personal, Wellbeing
Comments 42

Damn you, solo beach walker

Beach walking for wellbeing over 50 in Australia

Beach walking makes me happy #wellbeing #australia #over50 #beach @boneAndsilver

I’m pretty lucky here in Australia: I live less than 10 minutes from a beautiful long beach, and walk and/or jog down it at least twice a week. This morning was no different, although the stormy sky was threatening rain, so there were a lot less people than usual.

I power walked along– away from the break wall with its dots of fishing folk and pram pushers avoiding the sand- watching for the spouting of migrating whales, listening to great music, and enjoying feeling stronger and energetic again after surviving my week on refugee rations.

I passed a few dog walkers, who have to turn back after 500 metres, to protect nesting birds.; I challenged myself to run as fast as I could for 30 seconds, and felt the push and stretch of my muscles. I smiled at the rolling waves, the odd seagull, the wind whipping my hair under my woollen hat and hoodie.

It felt good to be alive, and I didn’t want to stop walking.

Beach walking for wellbeing over 50 in Australia

Beach walking makes me happy #wellbeing #australia #over50 #beach @boneAndsilver

Then I saw a lone figure further down, coming towards me, but still a long way away. I looked back in the direction I’d come, and realised there was quite a distance now between me and the restricted dog walkers, and even further still to the break wall.

I kept walking forwards though, until I could make out that the distant shape belonged to a man.

And then I stopped. I had to. Through grinding teeth, I let out a pissed off sigh, and admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go any further, because I simply didn’t feel safe.

On June 13 in Melbourne, a 22-year old comedian called Eurydice Dixon was murdered while walking home from a gig late at night. There were comments that she ‘…should have been more careful/shouldn’t have been walking alone/shouldn’t have been on her phone…’

NO. No, no, no no!

She had a right to be safe, and to move as she wished through her world. Over the next few days, hundreds of women shared how they modified their behaviour to protect themselves (in supermarkets, carparks, beaches, nightclubs, schoolyards, pubs, parks in broad daylight, and of course even the family home…) and yes, I do it as well.

I just wanted to keep running and snapping silly selfies, all fired up listening to the Arctic Monkeys on my headphones… but because of you, damn solo beach walking unidentified male, I stopped myself.

How many times do we do this, women readers? And how many times do you men modify your movements to actively reassure us? To acknowledge the unspoken, unwitting threat you represent, and to defuse it?

How I wish this post didn’t exist. But sadly, for all of us- male/female/non-binary/fluid/whatever- it does.

And we are ALL trapped in the jaws of violence against women.

 

42 Comments

  1. As a middle aged man I am used to being viewed as a potential threat even though I am an extremely gentle person.
    If I find myself behind a womsn on the secluded path to the supermarket I turn round and go the long way round.
    Once on a busy bus a woman told her little daughter off, very loudly, for sitting next to me.
    I decided a long time ago that if I see a lone woman or child in obvious distress I will no longer approach to help. It is just too risky even though it goes against my instincts.
    Yes. We are all trapped in this. Those of us men with a more sensitive disposition do modify our behavioyr to seem less of a threat. But I am not at all happy about feeling I must.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Bless you Arty- I know there are so many wonderful and soft men who feel exactly as you do, including my beloved ‘brothers’ and male friends- thank you so much for holding this horrible awareness, and doing what you can. My son told me he was cycling home late one night and came across an obviously drunk woman walking home- he wanted to offer to escort her safely, but saw that she was immediately terrified of him- he was so upset- we all suffer hey? Thank you so much for commenting, and being the good man you clearly are ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I hear you, G! Safety is such a huge thing. I’ve only had one scary moment in my life, but it’s enough to make me overly cautious now of the opposite gender, and it wasn’t even that “threatening” it just was an overly-insistent male wanting my phone number and not taking no for an answer. But even from a mid-teen, I was taught to protect myself when out alone, little tricks like pretending to be on the phone, or actually calling someone, or walking with my keys between my fingers late at night. It’s such a shame and a horrible reflection on society that its necessary. I’m glad you kept yourself safe but I would have been much happier for you to have been able to continue on your run and enjoying your morning along the beach!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, absolutely. I’ve been so ‘lucky’ to have had minimal dangerous encounters, but pretty much every other woman I know has a similar slightly scary story… we need to ensure we raise the boys in our care and our families differently! Thank you for commenting T, and yes, please stay safe while at the same time trying not to let one stupid pushy man spoil your adventures in the world xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think writing like yours might make a differnece. As a young person I never thought about how the guy should consider how we feel and move. It wasn’t a way we discussed these issues. Things are changing. Will it be enough?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you for that compliment- yes, every voice helps make a difference- it will change soon- all around me I see big shifts in female power and male acknowledgement and understanding- we’ll get there eventually- there will always be the rogue bad guy of course, but I do believe (or hope) that the huge imbalance of power supported by the patriarchy will crumble… eventually… if only because Mama Earth can’t support it anymore 🙏🏼

          Liked by 2 people

  3. So true. I walk in a park every day and always do so in a little trepidation which I hate but it’s just omnipresent. Men rarely understand how this is because women don’t tend typically to post that risk. I’d love it to not be that way. I’m always surprised at how many freaks are out there, predators.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It’s that low-level ‘danger’ alert that I HATE feeling all the time- men have no idea- I know they also feel unsafe sometimes, of course, but for women it’s a DAILY experience. I’m so over it! Thank you for sharing your experience x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S_MW says

    Oh God, I had an almost identical experience to this, except I ignored the hinky feeling and…well mine is a very long story and this is YOURS.

