“She’s asking for it.” The statement was boldly exclaimed during a Trail Sisters presentation where the issue of safety was being covered, nonetheless. There we were in a safe space where women were given the platform of opportunity to openly discuss the impact of sisterhood in sport. To discuss the issues and challenges that are unique to being a woman on the trail. When the topic of using headphones on the trail was being talked about, there was a gentleman in the crowd who felt the need to inject his opinion. His opinion was this: If a woman chooses to rock out to her favorite jams while she hits the trail she becomes unaware of her surroundings and therefore, in his bold words, “She’s asking for it.” The comment came flying out of left field in a room full of strong, educated, and fierce women, whose heads had just swiveled 180 degrees to see the man’s face who made the remark. In the moment I did what most of us do. I dismissed the comment with a head shake, and chalked it up to the unfortunate ignorance that puts women at risk. I’ve seen plenty of guys rocking out to music as they cruise trail. Are they asking for the same “it,” his remark implied? My guess is no. Weeks later I’ve found myself in a total funk as I reflect in the ignorance behind those words.
When I was eleven years old I was sexually assaulted by my parents marriage counselor. By a man who was smart, educated, trusted by many, and knew exactly what he was doing when he took advantage of a situation. Was I “asking for it,” the night he came knocking on our door, and I let him in because I trusted him? After years spent healing from the trauma of a situation like this, am I really “asking for it,” on the days where I need music to help me escape haunting thoughts while I run? Better yet, are we asking for it when we’re running through cat calls on our way to the trail head? How about when it’s 90 degrees outside and we’d rather run in a sports bra? We MUST be asking for it then, right? Is it really fair that I’m constantly being advised to run with pepper spray? To not run in the woods after dark? To not run alone? No. No, it’s not even a little fair.
The beauty in this lack of fairness is that we get to choose freedom over fear. The beauty stands in the growing numbers of women competing in trail sports. The beauty stands in the strength of women uniting together to raise their voices to say enough is enough, and yes, you better believe we’re asking for it! We’re asking for equality, we’re asking for recognition, we’re asking awareness, and you know something? We’re getting it! With relentless determination we’ll continue to pursue what we love. We’ll continue to hit the trails in the face of the vulnerability as women. We’ll continue to rock out to Prince and Madonna while wearing whatever the hell we want. We’ll continue to uphold the camaraderie of sisterhood in sport, and we’ll most definitely continue kicking ass and taking names… because we can! Because now more than ever, we are empowered to do so.
I was molested several times in my youth. We need to push back this rape culture in which the woman is responsible for a man’s bad behavior. Keep up the good work!
Ellen, your support to the Trail Sisters means more than you know. Word of mouth is a powerful tool in spreading positive seeds for change. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The timing of this story could not be better in light of our nations recent election results. If all women stood up, the conversation would be finished. Trail sisters, your discussion deserves a larger platform. Jennifer, your story will be an inspiration for many to speak up, out and join your group for change now!
You are tough resilient and kind, in my experience of you, Keep on runnin, keep on writin.
You rock Michael. Trail misters supporting trail sisters is equally important!
Thank you. You have eloquently described my thoughts and frustrations. Rock on, woman!
Now more than ever, be the voice. Don’t just let your thoughts remain thoughts. Be a powerful force for change with your voice! Thank you Rosie!!
Thank you for bringing up what I have often thought and giving it a voice. We won’t back down. We won’t hide. We have fought too long and too hard to be where we are today.
I love u so much sis keep it up
yes! Here on the east coast the disappearance of 2 female trail runners this summer/fall brought this topic to the news feeds. I said loudly wherever I could that no, the woman runner shouldn’t have to find a friend / run during broad daylight / run in places considered safe (whatever those are.) The woman runner shouldn’t be questioned (in her absence or to her face) as to why she would do that. The question should be why we as a society still suffer with violence against women. We should be able to be alone. We should be able to listen to music. We should be able to go to remote places without fear and certainly without criticism.