Wednesday, August 17, 2016

If You've Ever Been Sexually Harassed at the Gym, Read This

Image Source: Jenny Moloney

I am a 25-year-old female living in Boston. I'm 5'8" tall and weigh 132 lbs. I have dark brown medium-long hair and green-hazel eyes. I'm flat-chested and the curves I have are built by hours, months, and years I spent working in the gym.

I am a size small in my Nike compression shorts that I like to wear 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 my way of my workout. I often run in just a sports bra because it's 85 degrees with 50-percent humidity, and I'm training for a half-marathon, so 7-10 miles in that heat with layers is plain brutal.

Image Source: Erin Bailey

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. A thankless job, I smiled gave him a wave to thank him and kept running. I took two steps before he yelled after me a "Mmm hmmm . . . " 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 so kindly held the door open for me, I thanked him and walked inside. They didn't have the brand so just 60 seconds later I walked back out and he was sitting on the other side of the street watching me come out. I turned down the sidewalk and he crossed the street to follow me. He even yelled at me to stop and wait for him.

Image Source: Erin Bailey

So now you tell me, what do I deserve?

Because this is about five percent of the harassment I have been a victim of 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 it gives anyone the right to hiss, yell, or even grab me or my friends?

Or what about the gym? Which is what I like to think is my safe zone. 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 at the water fountain in the gym. As I was filling up my water bottle, he waited patiently. He then 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.

If we stopped doing things that felt or seemed dangerous, we wouldn't live.

Am I supposed to stop going to the park? Am I supposed to not run in downtown Boston in the broad daylight? Am I supposed to not go to 7 Eleven or the laundromat at 6PM 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 soon pepper spray to put my mom's mind at ease. But that's not the point.

Image Source: Erin Bailey

What do I deserve?

I deserve to be treated like a human, not just a woman, because that means something different these days.

And us women, what do we deserve?

We deserve not to feel silenced by your yells.

We deserve to feel empowered for 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.

What do we deserve? More.

from POPSUGAR Fitness

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