I run a lot. One of my routes takes me through a lovely park here in the ‘Ville where I am often humbled by the zippy stylins’ of various high school track teams. It’s only by accident that I wind up in the tail or headwinds of those teams. It’s also a wonder I don’t hide my head in shame at how my middle-aged body seems to be standing still against the speed and agility of youth.
But that’s not even remotely the point. This is…
As I run around this park I inevitably pass by men, middle aged and older, sitting back and watching the shorts and sports bras fly by. You can see it, lining their faces, as they look at the sweaty bodies going past — pure, unadulterated creep.
Ten or so years ago (back in my thirties), I might not have seen the landscape of inexcusable behavior. Now that I’m a step parent (with two young step daughters), it’s as plain as Doris Day in heels and pearls.
And it’s revolting.
Women are viewed as things, not human beings. Men see them as nothing more than a playground for their eyes, mouths, and hands. It is that objectification that leads to stories like former NFL running back Ray Rice, this, and so many similar stories (google “Captive woman” and see what turns up). I remember, when I was a young boy growing up in Indiana, the horrific story of Sylvia Likens and how her murder haunted me for so many years. How could that possibly happen? She was just a young girl.
How is it that crimes such as that are related to creepy old men watching girls running in sports bras? Simple — our society has allowed that type of behavior for decades. It’s not until your eyes are opened that you really start seeing the connections.
If it’s fine for fifty and sixty year old men to ogle teens, it’s clear young women are little more than objects used for the pleasure of men, and young women are to be scrutinized through every possible filter. If women are reduced to mere objects, it’s perfectly acceptable to treat them as such. Dehumanize the being and anything goes.
You see how that thread of thought is laced together? It might be pushing the limits of logic, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue against it.
When I run through that park, and the track teams are practicing, I tend to run with my head down. Why? I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable in my presence. Nor do I want to be seen as someone there to get kick out of some young route 66. It’s not who I am, it’s not what I’m about. But there are so many out there who do get that kick, who do want that look…who’d dare take a taste.
As I run by those men, I do so shaking my head and biting my tongue. My silence won’t hold out much longer. Soon I’ll be saying something — calling out these creeps for what they are.
And that’s how we stop it. We force the court of public opinion upon these creeps and let them know their behavior is not acceptable. Gawking over someone young enough to be their daughter…or granddaughter…only opens doors we don’t want open. And should anyone reply with “If they don’t want us to look, why do they flaunt it” comment, they will be punched in the throat for airing that special flavor of ignorance.
Men…stop being creepy pigs. I know it’s foolish to ask the whole of my gender to stop being pigs in general. But being dirty and disgusting is a far cry from being creepy. The next time you see a young female athlete rushing past you, your only thought of smokin’ should be how she’s smokin’ up the road with her speed!