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Early this spring, I was running with other members of my high school girls track team. We were waiting for our coach, and we decided to stretch in an empty driveway along the street. Suddenly, one of us noticed a man in another driveway nearby, holding up a cell phone towards us and apparently taking a picture of us with it. A similar incident happened another day, when a man in a car photographed us as we were running. Both perpetrators left immediately after the incidents.
A few months after both of those incidents, I was running with a few other girls around the downtown area of our town. As we were standing at a corner and waiting for the light to change so we could cross, a man happened to walk towards us along the sidewalk. He appeared to be in his 40s or 50s, had apparently not shaved in a few days, and was wearing dark sunglasses that hid his face. As he passed us, he appeared to be looking at our legs, and we did not realize until he was past us that he had said ‘beautiful’ as he walked by us, quietly. This shocked all of us, and we were not sure it had happened until we looked at each others’ faces and knew all of us had heard it. He walked away as if he hadn’t just harassed us, and we pretended the same for the rest of our run.
We have also been yelled at by kids our age or younger. Once kids in a restaurant we ran past yelled “work those thighs!” repeatedly at us, and both the first time we ran past and as we ran back the same way. A few times, boys who were still in middle school yelled at us, talked about us, or even briefly tried to block or follow us as we were running.
Female athletes have the right to exercise in public (even in short running shorts) without being harassed and objectified! The fact that we happen to be wearing shorts does not remove our right to exercise, and our right to be treated like human beings, not pieces of meat. We did not react to these incidents and call out the perpetrators, and just put up with it, even though maybe we should have done something. This is a way that society treats female bodies as things to be looked at, while male bodies belong to those who inhabit them and are for their own use. (Often shirtless) male runners never worry about things like this; it is immediately accepted that they are not showing off their bodies, so that they can be objectified, but instead that they are running to become faster, and that their small amount of clothing is nothing more than a necessity for running in hot weather.
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