For the last eight months, I was blessed with the opportunity to work on a biological research station in Florida. Part of the charm of my job was that I lived in the middle of nowhere. Literally. When I wanted to exercise after work, I would go for long runs on 8,000 acres of privately owned nature preserve. The only living things I came across were raccoons and scrub jays. It was, in a word, fantastic.
So you can imagine the shock it was when I came back to Washington DC and tried to run in the central business district in the middle of the day. After fourteen unwelcome comments and nine additional uncomfortable stares (yes I was counting, what else was I supposed to do since I had forgotten my iPod?) I started composing a letter in my head of everything I’d like to say to the large number of people who apparently think women enjoy being shouted at by strangers.
Dear Gentlemen of DC,
I know there is plenty of material that has gone around the internet about street harassment already. There are hundreds of blog entries about it, several YouTube videos about how not cool it is, a website where you can submit your own letter to harassers, and whole organizations dedicated to calling out the practice. I know there is as little of a chance that you’ll read my letter as there was of you reading what has come before. Because if you had read any of what has been written about street harassment, if you had tried to understand, then I’d have no occasion to write this. But if we keep calling the practice out, maybe the message will reach more people, maybe this letter will find it’s way to the most unlikely candidates. So here are my thoughts.