Hi there, men crowded in the white pickup truck. Yes, I am a human, just like you. Wait a minute… I am a woman. Nope, you got it; a woman who is running. No, sir you’re not imagining it, those are breasts, and, yes, they’re bouncing as I move my body in this fast-paced motion, sports bra or not. I have just about everything that you have, but you can’t help but stare as if I am on display at one of those freaks and oddities circus shows. The more cars that go by, the more heads turn to stare.
The truth is that I don’t have an extra leg, nor am I walking on stilts. I’m not a giantess, nor am I two feet tall. I am just a regular human, trying to do regular human things just like you. When you honk your horn, make kiss faces or yell obscenities about my body, however, you make me feel as if I am one of those humans with an extra leg or two feet tall.
You might not think about it, or even remember what you said or did five minutes later, but we do. We carry it on our backs throughout the rest of our run or routine, our steps become heavier and our eyesight glazed. We want to collapse on the ground or press rewind and magically end up back in our living rooms. We want to curl in a ball and disappear. You might just laugh and pat yourself on the back, or high five your buddy for humoring yourselves for a few minutes, but this is something we carry with us for weeks and even months afterward. We remember it every time we walk out the door. You are unaware that those few chuckles have literally teared apart a structure, a someone.
To those two guys at the gym who said, “Yo that girl in the pink, I’d love to put it in that stink” while I was on the elliptical, thank you for the lovely compliment. You didn’t think I heard you, but at that exact moment, my phone, while playing my music, died. The headphones were still in my ear, but I heard you clear as day. Did you think because I had headphones in, it would be okay to say something like that? Just because I “couldn’t hear you” saying it to my back, that makes it acceptable?
At that moment I wished to God I wasn’t the girl in the pink. But I was, you two were directly behind me. You laughed because you made a rhyme unintentionally, and you both thought it was so clever. Your friend was in tears at your poetry. But, I was in tears at your cruel words. I looked at you, direct eye contact. Enraged. Embarrassed. Humiliated. I felt as if I were nothing, a piece of gum stuck on your shoe. But you just looked at me and laughed.
So, men, thank you for ruining my self worth. Thank you for whenever I look at my body now, I think of those moments. They do not make me feel pretty. They do not make me feel sexy. They make me feel like a worthless piece of shit.
Women who exercise do it for the same reasons as men: to be healthier and live a better lifestyle. Our question is, how are we supposed to improve our lives when this happens on a daily basis to women everywhere? As our body gets stronger physically, we get weaker emotionally. We end up not wanting to publicly exercise and hate ourselves and our bodies for the humiliation both have caused…and the sad part is, you don’t even realize it.
So, men who harass women while we exercise, thank you for making us afraid to go for a run in our neighborhoods or take a walk downtown. Thank you for making us pay a subscription for a gym, but end up wasting our money because we are too afraid to go. Thank you for making us feel smaller than you, while we are trying to stand tall. And, thank you, men who harass women while we exercise, for making us feel like the most worthless human beings on the planet.