street harassment in the suburbs

Ok, I assume by now that everyone has seen the viral video of the woman getting repeatedly harassed walking around in NYC, right?

If you have 5 minutes to spare, I highly recommend checking out Jessica Williams’ take on street harassment on the Daily Show. Because it’s both hilarious and really sadly accurate.

Now, I live in the suburbs where there isn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic, so this type of thing doesn’t happen often to me, and I also think that maybe I’ve aged out of the demographic that gets harassed? As a general rule, most guys aren’t going to make a gross comment to a middle-aged woman who’s got two kids with her.

Except! When I’m out running. Because it’s pretty much the only time I’m out on a public sidewalk by myself. And it still isn’t a regular occurrence, because my neighborhood is pretty quiet. The only people I pass on the sidewalk are usually little old ladies walking their dogs. But one of my running routes takes me down a semi-busy street, and it’s happened a few times where guys honked or yelled “hey baby!” out of their car window as they drove past.

And I mean, in theory, that’s harmless enough, right? It’s supposed to be a compliment. But it PISSES ME OFF. Here’s why:

Something that will come as a surprise to no one who knows me: I tend to be what one might call a chronic over-thinker. It’s part worrywart, part ADD, part… I don’t even know. This has been something I’ve dealt with off and on since high school, but it’s definitely gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I usually have to take something to help me sleep at night because I get what I call my “head-spinny thing,” where basically my mind just races and I can’t shut it off. While sometimes my racing thoughts veer toward the negative (“oh hey, my job has been going really great, but I’ll bet I’m going to goof up that one thing and get fired,” etc.), a lot of times it’s just… noise. Like, I make to-do lists. I lie in bed and I can’t fall asleep because I’m trying to make a mental list of the things I need to get at the grocery store the next day, or that I need to do laundry, or that I need to make sure Lucy has spare clothes for her cubby at daycare. Stupid, menial task lists. They just go around in circles and never quiet down.

One of the things I love about running is that it’s the one time that my brain shuts the hell up. The only thing I’m thinking about is the sidewalk in front of me, and concentrating on my feet and my breath, and that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, running hurts and sometimes I hate it, but when I can get in my mental zone and lose myself to nothing but the music in my earbuds, it’s really nice. That’s the part that makes me stick with it, I miss that quiet time on the days I don’t run.

So, if I’m in my happy little headspace, and some dude honks at me? It throws me off, and it makes me self-conscious. Which makes me angry. This is my ONE TIME of the day that I can shut out the rest of the world, and some douchebag driving past me at 45 mph just ruined it.

If there are any guys reading this (which is doubtful at best)? Here’s a list of times when it’s appropriate to honk at me while I’m running:

  • If you’re about to run over me.

…And that’s it. That’s the whole list.

Earlier this week, I had one of these incidents where a guy honked and leaned out of his window, leering at me as he drove past. Which, first of all – why do guys do this? Do they expect a positive result? I’m out here, running and sweaty, do you think that I’m gonna be like, “ooh, hey big fella, turn around and come on back here!” Like, has that ever worked on any woman in the history of the world? I find that highly doubtful.

But the kicker with this particular guy is that he was driving a big truck, with a big logo of the company that he worked for on the side.

And I thought, you know, if I owned a company, and I found out that one of my employees was driving a car with my company logo on it, honking at women on the street, I would be furious.

I made a mental note of the company name, and after I got home, I googled them. It’s a landscaping company that has offices in several states, not some small mom-and-pop place. I called them and a very nice receptionist answered. I explained to her what happened, told her where I was and the general timeframe when the incident occurred. She said that they certainly don’t condone that type of behavior, but she would figure out who it was and they would address the issue. She also thanked me for reporting it.

Is it going to make a difference, in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But it’s a start, and it’s better than doing nothing.

I guess the point is: if you see a woman walking/running down the street and find her attractive? That’s fine. Good for you. But keep it to yourself. Because most likely, she’s just trying to get from Point A to Point B and doesn’t really give a crap.