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by Courtney Meaker

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:

  1. I’m a woman.
  2. I’m fat.
  3. I’m sexy.
  4. I’m a cunt.
  5. I need a man.
  6. I’m walking.
  7. I’m walking with another woman.
  8. 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 fucktards 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.

 

 

headshotCourtney Meaker is a playwright (with some directing and dramaturgy skills thrown in) in Seattle, WA. Her play Buckshot premiered with Macha Monkey Productions in 2013, directed by Peggy Gannon. Her other plays include Chaos Theory (Annex Theatre, dir. Pamala Mijatov, 2014) and Apocalypse Soon (Ghost Light Theatricals Battle of the Bards, 2012). A smattering of her 10 minute plays have been produced at Spin the Bottle at Annex Theatre and SnowGlobed with Playing in Progress. Additionally, she’s written in 14/48 The Worlds Quickest Theatre Festival. She’s the co-writer on the second season of the locally produced, award-winning webseries WRECKED (Honey Toad Studios). (Full resume here.)

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Creative Writing from Knox College and was awarded the Linda Elizabeth Karger Award for “demonstrated exceptional theatre ability.” She was a Theatre Contributor for TheSunbreak.com from the summer 2012 until it’s hiatus/hibernation in 2013.

She’s currently the Marketing Director for Macha Monkey Productions and the Artist Relations and Education Coordinator for UW World Series, among other things. She also works at many different theatres as a house manager including Seattle Shakespeare Company, Cornish Playhouse, and Intiman Theatre Festival.

 

This piece was originally posted to Courtney’s blog and can be accessed here.

 

Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

Courtney Meaker
About Courtney Meaker

4 Comments

  • Donna Barnes
    7:05 PM - 15 May, 2014

    Courtney,

    You are so right. I support you 1000 per cent. Until people recognize the risks being female takes, then women become the victim with now rights to be out alone after 9 pm, or wear that dress, or have drinks without it being an invitation to be harassed, hit on, etc.
    I admire your courage and support you.
    Thanks for speaking out. And I like your writing style. Keep writing.

    Donna

  • Mindy
    6:23 AM - 16 May, 2014

    Thanks for this post. This is so important to share and write about.

    I walk and run a lot as well. But I am not in the city. I have always wondered the motivation for yelling out the car window, or stopping to try to talk to me. I used to run out in the country, but encountering a group of stupid, young guys together in a truck can be terrifying. I sometimes carry mace.

    Also, interestingly, my weight has fluctuated greatly over the past five years since I have had two children in that time. My experience is that when I am thin, the content of the comments may change, but the tone and intent does not. Instead of being fat, I can be ugly or stupid. Also, I have gotten few guys who just scream nothing. They just scream. To scare me.

    It’s an act of power and aggression to someone they in a weaker position who can’t do anything about it. You are completely right that it is tied to a rape culture. They make you feel small, helpless, and violated, then leave. It makes them feel big. I imagine people in wheelchairs, people who are sight-impaired, people who are minorities, homeless people, hear this or worse all the time as well. I agree with you whole-heartedly. It’s not okay and it needs to change.

    Thank you for this post. Please, let’s keep talking about this and teaching our young men that this attitude and these actions toward women(or to anyone in a position of less power) are not okay. They are disgusting, hateful, and scary.

  • Marina
    10:18 AM - 20 May, 2014

    Excellent points, all. I relate to this, and even notice the same behavior happening in really young boys- like elementary aged boys- who think its okay to yell things at grown women on the road. It’s a pervasive sickness, this behavior and its apparent acceptance. Like you, i oftne have to keep silent, or my own actions will truly make the situation escalate.
    Mindy, you also wrote about this brilliantly in your comment.
    At this point in time, I suppose the only plausible solution is to keep on keeping on- not to let them take away your activities or freedoms. Thank you for speaking out about this, I don’t think you should ever stop. It should be an international conversation.

  • Carol
    8:03 PM - 24 May, 2014

    Thanks for posting your story, Courtney. I read it aloud to my other half at dinner…he was amazed that people would make comments like you described. “Where have I been that I’ve never heard such comments being made?” he pondered. Well, I don’t get comments like that walking next to a burly guy….burly guys don’t get comments like that… But I have received my fair share of unwelcome remarks when walking alone. He is now enlightened. Will he choose to be silent if he observes such unwelcome behavior happening to someone else? I’m betting not.

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