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I need feminism because I dare to exercise in public

I want to use flowery language and proper story outlining for explaining my feelings today but I can’t. I want to express myself in a way that conveys that I am cool, calm, and collected, but I’m not. I want to provide easy-to-follow answers to the problems I have, but it’s not that simple. I’m upset. I’m pissed off. I feel so many things right now. I have so many words to express myself and none of them fit and all of them aren’t enough.

When I run or walk outside, when I work out in a gym, when I exercise in a room with windows to the street, I feel vulnerable.

I already feel vulnerable as a female existing in our society, but when you add onto that the circumstances of exercise, it all seems magnified.

When I exercise, I am vulnerable. I am becoming stronger but at the time I am breaking down my own defense. I am breathing heavy, red-faced, and covered in sweat. I feel exposed.

I mostly exercise in my own home because that is where I am comfortable. That is the only place where I can exist without judgement, and that is not okay.

I am not paranoid. I am realistic.

When I run in my neighborhood I am faced with street harassment 9 times out of 10. This is not exaggeration. This happens with or without a running partner, regardless of my running partner’s gender, although the problem is exacerbated if my running partner happens to be female.

Screams from car windows, honking horns, men at work cat-calling me.

I have a vagina and I have boobs and that makes too many men feel more powerful than me. Too many boys and men think that it’s acceptable to yell out their windows, to honk their horns, to cat-call women walking by. Just one is too many.

These advances make me feel othered. I feel less than. I feel even more vulnerable. I feel even more exposed. I feel helpless and hopeless.

Didn’t your mother teach you better? Didn’t your father teach you better? Didn’t anyone in your whole life ever tell you to be a better person than that?

Who are you to take away my feeling of safety and security?

When I walk by men after sunset, I move to the other side of the street. When groups of men or boys get on public transportation, I walk away. Do you know what it’s like to live in fear of the other half of the population? A fear that is, unfortunately, not unfounded.

I have been groped by boys in schools and men I couldn’t pinpoint in crowded locations. I have been called bitch, lesbian, bull-dyke, slut, whore, prude, cunt, and more. I have had sexual advances yelled at me from across classrooms and parking lots. I have been made to feel less than for my gender by strangers, family, coworkers, and bosses.

I don’t deserve it.

No one does.

I need feminism because the law states that men and women are equal but our society tells us otherwise.

I need feminism because there are boys and men in the world that feel they have a right to openly comment on my body.

I need feminism because there are people that believe that men and women are treated equally.

I need feminism because turning down a stranger’s advances shouldn’t lead to threats from that stranger.

I need feminism because I deserve better, my step-daughter deserves better, women deserve better.

I need feminism because whether I run in sweatpants or a sports bra or naked, I am not “asking for it.”

I need feminism because good, kind, caring men still don’t understand why I need feminism.

I need feminism because we teach girls how to not be victims but we don’t teach our boys how not to victimize.

I need feminism because I exercise in public.

Because I exist in public.

And existing in public shouldn’t make me afraid.

But it does.

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