I started walking between 5 and 12 miles a day about year after I moved to Seattle. The main motivator was a crippling anxiety about being late coupled with an inconsistent public transportation system (that will now become less consistent, yippee). Additionally, working in an industry with late nights (I house manage for various theaters) means that if you’re reliant on public transit, you will be waiting for an hour at a scary bus stop with Mr. and Mrs. Meth Addict at 1:30 in the morning. Walking became a way for me to take control of my commute. It was my time. Four mile walk to work. Four mile walk back. In the rain. In the dark. In the cold. Every season. Sometimes with tunes. Sometimes with “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” Sometimes talking to myself. And sometimes with silence.
When I moved to Seattle I weighed 260 pounds. Because I walk so much (and lead a pretty active life here) I now hover between 175 and 190 depending on the the time of year. And I’m fucking strong. I run several times a week and I’m training for my first triathlon. But I’m still fat. And I’m good with that.
I never started walking places to lose weight. I started walking because I like to walk and because it was a chance for me to have my time before and after a stressful day. It was a chance for me to explore the city and see it in a way that people driving past wouldn’t ever be able to. Walking became a lot more than just my time though. It’s how I started writing again. Being in my head with time just for me to talk out an idea, or listen to character voices jump-started my imagination after a few years of feeling lost.
So, why not walk?
According to a number of men who seem to come crawling out of their hidey hole around this time of year here’s why:
- I’m a woman.
- I’m fat.
- I’m sexy.
- I’m a cunt.
- I need a man.
- I’m walking.
- I’m walking with another woman.
- I have tits.
Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.
That’s my automatic response of self-preservation. Just keep walking. Don’t react. Don’t turn to look at them. Don’t stop. I’m a hot head in certain situations. I work customer service so I’ve got it pretty well under control, but in the heat of the moment if I don’t count to 10, I will say or do something that will escalate a situation. And when you’re a woman who walks home alone at night, you learn not to escalate. Because whoever is yelling at you from their weapon (a car is a weapon) could decide to hit you with it. Or could chase you. Or could jump out and run after you at the next stop light. So I keep walking.
Being a woman (cis, trans, or otherwise) means that you grow accustomed to men and sometimes women, commenting about your body on a regular basis without provocation. When I run, there’s the occasional man that feels it’s his duty to tell me, “You go, honey. You’re gonna lose that weight!” as if that’s why I’m running, to fit in with what the expectation of what a woman should look like and be. I’m a good fatty. I run. I’m trying to be thin.
A man once came up to me on the street just to tell me that I was too fat for the dress that I was wearing. Thanks, arbiter of my fashion fat. I couldn’t do it without you.
A huddle of male teens asked me to suck them off as I walked past them after 9 pm. They made it clear that they didn’t want to fuck me. I was too fat for that. But oral sex would be all right. They were doing me a favor, you see.
Again. I don’t escalate. I don’t acknowledge. I’m not saying this is the right way to deal with these situations. I’m saying it’s how I deal with them. I’ve tried others. But there’s no reasoning with stupid. And there’s also a greater risk of escalating a situation when you engage it. Being a woman means that I already feel unsafe 50% of the time. And when I’m alone, I don’t need to feel even more unsafe just to make a point. No matter how much I want to say, “Fuck off” or “You know someone has said the same thing to your mama, right?” I just keep walking or running past because saying the greatest, most eloquent, feminist statement is not worth dying for, right?
So, I do what I believe most of the women I know do – try to talk about it. Share it with people after it happened. Let them know that it happened. That it keeps happening. But then, I’m met the resounding, “Not all men are like that, you know.” (Seriously, do you want a cookie for not being a douche?) Or, “Walking by yourself is dangerous.”
I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not feeling like I can say anything to the jerks* that yell at me. Like I can’t react. And that I can’t even share that this experience happens daily with supposed allies. Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is – misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullshit behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.
I want to share these stories. I want to know when it happens to other women, my friends, and colleagues. And I want the men and women in my life to know that it happens, too. It’s not isolated. And even if not all men are like that, it sure happens a helluva a lot, so maybe start being on the lookout for it. Be an actual ally in this instead of just saying that you aren’t like that, but what I do is dangerous. That being out past 9 is dangerous. That helps no one, least of all the women who have to be out past 9, or the women who should go out past 9 because it’s a fucking right to be out whenever the fuck we want to be.
Me walking home at night or in the day time (harassment isn’t just a nighttime activity) is as safe as you driving your car home, by which I mean, it’s inherently dangerous. Everything has risks. But walking while fat and female – that’s apparently the riskiest of all, dude.
*In a previous version, this was “fucktard.” A number of people reached out to me to tell me that they found that to be offensive to those with an intellectual disability. I did not intend to use language that was insulting. However, intentions don’t matter. I respect that it was offensive and have removed the word from this post. I hope I will be able to remove it from the posts that have now circulated the internet, though I likely won’t be able to edit them all. Thank you.