A few months ago, a relative of mine drew my attention to what they thought was a “very informative” segment on Good Morning America (has there ever been such a thing as a “very informative” GMA segment?). This relative does what many people do: they worry about things that are outside their control, and then share information that may or may not be helpful, at which point it becomes my responsibility to worry (or not) about these things. It’s a fun cycle.
Given this, I was dreading watching it, but I chose to take a look at what ended up being a “security expert” telling women how to stay safe while running. This relative probably thought I’d be interested as my sister and I both run for exercise; she was a cross-country star in high school, and I’ve run ten half marathons and am training for one in October.
You can watch it the video here.
But let me cut to the chase: it was pretty much standard issue victim blaming wrapped up in “helpful tips” meant to keep women safe.
It was produced because a woman had just been kidnapped while running. It quotes from an unscientific poll about women feeling unsafe, and references all manner of “dangerous” situations (sorry for all the scare quotes, but there’s so much bullshit here that I need to point it out). Like having earphones in, or running alone, or having a ponytail.
(Always with the fucking ponytail.)
The voice-over says infuriating things like women need to make it difficult for “somebody” to grab us, which, come on. It’s not somebody, it’s dudes. In light of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts (warning: a video may auto-play), news outlets across the US and the world are again drawing attention to the safety issues women face when out for a run, which made me think back to this video, and I got pissed off all over again.
This fear-mongering is ridiculous. It stems from the same lessons that tell us to have our keys out in our hands, pushed through our fingers like weapons, as soon as we get out of our car or off the bus. The same lessons that tell us never to leave our drinks unattended or, even more disturbingly, tells us to wear nail polish that changes color when interacting with GHB, so we can make sure our drink hasn’t been drugged. It feeds into the same issues that any other campaign that puts the onus of not being raped on the woman: what you’re really doing is just telling them to rape that other girl. The one who goes running with ear buds in, or has a long ponytail, or didn’t put the right nail polish on before going out that night.
And that’s bullshit.
I get that tackling rape culture and toxic masculinity might be a bit much for 7AM on a Tuesday. But the thing is, it isn’t ever going to be any easier, and it’s lazy reporting to default to the sensational “don’t get kidnapped” of “don’t’ get murdered” story. Do better. Explore why men rape. Why men attack.
You know what I want to see on GMA instead? How about a video about women running that doesn’t focus on things like tight clothing and not listening to music, but instead talks about things like footfall, cross-training, and intervals. I run for exercise, for my mental health, and to be outside in the world, and it’s ridiculous to put the onus on me to be safe when doing it, when there’s no real effort to do the same with men.
Once again, women aren’t being given the tools and information to thrive; and I’m tired of it.