Over the past two weeks I have been unable to have my regular sessions at the great heated pools that City of Johannesburg maintains so well and after starting to feel discouraged I decided to get myself some new running shoes and try out this land training thing people get so excited about. Now just to give you an idea I HATE RUNNING… I do not understand why people enjoy the shortness of breath, the cars constantly threatening to kill them, the sun’s disrespectful glare, the sweat and the painful joints. Nonetheless I had to settle for running, the only other alternative was cycling and I cannot ride a bike. So in summary running is already a difficult space for me to be in then at 6:30 am I exit my complex gate and the catcalling begins. Okay I have trained myself to get over that, after all it’s what most women need to do to survive.
Now I have gotten about half way through my route, it is 7am, I haven’t had my morning coffee, I am in pain, can hardly breath and a nice gentlemen, after turning to check if anyone was around (and very clearly seeing me about 10 steps away from him), decides he really needed to relieve himself; Oh but it was just too much effort for him to walk 15 steps to the left where there was a row of bushes… No he wants to take a leak right on the pathway… in front of me. Outraged by this act I stopped, turned to the man and said (in a combination of english and vernacular), “Excuse me brother, how could you possibly think that what you are doing is alright? You very clearly saw that I was running behind you and I would witness your indecent behaviour; did you think I woke up this morning with the ambition to see your man parts? Did you think I put on my running shoes and tortured myself just to have you pee on a pathway right in front of me? No man please respect yourself, respect me and put that thing away.” In my moment of confrontation I turned to the other male passer-by’s and said (with the relevant air quotes), “But also you guys must teach each other and keep each other accountable. How are you allowing this man to do this? Is this ‘cool’? Is this how you guys prove to each other that you are ‘men’? No guys, respect me please… Also respect yourselves oh my goodness.” I shook my head and continued my run.
At this point I was all worked up and couldn’t care less about the fact that I can’t breath and my dripping body is in pain and so many drivers couldn’t care less if they bumped me and the sun couldn’t care less if I could see or not. While still trying to wrap my head around what could have possibly been going on in that man’s minds I felt a hand grab me. Now for those of you you that don’t know me I SEE RED when strangers touch me; Like just don’t touch me, you don’t know me, you don’t know how I take my cereal. I jerked my arm out of this mans grip, stopped, raised my eyebrow and said, “Now that I am ready for you I dare you to touch me again. I DARE YOU!” (This is what happens when I see red; all of a sudden I think I am some sort of immortal superwoman with super quick healing power from bullet and knife wounds). In a small voice the elderly man, who just now had the courage to touch me, responded, ” Yo sisi, I’m sorry. I just think you are beautiful.”. I said, “Mxm” (I mean what else could I have said), gave him a deadly look and continue the last 500 or so meters of my dreaded run.
As I entered my complex I thought to myself “I mean what the heck; All I ever wanted was to stay fit. All I ever wanted was to take a stroll around my block. Is that too much to ask?” No it is not. We live in a society where some men think it is alright for them to act in ways that make, not only women but, other members of society uncomfortable. When does it stop? At what point do we say no more? Well I decided to continue my morning jogs and use it as an opportunity to engage with men who are courageous enough to step at me, in any way (and in case you were wondering, no I do not provoke anybody; I dress from head to toe and run in silence). We are constantly putting pressure on women to be this, that or the other well I would like to flip the coin:
Respectful, self-confident, successful, caring, empathetic, responsible [insert positive adjective] men,
May they step out for us to know them
May they encourage those lost to turn around and be them
and May we all work together to raise them!