Perpetual low-level fear of violence by men

I was walking along the canal with a girlfriend. It was early morning but the sun was up.

We had a conversation about passers-by.

She doesn’t trust them. She checked out everyone who came towards us with a quick glance over her shoulder after we’d passed them. It didn’t matter who they were, how many there were,  or how they were traveling.

At one point, a guy was jogging towards us. He was not moving very quickly and was obviously hurting. (I recognized the look.) Before she looked over her shoulder, I made a joke about him not being a threat—with the condition he was in, we could take him.

It was funny. But not really.

While I have had running buddies off and on over time, I often run alone. There are some places I’m more comfortable than others. I rarely run alone in the dark. I never run alone in the dark on the canal.

In the summer, the dark is physically more comfortable. In the winter, the dark is more ubiquitous.

Recently, I’ve been trail running quite a bit. I’m comfortable alone, but I do notice other people. Am I alone in this area? If I need someone’s attention in a hurry, is there someone to bank hope on? The trails I’ve been on aren’t crowded at the times I’ve been there and it’s rare for someone to come up behind me. Most of the time, people approaching me from the front don’t make me uncomfortable, though some dudes have a vibe and two or more dudes together always have my attention.

Race is irrelevant. Body type is relevant though that’s not entirely rational.

I appreciate men who understand the dynamic, who know that they’re perceived as not safe even if they know that they’re not a threat (at least in this context), and act accordingly.

Earlier this week, I was on a flat section of trail wide enough to comfortably fit a car. I was running on the right, no one approaching from the front, and a guy passed me from behind almost close enough to clip my shoulder.

He does not understand the dynamic.

I’m a very touchy person, but not with unknown dudes on the trail.

I also know that as I approach a single woman from behind, I’m the potential threat. I always give a little wave when they look over their shoulders to see who’s coming.

More recently, I bought a running skort. It’s got nice mesh fitted shorts underneath and a knee-length loose skirt over top. Looks good, feels good, comfortable to run in, has ample pockets. I might buy a couple to wear not-exercising in the summer.

Also, it feels cute. “Cute” is not a factor when I’m buying exercise clothes and often enough, not even a factor in regular clothes—I heavily lean towards function. Maybe that makes it more fun when it happens. I don’t know; that’s a tangent for another day.

But there’s a down side. I also feel less safe.

Hadn’t thought about it ahead of time. Didn’t expect it. Do expect that it will diminish some with repetition.

I would love for “women existed in perpetual low-level fear of violence by men” to be a crazy-ass story that Grandma Heat tells one day down the line, but realistically, we’re not making enough progress to make that happen on that timeline. One could argue we’re backsliding.


1- Listen. 

2- Speak up. Your voice carries.

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