Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Fringes of Society: "This is a blog about cat-calling"...

Hard to know where to start this week. It's been a busy one of Fringe-fuelled-fun, alongside a few great runs and an exciting, challenging and encouraging week at work. 

It never rains but it pours, as they say. 

Ultimately this post is worth sticking with...once I've rambled through the usual weekly running chat as standard. I get stuck into my feminist stride about half way through. #Justsaying

Highlights this weekend - bit of a 4am singalong with my lovely Big Hand boys at Late 'n' Live..

Oh hold me up
...and an amazing short film about a little known act of solidarity by some engineers at Rolls Royce in East Kilbride during the Chilean coup d'etat in the 70s. 


Last Monday was perfect for churning out a hard 10 miles in some of Edinburgh's finest headwinds. I'll never figure out how this city manages you can run 10 miles, made up of two 360 loops, and yet you're always running against the ferocious wind. If nothing else, I've perfected my "running man". 

Having said that, it was a great run and I made it up the long, steady 1.2 mile incline round the back of Arthur's Seat without stopping a step. Then I did the same thing last night on a quick 11 miler, at bang on 10min/mile pace, and a successful negative split...all after the long run on Sunday. I can't believe it. 

Those kind of achievements make all the difference to the mental game when it comes to marathon training. Sometimes pounding out the same, long miles can ebb away at your resolve to keep pushing yourself, and you get stuck in a rut of only doing what is comfortable, never pushing yourself. Thankfully, pushing against the elements in Scotland definitely adds to a very useful sense of accomplishment. Hill reps also help, because it's encouraging when you notice an improvement in ability to sprint to the top of a ruddy great big incline.

In the name of actively combatting the boredom of running the same pavements any longer, I went on a gorgeous jaunt through the countryside on Saturday morning. I took the bus out to Carlops in the Scottish Borders and ran the 14miles back to town, then threw in a loop of my favourite run in the city to make it up to a swift, painless and entirely enjoyable 16.5miles. The only thing that wasn't encouraging was the number of carcasses on the side of the A702....

The long and beautiful road home

There's nothing quite like the smell of festering roadkill on a warm summer's day to keep you moving.

And badgers are MASSIVE!

Anyway. It was a great run and I'm now super motivated for my last two long runs before I start tapering. sweet, sweet taper. 

Then, in the name of carb-loading, I'm going to eat ALL ZE POTATOES IN BERLIN, JA! Should be a far cry from the challenge that was sourcing carbs on Abbot Kinney. That shit was ridiculous; this time I'm ready. This time I've got my head in the carbs game and I'm going to a city with 24hr access to bread and teddy bear ham. 

(It's a long story for another time...)

I've been sitting here trying to think of a clever transition into talking about cat-calling, but I haven't found it. 

So this is a blog about cat-calling.

You'll have to forgive me for the potentially chop-change direction this may go in, but the topic is something I feel so passionately about and something I feel vaguely qualified to comment on from a feminist perspective. Not only do I experience it a lot, between running or just walking down the street both in the UK and abroad, it's something I've spoken about at length with other women, and men, with various personal experiences. 

First thing. Yes, it does "still happen" and yes it happens to me at least once a week. Secondly, no, it's not flattering, and it's not intended to be. Thirdly, it is absolutely imperative for me to highlight that nothing a victim does, the way they dress or the way they wear their hair, the hobbies they choose to pursue and the time of day they leave the house, none of it solicits cat-calls. This has nothing to do with the way someone chooses to present themselves - it comes down to age old misogynistic ignorance and it's nothing clever or witty or's just plain old harassment. It's abuse. And it's not just verbal either.

A couple of weeks ago I'd been sharing some of my cat-calling "howlers" with a friend over lunch. I also mentioned that more recently I'd become so enraged by it that, in certain cases, I'd started to challenge those who said something to me, by stopping, turning around and questioning their behaviour in a calm and genuinely quizzing way. Because I genuinely do want to know what they are possibly getting out of their actions...or what they hope to achieve. 

