“What were you wearing?” That is exactly what my supposed friend asked me when I called her shortly after I was stalked while running. “Excuse me?” was all I could form my lips to utter. I was very upset. Hurtfully, that was the response from many other women. Not that it mattered, but I was in my usual running attire: running bra, shorts, shoes, and socks. Fortunately the police did not care what I was wearing. Stalking is against the law and they took action.
My incident happened over 10 years ago and I am distressed that the same thing is still happening. We are still blaming women for actions that men may or may not take based on clothing.
The most recent attacks are about high school dress codes and prom dresses. The message is loud and clear: our bodies are to blame for the distraction of males. How fair is that? Are male humans incapable of working alongside female humans without harassing them, stalking them or jumping their bones? And if not, which one, the male or female human, is responsible for the male’s behavior?
I don’t know about you, but I wear the least amount of clothes while I run. Not because I am trying to attract a man, but because I am a runner. And running requires a certain level of comfort. Comfort when running in the heat (or racing for many of us) means tight and sometimes otherwise skimpy outfits. And, yes, there are shirts that I or other women runners who prefer to run in bras could wear, but we choose not to. That choice does not give anyone the right to step into my personal space. It is also not my responsibility not to arouse lust in anyone who is watching.
Why am I responsible for what my stalker felt as he pursued me? Why was he distracted? I have been distracted by many things, and yet I have never stalked any of those things. And why does that make sense to people that it was my fault? Or the fault of those girls who were banned from their proms?
What message are we sending our women? We want them to be proud of their bodies. We expect them to look amazing, especially if they’re athletes. We scoff at countries who force their women to wear veils or other clothing which completely covers their bodies. But are we any different? Blaming our clothing or lack thereof for any violence perpetrated against us is just wrong. And I think a few failing grades, lackluster performance reviews, or jail, depending on the severity, just might be the cure for distraction. And that is the message we should be sending everyone.
How do you feel about the way women dress to run?