I am a 25-year-old female living in Boston. I'm 5-foot-8 and weigh 132 pounds. I have dark brown, medium-long hair and greenish hazel eyes. I'm flat-chested, and the curves I have are built by hours, months, and years spent working in the gym. I like to wear Nike compression shorts when I work out because I push myself hard enough for every pore on my body to sweat. So I'm sticky, gross, and smelly, and looser baggy clothing just gets in the way.
I often run in just a sports bra, because it's 85 degrees with 50% humidity, and I'm training for a half-marathon; seven to 10 miles in that heat with layers is plain brutal.
So, now tell me: What do I deserve? Earlier this summer, I headed to a local park in the South End of Boston to push myself in an outdoor bootcamp workout I was testing for the upcoming week of classes I teach. It was a hot Saturday afternoon, and halfway through my workout, I had a guy come over to me from across the park and start talking to me from a few feet away. I took my headphones out thinking he was asking me something. Instead, my ears were filled with profane things he "wanted to do to me."
Last week, I was going for a run before work to clock four miles for my half-marathon training. I ran past a parking garage that has an attendant in the front to direct traffic between cars exiting and people crossing. I smiled, gave him a wave to thank him, and kept running. I took two steps before he yelled after me a "mm hmm." Like he was salivating over a steak.
Yesterday, I was walking to the laundromat to drop off clothes before heading out to teach a class. Walking out of the laundromat, I decided to sneak in the 7-Eleven next door to see if they carried my new favorite ice cream brand so that I could come grab some after class. A man kindly held the door open for me, and I thanked him and walked inside. They didn't have the brand so I walked back out, and he was sitting on the other side of the street watching me. I turned down the sidewalk and he crossed the street to follow me. He even yelled at me to stop and wait for him.
So now you tell me, what do I deserve? Because, this is about 5% of the harassment I have experienced this year. And this isn't even the worst of it. What about the nights I'm out with my friends and just because I have heels on and am at a bar, people feel they have the right to hiss, yell, or even grab me or my friends? Or what about the gym? It's what I like to think is my safe zone. It's the one place I feel men should respect me most, because there I feel like we're on the same playing field. There, I feel the most empowered. There, I feel the most belittled by the comments, by the glares, and by the entitlement. I had a man come up to me a couple months ago as I was filling my water bottle at the water fountain in the gym. He told me he liked my leggings, that they made my ass look great, and they'd look better off. Don't ask me what I was wearing. That's not the question.
Am I supposed to stop going to the park? Am I supposed to not run in downtown Boston in broad daylight? Am I supposed to not go to 7-Eleven or the laundromat at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night? Am I supposed to not go to the gym? I am careful. I don't go to dangerous places alone. I don't run in dodgy areas by myself. I carry keys on me, and will soon carry pepper spray to put my mom's mind at ease. But that's not the point. If we stopped doing things that felt or seemed dangerous, we wouldn't be living. What do I deserve? I deserve to be treated like a human, not just a woman, because that means something different these days. And for us women, what do we deserve?
We deserve not to feel silenced by your yells. We deserve to feel empowered by bettering ourselves. We deserve to feel sexy in our own skin without feeling like we're here to bait you. We deserve to speak out without the threat of you lingering on our minds. We deserve to run outside. We deserve to be judged on our merits, not our outfits. We deserve more. A whole lot more. I've told these stories to many friends. And the more I shared, the more my female friends shared, too. And so many of their stories are worse. So much worse. I want you to speak out. I want you to break your silence. I want to hear your stories.