So this is quite the journey, huh?
I started this blog because I felt alone in my experience of being harassed on the run.
I was worried that my anger was mis-seated, that I was overreacting, making a big deal out of nothing. because that’s what I had been told I was doing.
We, as women, are taught to downplay our experiences of harassment from a very young age. We quickly learn that “lad culture” is the norm. Or, at least, it’s treated as such.
Christ, in 2016 a fake-tan-facist was elected as the leader of the free world despite his frankly bigoted “locker room” chat. Even this year, 55% of white American women voted for the same mango-misogynist despite his actively sexist and downright degrading comments.
The world conditions us to overlook the status quo, not rock the boat, settle into the structure around us. And for a long time I did.
For most of my life I’ve identified as a feminist but never acted as such. I’ve always been too busy, too shy, too scared to stand up against the playground “kitchen” comments, the workplace waist touches or the out and about aggressions which plagued my self confidence for my teenage and early adult years.
What has struck me, and what has become evident for many, over the last long lockdown of a year is how my behaviours are a direct result of my privilege.
I’ll confess, it’s not until street harassment started affecting my life that I got angry about it. Which sounds simple and blatant to state out loud but, when you haven’t experienced an aggression, why would you lend your time to think about the consequence of it on others.
Ignorance was my privilege, I think a lot of us can relate to that. And the fire of activism was lit in me when I realised this problem plagues many, to a larger extent, with less of a voice than myself.
If 2016 was the year where it all started to go wrong for the western world then 2020 might, for me, become known as the year of social change.
It feels a lifetime ago, that recognition of that spark of activism. Although I still struggle with the idea of calling myself an activist. My ideas aren’t radical. They’re not a fringe movement or societal rebellion. At least, they shouldn’t be. However, the more I find I branch out with my perspective audience, the further I realise we have to go with anti-equality eradication.
There will always be those who will want to snuff your spark out. They may not come in the form of corruption. They will often present themselves as internet trolls, as bullies and, sometimes, as side-line acquaintances who make you doubt yourself.
I’ve learnt that it’s easy to be gas-lit. To let the words of those who seem well meaning to derail you from your track.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered alighting from the feminist-freight train myself. “There are worse things going on in the world” I would let seep in “This isn’t important right now”. But the cargo this work is carrying is more than just my ordeal. It’s the freedom for those just beginning their athletic journey. The shy hobbyists, the casual joggers, who perhaps might lose the love of running without the incentive of safer streets.
It’s for the little girls growing up having to see their mothers fret about what they wear because she doesn’t want to be told she was “asking for it”. Only to be told, years down the line, the very same thing, not out of cruelty, but concern.
The battles we face may begin for us, but overtime they shape into something more. When we are presented with a platform it is our responsibility to mould that to the benefit of others. Our fears and apprehensions become a footnote.
Most recently, that platform has presented itself via aural form. After months of feeling as if the message was falling on dead ears I was invited on both the Runners World and Runners Life podcasts. Both times, quite honestly, I was sure I wouldn’t do the cause justice. That I would underplay the severity of the topic as I see it. I began to question my authority. “Am I qualified to speak on this?” I shut myself down before I had even tried, just as we have done with women for centuries.
But there are those willing to listen. They want to hear our voices. I would be doing the world a disservice if I were to feign loneliness in this fight.
We have to begin to trust that our fervour will prevail. That amid the stutters, the mutters, the “ums”, “yeahs” and “hmms” that the message will win out.
How it started? Angry, honestly. Unguided. Anxiously.
How it’s going? Well, let’s just say it’s still going.