I've become sick of feeling that I should "just ignore it, Nik". I've been told this all my life by my parents, my colleagues, when someone behaves in a way I feel is unjustified. We are told all the time "Just ignore them, they're jealous/insecure/just doing it to provoke you"..."just walk away". Why should I be the one to walk away?! Why am I letting this continue? Why shouldn't we be challenging this behaviour? Should we also "just ignore" incidents of systemic racism? Or should we "just walk away" from our responsibilities to curb climate change? Why aren't we being encouraged to just ignore those issues?

As far as I see it (and this isn't a criticism of the lovely men I know who would never dream of being such idiots), it's left to women to step up and challenge male behaviour because male peers have clearly failed to do it for generations. I realise I'm also using men calling after women as a general example here, and that it does work both ways, but I'm going off what's most common for the sake of argument (and to keep this within 5hrs of ranting).

When someone yells after me in the street, they have the power and the control in that situation. Although I'm plenty big and strong, I am still physically less big and strong than a man...generally speaking. 

I have now started to turn around and walk into that male-dominated reclaim the power for myself and to take control of the situation. And that's a scary place to be - I'm not going to suggest it's easy and not frightening. And I get mixed reactions when I calmly walk over and ask a man "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch what you said - were you trying to speak to me about something?" For the most part it creates slight panic and it jolts people off the expected course of action. It has a slightly different effect to blowing snot from both nostrils through the open window of a car full of fat, middle aged men who were FOOLISHLY stopped at traffic lights when they decided to jeer, hiss, whistle and groan at me. Word of warning. Don't cat-call a runner when they are jacked up on endorphins and have hashed out plans for most cat-calling scenarios after being subjected to countless incidents.

I'm surprised these guys are even walking upright they're so under-evolved...

And this is a specific kind of scenario...not the kind when people want to start a conversation with you and start walking alongside you. They are the creepiest, the most nerve-wracking and unpleasant situations.

But then things also get more serious in other ways. My friend told me last week about when she was walking for dinner with friends to a restaurant in Edinburgh and a man came along and smacked her ass really hard, then wandered off laughing. A complete stranger. If you laughed reading that, shame on you...I'm so glad you think that unprovoked assault of a woman is so funny.

My friend was obviously shocked, and there is an unnecessary yet natural feeling of embarrassment that coincides with this abject horror. Her friends did nothing, and to make everything worse they were concealing their laughter (why it feels like a waste of breath sometimes). Two other men came along and asked what happened...when she told them the guy had hit her on the ass, they laughed and replied "Oh, right, ok" and walked on. 

Errrrm...sorry, NO. Not ok. 


If she'd told them the guy had smacked her across the face, would they have still laughed and walked on without offering any help or support? Would you still have laughed reading my introduction to the story of what happened, above? I'm thinking not...because hitting someone in the face is considered to be assault. Yet because this action was intended as something indirectly sexual towards a woman...oh, that's ok, is it? That's not assault? That's ok. 

It's not ok. It is assault.

We as women run a risk, even when calling men out in a calm way - if we don't do it calmly, we're branded as "psycho bitches". That again is a whooooole other issue for another rainy day. But more importantly I want men to realise that they are our much-needed ally here. The only way men will behave differently is if other men call them out on their shitty actions. The same applies with verbal abuse, especially when it's conducted in public and everyone sits in silence because we are a backwards nation of awkward, perennial conflict avoiders. 

I am done with avoiding conflict. I've done it all my life and I'm taking a supportive stand for my fellow victims...and myself. 

Here's a video that's equal parts fabulous and annoying - aside from suggesting that cat-calling is only "real" once it's been witnessed by a man...and that victims of cat-calling are only validated by their relationship to a man ("someone's daughter, someone's wife") *le sigh* it hints at what I'm sick and tired of experiencing...

Imagine that...

Nikki. xxx

No comments:

Post a Comment