Monday, 22 July 2013

Why are men so frightened of lone female runners?

Yesterday evening, about 7pm in full daylight, I was jogging home from the Birley Centre. Two car drivers slowed to blast their car horns as they passed while their passengers screamed insults. This was followed by fading hysterical laughter as I jumped with surprise and they sped away. This is a depressingly regular occurrence. Most of my runs will be punctuated at least once and it’s wearying to say the least. The highly original shout of ‘Run, Forrest!’ is most common, but I also get personal attacks. I know I’ve got a ‘fat arse’. I’m running to get rid of it. I’m definitely not ‘too old for that' or 'darling’ and what the hell has it got to do with them anyway? Talking to other runners gets resigned agreement and shrugs of ‘what can you do’. As anti-social behaviours go, this one apparently has to be accepted but I don’t understand why it happens in the first place.

The beepers obviously feel threatened in some way or they wouldn’t feel the need to lash out but what is it about an overweight, middle-aged woman jogging that inspires the blare of car or van horns and yelling? Why not just ignore her?

It only seems to happen when there are two or more males travelling together, presumably egging each other on for ‘courage’, and they must have a vehicle so they can speed away safely before I can react. There’s never the risk that I might catch up with a beeper. I was once yelled at by a group of teenagers on bicycles, but again all males and able to make their escape quickly had I fired back. This is why I believe the essential motivation is fear. Other people walking, in their gardens or even sitting outside the pub might swap nods and smiles or comment on the weather but they don’t lob insults! Other runners, who simply by doing the same exercise are far better qualified to critique me, never do.
Other criteria: 1) I must be alone or maybe with one other female runner. I don’t remember it ever happening when I’m near a male runner. Perhaps I’m mistaking ‘safety in numbers’ and it does happen to lone male runners too - let me know! – but it seems that appearing to be ‘chaperoned’ keeps the beepers quiet. 2) The vast majority of beepers are young or middle-aged. I could understand if it was purely older men, brought up in more bigoted times, but that argument isn’t true.

Is it my apparent independence that is so threatening – some throwback belief that women shouldn’t be out alone?
Is it simply that I’m exercising and they don’t so I should be knocked back – guilt on the beepers part for their laziness? But I don’t get beeped when I’m walking and that’s exercise too.
Is it the admittedly slightly ridiculous sight of an unfit person jogging that tips beepers over the edge? Do fit runners get the same abuse?

Seriously, what is the point?

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