Well shit, I don’t even know where to start…I’m just so mad. Catcalling. It happens to runners everywhere. It’s a very sad and frustrating fact about being a runner, especially a female. Women are told to vary their routes, run in groups, carry pepper spray. Protect yourself, carry a phone, have a way out. Sadly, in the last few months we’ve seen a surge in sexual harassment toward women. It has become such a fact of life that we simply roll our eyes, sigh deeply, and do our best to carry on with our every day lives. “Locker room talk” is shrugged off so easily, too easily.
Sometimes finding a group of runners can make you feel safe when out on the trail (or sidewalks). Generally the harassment isn’t hurled to a pack, especially if the pack includes a male or two. I’m a bit of a loner, so when I found a running “society” in my home state I was very excited to join. With this large group I could meet up with folks at races, learn about upcoming events, swap running stories & advice, and maybe make a friend or two. I joined the group on Facebook almost three years ago, and while I haven’t been overly active in the group, I have felt that I had a safe “home” for all things running.
I felt safe until a few days ago. My Facebook newsfeed started filling up with angry comments. A member was quickly outed for some seriously inappropriate behavior. He posted a half apology and he lied his way through it. It turns out a member of our little “society” had been friending people within the group, then trolling their albums to take photos, cropping the heads/faces, and photoshopping them into porn. The lewd pictures were then distributed to other members in the group and who knows where else! In The Apology he claims to have only shown the folks he did it to, but it turns out that that wasn’t true at all, nor did he tell anyone what he was doing until after the fact. Some members had to stumble on the news themselves! He asked for forgiveness because he had kids that he wouldn’t want that happening to them…..
I was disgusted by these revelations. I knew this man. I had high-fived him at races, taken pictures with him, cheered him on. He was a FRIEND. And he had grossly violated that friendship. In a social group where everyone from all backgrounds and abilities come together for a shared passion, the women should feel safe; should never have to second guess a fellow runner, a friend.
But equally disturbing to his behavior was how easily others were to shrug it off or look the other way. Some ‘liked’ and ‘loved’ his attempt at apology. Some felt that because it didn’t happen to them it was okay. Some were quick to tell other women that they needed to keep the “drama” offline and only between themselves. Some even came to his defense with some inner demons nonsense. Because so many didn’t take it seriously, I simply can’t feel safe in the group. This is why I’m a loner.
This is rape culture being swept under a rug. This is sexual harassment being ignored. This is abuse being given a different name. This man has been blocked by some, removed from the online group, pushed out of the little circle. But his deeds are not gone nor are the others who found it “hilarious” or who may be distributing more photos. The behavior hasn’t been checked, let alone stopped. A few men in the group made public noise about being disgusted (so we can rest assured it isn’t “all men”!) and there’s been talk about a meeting, though a time and place has yet to be established. I know it will be forgotten in a week. Everyone will move on because, hey, he apologized and no one was really hurt, right?!
I’m saddened, angered, and hurt that I have to spend every run carrying protection and being on gaurd with every person I pass simply to learn that the runners closest to me will dehumanize and violate me more than a stranger on the street.
Well, I don’t accept his apology! The fact that a few buddies and his wife found it funny is NOT justification for me. The fact that he claimed to be sorry is NOT enough for me. He stole faces off the images of friends and pasted them onto naked bodies having sex in order to get off. It wasn’t harmless, it was humiliating, dehumanizing, and filthy. Perhaps I fall into the group of being “too dramatic”, “too sensitive”, or “too easily offended”, but I just cannot agree with giving this kind of behavior a pass. Personally, I won’t feel okay with any of it until everyone denounces it!