You know what sucks about human psychology? We're hardwired to be scared, lonely, ableist, and jealous. Happiness and contentment feel good -- but from an evolutionary perspective, they're worthless.
Meanwhile, people who felt scared avoided dangerous activities. People who felt jealous were less likely to raise offspring that weren't theirs. People who were never satisfied with what they had hoarded resources that kept them alive during droughts and famines. People who gossiped knew whom to trust and whom to avoid.
Evolutionarily, fear is an extremely important emotion... but in the modern world, it's often maladaptive. For example, people's obsession with the idea that women should never run/travel/leave the house alone, because if they do, they'll totally get raped and murdered.
The reality is: No. They won't.
Yeah, Mollie Tibbetts is dead. That is a tremendous tragegy. But... the reason the story has received so much national attention is because it is so uncommon for women to be kidnapped and murdered while jogging.
Statistically, it just doesn't happen.
Just like kids don't get kidnapped walking around their neighborhoods alone. As I wrote in Kids' Games Are Getting More Dangerous, And It's Entirely Their Parents' Fault:
According to Stephen Dubner, author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Secret Side of Everything, getting in a car is one of the most dangerous things we do. And yet, if the only thing you did, all day, every day, was drive your car, and the only thing that could possibly kill you was a car accident... you would be driving for an average of 250 years before anything happened.
If you really want to help women, be wise. Instead of posting worthless and fear-mongering advice about how to "stay safe" while jogging (#1 always being, "Ladies! Please don't jog alone!")... do some research.
You'll quickly learn that, statistically, if a woman is going to be raped or murdered, it's going to be by someone she knows and trusts, not some stranger who saw her jogging.
Instead of telling women it's impossible for them to live normal lives where they are free to run, travel, live, and move as they please...
Let's invest in programs that teach them to communicate clearly and be assertive.
Obviously, such training wouldn't have helped Mollie Tibbetts. She clearly said no, and was attacked and overpowered as a result. There's a whole Tumblr called When Women Refuse that shares stories of violence inflicted on women who refuse sexual advances. We know that guns don't kill women -- male entitlement kills women.
But considering how many women will be hurt by men they know; how unlikely it is that a female jogger will be attacked by a man; and that it's the digital age, actively teaching these skills is more important than ever. As I wrote in Today's Women Feel Less Control Over Their Bodies Than Their Grandmas Did... Because of Smartphones:
Everyone knows that humans are born able to learn a language -- but not able to speak one. We learn how to speak by listening, observing, trying and failing.
Would such programs help girls and women feel safer while jogging?
But, at the very least, let's just stop telling women what helpless, endangered little victims they are.
First of all, when we quit constantly telling women everything they do is dangerous, women will be able to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
Second, having those skills and that confidence will reduce their odds of being intimidated or hurt.
I've read the numbers and the anecdotes. I know that somewhere over 50% of female runners have been harassed in some way. Many have reported doing things like changing their route or avoiding night runs due to their fears.
That sucks, that is unacceptable, and it is entirely the men's fault for behaving like subhuman animals who basically deserve to die.
But, like, if some guy started following me in his truck while I was jogging, I would glare straight into his eyes and say, "Why are you following me?" (One of my favorite life hacks: Don't say no. Ask why.) Or maybe, "Stop following me. I've already called the police."
But the thing is... I haven't really been harassed while running. To be fair, I don't run much anymore. It's more of a three-times-a-year kind of thing for me. Mountain biking (solo, or with friends) is much better.
But. I used to run a lot.
And I continue to backpack, travel, camp, and explore new cities and towns alone several months per year. In fact! My very first Happy Talent post EVER was Advantages of traveling while female, and it was pretty similar to this one.
Except instead of questioning why we want women to be afraid of running in their own neighborhoods, it questioned why people think women need male escorts to see the world.
The only man I need is that random stranger who held my GoPro while I swam with the whale sharks in Oslob.
And, like... sure. Bad things have happened. I had to pull a knife on a guy in a hostel once. I've had to yell at a handful of dudes to stop following me. I got spooked at a bus station in Jakarta a few months ago because the Grab and GoJek drivers I ordered wouldn't pick me up (one messaged that he wouldn't come because it was "too dangerous").
But mostly, everything has just been a blast!
And that's largely due to my mindset.
First of all, instead of having an, "OMG! Everyone's out to get me" attitude," I have an "I dare you to fuck with me" attitude. As I wrote in Dear Felicia Czochanski: You're Gorgeous, But You Don't Understand Street Harassment:
[Catcallers] want to go after easy targets. Just as muggers target people who look more distracted or vulnerable… so do street harassers single out women they think they can rattle...
(Yes, it helps that I'm much taller and stronger than the average woman. And man. My physical strength has defined a lot of my experience, but that's not the whole story.)
Second... perhaps because of how I was raised, or perhaps because of something else, I'm typically too involved in what I'm doing to care much what others think or say. As I wrote in Here's How One Pretty Woman Deals With The "Constant Stares and Compliments" From Men:
I spent five weeks in Panama and Costa Rica. When I first arrived, I noticed that people down there honk their horns a lot. I figured it had to do with narrow, windy roads -- people wanted to let pedestrians know they were coming, or even to get pedestrians to move over more. So much for "share the road," I remember thinking.
The post continues:
Who do you think will have a better experience in Costa Rica, or New York City, or just in life? The person who is constantly wondering if/why everyone is staring (or honking) at her... or the person who only realized the honks were directed at her four weeks later, when someone told her?
When I think about the carefree bliss I experience both during travel and while pursuing everyday miracles, like chasing the moon or naked night hiking in a local preserve...
I find it depressing and perplexing that everyone is so determined to make women feel scared.
From hanging "How to Give Yourself Breast Exams" posters in every bathroom and shower stall in every girl's bathroom on a boarding school campus (because high school girls should totally already be worried about breast cancer) to posting your "helpful" advice about why they should never leave the house without a man...
Women have enough to worry about without your condescending advice about their safety.
Plus, as Sally Satel and Christina Hoff Somers write in One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance, people rise (and fall) to meet the expectations you set for them. Do you want women to feel (and become) powerful and independent? Or do you want to frighten them back into the kitchen?
Mollie Tibbetts' death is a tragedy, and male entitlement is obviously a problem. But let's not let the shock, horror and media coverage distract us from the fact that it's extremely rare for women to get attacked while jogging, and there's no reason to let fear control your life.
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About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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