Honking and Catcalling

This is a pretty sensitive topic and I’m going to do my best to keep the discussion limited to the concerns that I have for catcalling runners, while keeping in mind that this subject can go many different directions and take tangents that would lose relevance to this blog.

As we all know, catcalling is offensive and not generally appreciated in all of its forms. Aside from the position it puts women (and even men) in, it is also scary. This is especially true when you’re catcalled or honked at during a run. Runners have been bringing this issue to attention for a long time now and nothing seems to be changing – there’s even a reddit thread about catcalling runners. It affects the way we (I use “we” to refer to those that are being catcalled, not specifically women in all cases) run, from the running clothes we buy and wear to the routes we take. Sometimes I even opt to run on a treadmill because I know that my long run will take me too far from home and I won’t get back until dark, which is scary even when I’m wearing reflective gear; it’s not cars or tripping and falling that I’m scared of, it’s getting harassed or even followed during my run. Hobbies should not be scary.

Recently, I went on pleasant beautiful long runs in the late morning on two Saturdays and was harassed two weeks in a row. These were both instances that involved people in cars and it put me ill at ease to think that these folks thought it was OK to catcall someone. What made the incident even more frustrating and disturbing is that they thought it was worth it to harass someone that they were only seeing for a fleeting few seconds. One car was a group of men and I couldn’t even understand what they yelled and the other was a honk. While I was disgusted with both, the honk brought up a thought that I haven’t seen in many other discussions – honking at runners is, frankly, physically traumatizing. If you run on the road or sidewalk where there’s any amount of traffic, you train yourself to expect honks to signal that there’s danger and you should react quickly. I even get startled when cars far away honk at each other, so being honked at is even worse. I almost tripped over my own feet as I jumped and had to stop running to walk off the startle. My heart was thudding in my chest after skipping a beat and then I started to get upset. What good did that honk do? It left me trying to catch my breath and calm my heart rate while trying to figure out how to direct my emotions. Was I scared? Disgusted? Angry? Frustrated? Disappointed?

I could answer “yes” to all of those, and those feelings are something that no one should have to worry about on a run, but what really matters is the fact that this is pervasive in the running community and while discussion has been ongoing, it’s still something that influences the way we run. I don’t have a perfect solution to the catcalling issue, but I do think that a big step forward is making people aware that what they’re doing is wrong. Understanding the meaning behind a honk or yelling at someone while they’re running and what it can do mentally, emotionally, and physically is at the very least a good start. Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, but if we keep talking about these situations and incidences honestly and openly, we can help others see how strong their actions can be.