Violence against women is already on the increase.
The other day as I headed out of the gym after yoga class, I heard yelling behind me.
Not sure what was going on, I glanced behind me as surreptitiously as I could. If it was some dude catcalling me, I didn’t want to let on that I’d heard anything, but if someone was shouting a warning, I figured I should pay attention.
“Yeah, you! You’re a whore!” shouted a young man in a car idling at the light.
I quickly whipped my head around to look straight ahead, picking up my pace just a touch, pretending I hadn’t heard. But my heart sped up, too. I felt a little scared, and a little sick.
Normally, getting catcalled doesn’t bug me too much. The occasional “Hey, beautiful” feels more flattering than threatening; it doesn’t even bother me when men tell me to smile. But being called a whore is a different story. And what had he shouted first, that I hadn’t heard? What made me a whore, in his eyes? Was it because I was wearing workout clothes?!
It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, in the family neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, and I’m a 40 year-old mom. But even under those circumstances, being called a whore didn’t particularly surprise me. All of my middle-aged mom friends have these stories. It happens no matter what we’re wearing or where we are. As women, we are vulnerable to commentary or attack at any time. We get used to it, for the most part.
In the space of nine days this past July and August, three women were killed while they were out running. Ally Brueger, age 31, was shot by an unknown attacker and left to die on a stranger’s front lawn. Karina Vetrano, age 30, was raped and beaten to death in Queens. Her father went looking for her when she didn’t return from her run, and found her body lying facedown in the park. And 27 year-old Vanessa Marcotte’s body was found burned, possibly sexually assaulted, possibly strangled, in the woods in Massachusetts after she went for a run near her mother’s house one afternoon.
Violence against women is nothing new. But these killings scare me for another reason. It’s not just that they’re horrific and senseless and would scare anyone. It’s not just the fact that I’m a woman, and a runner, and a mother of daughters.
I can’t help thinking about these murders in the context of the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott, and Terence Crutcher. (And also Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice – the list goes on.) All of them were killed during the Obama administration. All of them were Black men – Black boys, some of them. And while Black men, like women, are frequent victims of violence, and police brutality in particular, it seems significant that the Black Lives Matter movement was born during the time that a Black man has been in office.
Is it really a coincidence?
I remember when Barack Obama was running for office, the way his detractors would swear up and down that the reason they didn’t like him had nothing to do with his race. And now we have Hillary Clinton running for president, looking likely to win, and people are once again swearing that their disdain for her isn’t due whatsoever to her gender.
In both cases, I call bullshit.
You can’t separate either of these candidates from their race, or their gender. People see them through a different lens – Obama, because he is Black, and Clinton, because she’s a woman. They are held to a different standard than a white man would be. They just are. Love them or hate them, you cannot honestly say that their race or gender have no bearing on your feelings for them.
I’m not a sociologist or a pundit of any kind, but it seems to me that after we elected a Black man as president, a lot of people were angry. It became open season on Black men, to the point where police officers are shooting them for no reason at all.
So what’s going to happen when we elect a woman president? A lot of people are going to be angry again. And who do you think they’ll take it out on? Ally Brueger, Karina Vetrano, and Vanessa Marcotte were all murdered violently, and seemingly randomly. None of their killers have been found. And I’m afraid this is just the beginning.
I love Hillary Clinton. I believe she’s very smart, extremely capable, has a good heart, and is well-prepared to be president. And yes, I also love her because she’s a woman. I fully expect her to be elected President of the United States on November 8th, and I will celebrate that historic event with my daughters.
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, too. I’m scared for her, and for my daughters, and for myself, and for all women.
In the meantime, my girlfriends and I don’t go running in the early morning anymore, or after dark. We try not to run alone at all if we can help it. We’re cautiously excited as we hope that the first woman president of the United States will take office next January – and and the same time, we are careful in a way that we haven’t been before.
If Hillary is elected, we’ll have to keep being careful.
Comment: Do you think there will be an increase in violence against women if Hillary Clinton is elected?