Men be­hav­ing badly

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - NEWS -

Ear­lier this fall, I was in a loud Ital­ian restau­rant, strug­gling to take part in the con­ver­sa­tion at my end of a long ta­ble as food lit­er­ally rained down around us, plat­ters and trays filling almost ev­ery square inch of ta­ble, and still more food on the way.

It was in the epoch that could be known as pre-Ghome­shi - Jian Ghome­shi had not yet been fired from the CBC, the al­le­ga­tions about his treat­ment of women not yet re­vealed pub­licly, the pub­lic dis­cus­sion not yet be­gun.

At the ta­ble, the con­ver­sa­tion was as var­ied as the food: there was a dis­pute about fed­eral fish­eries sci­ence, about deal­ing with the in­cred­i­ble vol­ume of noise in a restau­rant com­prised com­pletely of hard sur­faces, about whether one more spoon­ful of risotto could ac­tu­ally cause a per­son to ex­plode. Then, at my end of the ta­ble, the talk turned to run­ning.

At first, I thought I might have some­thing to add, be­cause I ran for a long time, and I thought I could trot out my story of run­ning after dark on a nar­row St. John’s street and be­ing clipped by a pickup truck mir­ror - a truck that didn’t even slow down, let alone stop.

But the more I lis­tened, the more I re­al­ized I was a true out­sider in the con­ver­sa­tion.

The run­ners, all women -a writer, a pub­li­cist, a pub­lisher and a singer - were talk­ing about safe routes for run­ning: the places they’d learned they could run with the least fear, the fewest cat­calls, the low­est ra­tio of creeps to kilo­me­tres.

In St. John’s, all I re­ally wor­ried about was find­ing the route with the fewest hills - a dif­fi­cult task, but not a scary one. The dis­cus­sion was a bit of an eye-opener, but not that unex- pected. After all, it’s the same kind of dis­cus­sion you hear from women when they talk about walk­ing in ci­ties: know­ing your sur­round­ings, hav­ing to be alert.

But then, the dis­cus­sion took a turn for the bizarre.

One of the women said offhandly that “then, there are the men ex­pos­ing them­selves.”

The quar­tet of fe­male run­ners nod­ded among them­selves. “That doesn’t re­ally hap­pen,” I said. Well, yes, ap­par­ently it does. Reg­u­larly. Ev­ery sin­gle one of the four run­ners had ex­pe­ri­enced ex­actly that. Ev­ery sin­gle fe­male run­ner at my end of the ta­ble had ex­pe­ri­enced see­ing a man pull his pe­nis out of his trousers and wave it at them. Out­side. In pub­lic.With­out a care in the world.

And not just once. One out­lined how she’d ex­pe­ri­enced that par­tic­u­larly charm­ing and threat­en­ing come-on three dif­fer­ent times in her time run­ning.

Since then, ev­ery time I’ve told that story, I’ve been told another chap­ter in a grow­ing creepshow: women run­ners who have been fol­lowed for blocks by slow-mov­ing men on bi­cy­cles, by ve­hi­cles, by male run­ners creep­ing up far to close be­hind them. (Try rid­ing a bike slowly enough to follow a run­ner. You’re not do­ing it ac­ci­den­tally.) Lewd of­fers and com­ments -oc­ca­sional vi­o­lent threats.

What’s the whole mes­sage? There are far dif­fer­ent kinds of ex­pe­ri­ences, de­pend­ing on your gen­der. And per­haps we should all stop and take a turn in some­one else’s run­ning shoes. Right now, it just makes me feel part of a par­tic­u­larly icky gen­der.

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