
I have a beautiful walking trail near my home. It’s a slice of nature’s heaven just mere minutes from town. Yet, I only use it when I’m with my husband. Even though it’s typically safe with a multitude of walkers, runners, and bikers, you’re feel forced to abide by the “rule” that says that women must change their lifestyle because men believe they can harass and sexually assault women as they please!
Over the summer on that trail, an off-duty female deputy was jogging alone when she was approached by an unknown man displaying what appeared to be a box cutter. Fortunately, she was able to get away.
Women are simply not able to exist in society with the same level of freedom that men have. So, women continue to alter behavior. They feel resigned to wear more clothing than is comfortable or conducive to their training, they run only in daylight hours, they don’t wear headphones, they run in pairs, and they continue to change courses.
The fact is, it’s not a safe world. I get that. But why must a woman continue to modify and adjust her lifestyle because of an antiquated mindset that exists from men?
“The public sphere is [still] a male space,” says Michael Kimmel, Ph.D., professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. “That’s why any woman who leaves her home for any reason—to run, to work, to get the mail—could potentially be harassed, and why this is not just a running issue but a societal one.” It’s a man’s way of saying, “You are present in my space and I’m going to let you know it’s my space.”
Runner’s World concluded that there was “no immediate, easy solution, because sexual harassment is a complex societal problem.” They further added, “Too often, street harassment is normalized. Even if female runners can’t be entirely spared of harassment, disrupting the status quo is a place to start.”
Not such a positive conclusion, is it?
Over to You:
Have you been harassed while running? Any solutions that you’d like to offer? Let’s keep the conversation going using the hashtag #RunningWhileFemale to let our society know that this behavior will not be tolerated. It must be stopped.
And, men, we need your help. When you see something, say something…please.
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Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]