Friday, January 30, 2015

Don't forget your #whorepants

When I was in college, I took a class on black feminism during my sophomore year.  As she strode purposefully into our first meeting together 14 years ago, the very first words my loud and proud black professor uttered were, "y'all are motherfuckin' racists."

Somehow this left an impression on me.

Over the ensuing 90 minutes, she clarified her opening statement with a discussion on white privilege; the idea that my classmates and I were and continue to be afforded countless unearned privileges merely by being white.  These can be as big as not being subjected to racial profiling while driving, to as small as being able to choose bandaids in the color of our own skin.  It was this white privilege that led every one of us, as the song goes, to be a little bit racist.

Last week, high school friend Jen Miller posted an article calling attention to the harassment female runners face, and I was immediately brought back to my college classroom.  My professor folded her arms over her heavy bosom, looked at me with disdain, and said, "you motherfuckin' sexist pig."  It seems time to address the continuing problem of female harassment, and my accompanying male privilege.

The title of Jen's article stems from an earlier, similar article which described her purple running tights.  When someone had the audacity to call her a whore in the comments, her friends coined the term #whorepants, and the hashtag took off.

I asked my wife about this, and while she doesn't have nearly the amount of miles under her belt as some female runners, she has nevertheless experienced catcalls, comments, and otherwise unsavory behavior from men while out running.  And as a male runner, it saddens me to think what my female counterparts go through.

When I run, I do so for the health benefits, for the chance to explore new areas, and to experience alone time.  But for most women, these benefits can quickly become compromised for no other reason than someone who doesn't know how to behave in public. It's a power play.  It's lashing out over previous female rejection.  It's a desire to be crude and insulting, or maybe it is genuinely an attempt to be complimentary.  But rarely is it ever welcome.

Run enough, and it can become tormenting.  When the weather doesn't cooperate, or the intensity of the run becomes too much, it's easy to want to give in and quit.  I've literally run thousands of miles in my day, and I fight the thought of quitting on a regular basis, but never for fear of harassment.  The worst I've ever experienced is a few honks and/or unintelligible yells. Running can be hard enough as it is; adding the insulting nature of some men's behavior is just unfair.

It has just never occured to me to do anything but nod at a female runner as we pass each other. When not running, it never occurred to me to do much of anything when encountering an attractive female.  Seriously, it's amazing I ever got married.

Many runners, men and women alike, have expressed solidarity with Jen and donned their own version of #whorepants while running.  Alas, the one pair of running pants I own doesn't quite qualify, but it never really was about the pants was it?  It's about reclaiming a word, rallying around a silly hashtag, and fighting the good fight together.

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