I usually stay away from writing posts that may cause controversy or ire. However, this may be one of the most important posts I will ever write and I encourage anyone reading it to share with everyone they know.
Almost two years ago, I was attending a funeral of an extended family member out of state. I stayed at the same hotel as a few other family members. One morning I ventured out for a run in my usual running clothes, a sports bra, tank top, and shorts. The temperature had already climbed to 90 degrees Farenheit by the time I left and I dressed appropriately for the weather and activity.
As I returned to the hotel, I went to my room to put on a t-shirt over my sports bra and headed to the breakfast area where I found my extended family members. As we ate, I mentioned I had been out running and one of the male family members proceeded to tell me how he lives close to a popular running trail and the way the women dress there, “They are just asking for it.” I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. To have a family member suggest that I, or any other woman, deserves to be raped because of the way we dress while exercising angered and upset me so much I left speechless.
I have stewed over this topic since and want to respond and yes, I’m shouting.
NO! WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR IT!
STOP SEXUALIZING WOMEN WHO ARE NOT OUT TO BE SEXUALIZED
START BY CONTROLLING YOUR THOUGHTS, NOT BY CONTROLLING WHAT OTHERS WEAR.
Every time I go for a run or choose to hike solo, I am reminded that the thing I have to fear most is not a mountain lion, a bear, a moose or even a rattlesnake but a man grabbing me from behind telling himself that I am asking for it. As a woman, I have to plan my activities around daylight because of what might be lurking in the dark. The men I know don’t even have to think twice about exercising outside alone. Sure, men can be raped too but the incidence is much higher among women.
It’s high time we put an end to the rape culture that says it’s okay to judge a woman based on what she wears. When I dress for an outdoor activity, I think of the weather, I think of the activity and how my clothing will rub on my legs and arms depending on that activity. I think of how much I will sweat and I dress accordingly. I do not think about how I will look to some perverted man who thinks it’s okay to gawk at women as they engage in their favorite activity.
Women who travel suffer many of the same struggles with rape culture and what they wear. I’ve been to countries where I am cautioned to cover up or men will think it’s okay to assault me. So often we judge the strict dress codes for women in other countries when we should be worried about what is still happening in our own country.
I have had enough of sitting through church lessons that tell the girls and young women they have to dress modestly so as not to tempt the boys or because of what the boys will think about them. It’s time to give our sons lessons on why they should learn to control their thoughts and that is NEVER okay to assault a woman who refuses his sexual advances or who is minding her own business. It’s never okay to assault a woman, EVER. I have a daughter and sons. They are grown now but I wish I would have spent more time teaching my boys this lesson and less time fretting about what my daughter might be wearing.
Boys and men can walk around shirtless and in shorts and nobody says, “Wow! Look at how he’s dressed. He is asking for it.” Why do we say that about women when they are exposing less in a sports bra and shorts?
I also want to address the issue of heckling women. I’m a lot older now so it rarely happens but when I was younger, guys would think it was okay to whistle, cat call, and even swerve their car toward me as they did those things. This is NOT flattering. It’s down right SCARY to women to have this happen when outside alone. It shakes us to our very core. It is NOT okay. I even had someone throw a doughnut out the window and hit me with it. The guy probably thought he was being funny. What was not funny is that I tripped while trying to avoid getting hit and nearly went down. Not funny that I could have been hurt because of somebody’s thoughtless prank.
Please men keep in mind that when women are dressed for the outdoors, they want to have fun. They do NOT want to be forced into having sex with you. That is rape and NEVER asked for.
So men, respect women because we are HUMAN beings. Respect us because you should respect all humans. Respect us because we are who we are. Respect us because we are not our bodies. We are our minds, our hearts, our personalities, our hobbies, our courage, our grit, our tenderness, our love.
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