In Ask the Trail Sisters

How do you handle cat calls or unwanted comments?

I’m not often the recipient of cat-calls. While small in stature, I have this look to my face that is off-putting to strangers. It ranges from “stand-offish” to “I will destroy everything you love,” depending on the need. Sometimes, I think silence speaks louder than words, and there is something quietly terrifying about a woman who stops what she is doing to stare you into the depths of hell. That being said, if you do experience this at a race (or organized run of any sort), you should let the RD know. In my experience, the men in my life don’t realize how prevalent of an issue this is. Help make them aware. Do so kindly, and with patience and grace. Remember, the RD is not the person who cat-called you, nor are they responsible for the actions of others. They do, however, need to be aware of any situation that makes a runner feel unsafe, unwelcome, or uncomfortable.

I’ll be honest, there have been times that I have yelled back or flipped people off. Now I tend to ignore it. I figure most of them are doing it to get a reaction, so why give them what they want? If they persist I might still resort to telling them off. And always keep safety in mind and be aware of your situation. I think most cat-callers are just idiots, but it doesn’t mean all of them are harmless.

One of the things I love about trails is that cat calls are not nearly as common as when I spin out miles on roads. I feel like these are less and less, and people are more respectful of runners, yet when it happens I am surprised people think it’s okay. If I don’t feel threatened by the call I typically don’t even acknowledge the person – I don’t want to give them any energy. If they caught me off guard and caused me to look or I feel threatened I will look them straight in the eye and let them know I see them and do not approve or appreciate their call. I avoid close confrontation and too many words. I stay confident in my posture and running for myself as well as to communicate I don’t have interest or time for their negative energy.

So, years ago, I used to just roll my eyes and try to ignore it, and NOW I address it straight on because it’s not right and completely unnecessary.  Just last month, I was out on a hot and humid run and had a man comment that my body type wasn’t quite “suited” for sports bra season. It caught me by total surprise and then what I called him in front of everyone right there, caught HIM by surprise! I tell those people to mind their own damn business because I don’t see them out running like I am. For some, confrontation might be too much and anxiety provoking, but to me, it’s standing up for myself. I am a strong and beautiful woman, not an object for unnecessary comments like that.

I guess I’m lucky to run off the beaten path enough to where I don’t have to deal with this. I remember days back when I was running on the road when this would happen though, and depending on my mood, I would do a couple different things: ignore it, say thank you, or tell them that they were number one-ish. Regardless, I always make a mental note in the situations of what the individual looks like what they’re wearing just because I’m a little over cautious like that. Stay safe and if you can, be a little selective on your routes.

Cat calls and unwanted comments from by-standers makes my stomach flip, my skin crawl, and my blood boil! GRRRR. I typically shoot them a dirty look and keep on moving. If I am feeling really sassy, I flip them the bird or yell back at them something like, “Oh, thank you!” or “Doesn’t look like you do much running yourself!” Obviously, safety first…

I don’t get a ton of this, maybe because of where I run, but when I do, it’s more from passing older men on the trail.  I’m pretty upfront.  If it’s something about my body, I’ll give a quick, “No thanks to that comment,” or “Hey, that’s inappropriate, I’m just out here using my body to run.”  A handful of times, I’ve had older guys say something to the extent of, “Hey, let us geezers WIN,” if I pass them on the trail.  Usually, I just laugh it off, but one morning it was just too much and I said,” I can’t, it’s my day to win!”  It’s our time, Sisters.  Claim it.

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