There are some weeks when I’m writing this column that my fingers dance across the keyboard, barely keeping up with the dialogue going on inside of my head. There are weeks that I struggle because what I’m writing means so much to me that I want to make sure I get it absolutely right; that I’m doing justice to the topic I’ve chosen. And then there are weeks like this, when I’m so drained by everything going on in the news that at 5 p.m. on Thursday I’m still sitting in front of a blank screen. So I did the only thing I could think of, I disconnected for half an hour and went for a run.
I went to my apartment and hurriedly changed, not wanting to waste a moment of daylight as the sun’s journey to the horizon quickens with each passing day. I double checked the forecast for the evening as I laced up my shoes and headed out the door.
The run was lovely. What remained of the canopy overhang had begun to turn orange and yellow, while the brown leaves littered the pavement before me. I usually listen to podcasts while I run, typically political ones to get me fired up, so it was a nice change to hear nothing but my breathing and the sounds of critters scattering as they heard my footsteps draw near.
It didn’t take long before my mind began to wander and I started working out what had me so drained — being a woman.
I went to the doctor a few weeks ago for a sprained wrist and during my appointment we started talking about working out, eventually discussing our running habits. The doctor was appalled, to say the least, when I told him I jog alone. He went down the checklist of all the things I shouldn’t do as a female runner. I shouldn’t run at night, by myself or on secluded trails. I should have pepper spray and my cellphone with me at all times and I really should have already taken a self-defense class. And I should never, ever run while listening to music because then I can’t hear the assailant approaching.
I give some credence to what he was advising, but here’s the reality, there’s no way to 100 percent protect yourself in this world. I take every precaution that I can. I run during the day, I have pepper spray in hand and I only wear one earbud when I run, but statistically it’s kind of crappy to be a woman. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime and nine out of every 10 rape victims are female. According to a recent survey reported by Vox, 51.9 percent of women reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their life. And a survey by Runner’s World reports nearly 60 percent of female runners under 30 were subject to harassment while running.
Iowa may not seem like that scary of a place, but just think back to this summer — Mollie Tibbetts was murdered while out running and Celia Barquin Arozamena was killed while playing golf early one morning.
So what’s my point in all of this? Am I just whining about my gender? Am I playing victim to my circumstance?
No. Women are extraordinary. It’s a scary world out there, yet we keep going. I lace up my running shoes at least twice a week and hit the trails. We continue to go out and live our lives, just sometimes more hesitantly than we’d like.
But the little thing we can do, to hopefully change the statistics for the next generation is to continue to encourage girls to be strong and independent, but we also have to talk to our young boys. Pulling on pigtails and saying mean things is not how you get a girl’s attention. “No” means “no.” Heck, “I don’t think I want to” means “no.” We can’t just tell girls you have to be careful, we have to tell boys they have to be respectful.