Tonight I finally did my first long run in a while. Felt great, weather was perfect. I was clipping along at a marvelous pace, and I almost ran all the way to my school in Da Keng.
My route had me mostly running along a river front. I was coming to the end of a major section when I noticed a man sitting on the the side of the road. It seemed pretty odd because he wasn’t doing anything. As I was about to run by him I was appalled to discover he had started masturbating.
Immediately flight or fight kicked in and quickly took into account my surroundings and his demeanor: he didn’t seem aggressive and I could see a family in less than 100 yards. I ran until I had passed the family and was in a better lit area to see if I needed to do anything else.
I kept running but began to process the entire event. I, initially, wasn’t that freaked out. I did all of the above paragraph within less than 10 seconds, without really batting an eye. It wasn’t until half a mile later that I realized I had experienced fight or flight symptoms.
Part of me was pretty numb to the event: just shake it off, this kind of thing happens all the time. And that’s true, it does happen all the time. However that obviously doesn’t make it okay. There is always an endless list of things that could have happened. What if he was aggressive or violent? What if that family wasn’t around? What if I had been lost? What if I had been at the end of my 8 mile run and exhausted instead of at mile 4 and able to run away quickly?
I blogged a few weeks ago about how safe Taiwan is. It is so safe here, however that doesn’t change the fact that I am a woman, and as such do not have the privilege to run alone 100% of the time without some form of street harassment.
According to the organization Stop Street Harassment, any form of street harassment, is ” a human rights issue because it limits women’s ability to be in public as often or as comfortably as most men. Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender or sexual orientation or gender expression.”
While running I was processing all this and thought of the most ridiculous scenario: what if the roles were reversed? What if some semi-in shape male runner in a tank top and running shorts was running along and a woman happened to see him, pull up her skirt, and start to masturbate? The thought is so ridiculous it’s
almost comical. That would never happen (as it never should, hello!?)!
*Then I started thinking about Ciara’s song “like a boy.” Not the most relevant but still a compelling song.*
But the whole thing makes me so angry! I am not here to be objectified! I am not your freaking fetish! I do not welcome your vile form of street harassment! I would like to have the privilege of running without catcalls, advances, or men masturbating to the sight of me. So, until that day exists, I will continue to repost articles on sexual assault and street harassment because they are prevalent and awareness is a way to combat such ridiculous behavior. Oh, and I will continue to run.