Most of the time when I go out barefoot I will get a comment (fair enough, it is a bit odd). Today I got two, and I noticed for the first time that they represent a kind of sexism. Not because of what the commenters do or say, but because of who they are.
Today I got “Yo! Do you know what year it is?” It was well-meant and delivered with a laugh. I thought it was quite good and certainly have not had its ilk before. The second wasn’t quite so pleasant. I was running along a path and another walking-runner approached me in the opposite direction. As I smiled a nod, he didn’t return it. Instead, he coughed a short sneer and looked away shaking his head with such vigour that it could have been seen from the back of the dress circle. I caught myself thinking, “Yes, but at least one of us is running.” This thought was quickly rinsed with the relief that he hadn’t seen me tightroping in pain across some gravelly road. So here is a completely unscientific breakdown of the people that make comments:
Teenage boy: 0%
Teenage boys: 0%
Teenage girl: 0%
Teenage girls: 5%
Older men: 10% (usually quite witty)
Older women: 1%
Women 20-50: 0%
Men 20-50: like, 85% (I said ‘completely unscientific’).
It’s not that men say a lot, but that adult women say NOTHING. In years of running, I’ve not had one comment. Men feel entitled to share their wit or disdain publicly. The walking-runner (for pete’s sake) felt the need for me to know that he was looking down on me. He wanted to put me in my place in some social order that he found very important, and likely placed himself near the apex of. While I don’t find the teenage girls’ comments particularly pleasant, their diminuendo is a sad reminder of the fact that as they get a little older, that energy will be quietened, attenuated into a submissiveness that is more socially digestible. I am not a victim of everyday sexism, but it is there, operating all around me.