    I agree that no woman should feel afraid. It’s not fair and it’s definitely not right…but, I expect there would be evidence of men experiencing intimidation too…even if it’s not on the same scale. Not all guys are douchey. This is an issue that I could write on and on about. I’ve had one terrifying experience (the long story I alluded to) and a load of other smaller scale ones. I may write out about them too, if you don’t mind?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry to hear your run was upset this way! I agree with S-MW, that men can feel a level of threat from the approach of another lone male (or worse a group of men) in certain circumstances . It isn’t just females who are cautious and who need to be cautious. Having said that, I don’t think I would’ve changed my behaviour on a beach in daylight. I’ve been in more than one terrifying situation with a threatening male and in those situations the men were known to me through mutual friends and the incidents occurred either in someone’s home or in a crowded public place. Only once did I feel threatened by a stranger and again, that was in a crowded public space. Although we try to control and sanitise the world, it is an inherently dangerous place and no matter what we do to “protect” ourselves, if someone wants to do something dreadful, they will find a way to do it. We just need to get on with life the way Eurydice did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is so true.
        I don’t know why I turned back- I think I just felt extra vulnerable because of Eurydice- I’ve very rarely been in a dodgy situation, & hope I never am. Perhaps one benefit of ageing & having silver hair now??
        I would say I do grab at my life happily with both hands, & go out a lot by myself at night too… I just had to honour my softness that day, & became so aware of how much ‘toughness’ we women need to project so often…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh shit honey- I’ve been dreading someone saying ‘I had the same feeling but I ignored it… & something bad happened’.

      Of course not all guys are bad… but the statistics are that in Australia, 99% of violent crimes reported are men vs women (& of course maybe men don’t report so much, but WHATEVER, it’s still waaaaay too many women hurt & killed & living in fear)

      Write whatever you need to- I can reblog from your blog post if you like, as a response to mine? Take care honey- so many men are truly wonderful… I love the men in my life, esp my son of course ❤
      Thank you for commenting xx

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  5. It’s a lifetime of this, right? I grew up as a wild child, running through the hills of Northern California. Being alone in nature was nothing to fear–it was my birthright! There was only one thing to fear: deer hunters, rowdy men, and lone men or teens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. Exactly. And nowadays even more so: those dangerous men are online, pretending to be who they aren’t. I remember running wild in the woods as a kid; nowadays I definitely keep one eye open for ‘danger’… 😥

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  6. This is exactly the reason I usually work out in the gym. I agree with everyone else that it is so sad we have to feel this way. I look at everyone straight in the face when I am outside walking “just in case”. I also turn down or off my headphones when I pass someone so I can hear them walking away.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A couple of scary encounters that spring to mind; one happened in the middle of the day and one happened at night in a busy area. Luckily I had my wits about me and got myself safely away. I agree that we shouldn’t have to modify our behaviour. I had this very conversation with my partner the other night. He doesn’t think about walking home at night the same way I do, i.e. I don’t do it! After some high profile kidnap/rape cases in my teens, the lesson was drummed in regarding personal safety. And I know that there is a risk of that falling into a ‘victim shaming’ rhetoric, but I’d rather do what I can for myself to not be a victim in the first place. Same reason I lock my doors at night. Everyone should feel safe in their personal or home environment but there is shit in the world. I think most men would be quite shocked if they knew the levels of behaviour modification we go to, and maybe wouldn’t even realise that them walking behind us in the street could feel threatening. We shouldn’t need to modify and neither should they. Except the ones that have caused this. They can fuck right off. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, women learn at a very (too) early age of the need to protect ourselves, which makes us feel far too vulnerable. I don’t honestly know what the answer is. I don’t believe that most men quite understand how this feels, but that might just be me being sexist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, most men had no idea! The #metoo campaign had a huge effect on men who didn’t realize so many women shared stories of assault; there is (at last) a big dialogue between men, wanting to know how they can change the toxic, dangerous male culture, and this is what will make a change. There are millions of good men out there, who have the power to make the world a better place- it’s quite exciting really 🙏🏼🙏🏼

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Good on you for trusting your instincts. It’s a bugger that it happened, but you did what you had to. There will be another time, there always is, 😦 and you may or may not choose differently … gotta choose your battles. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true. In the grand scheme of my life, it wasn’t a big deal really… and yet, then again, I’ve done that kind of ‘safety modification’ SO MANY TIMES, it’s all adding up to too damn much! 😡

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodness yes. I can’t stand those computer games so many teenage boys play where they’re shooting people; it’s normalizing violence for a whole new generation. Gotta keep up the resistance!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There is a south African author, Sisonke Msimang. She once wrote about crossing the road every time she sees white men walking towards her. I was a bit harsh when I read the article, thinking – we all have moments where we stop walking or don’t walk because – men.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve been there, walking through Southbank late at night by myself to get home. I’ve slipped down the dimly lit streets, I’ve made the poor decision not to take the public transport or the taxi because I couldn’t afford it. I’ve had friends who have been raped and murdered. But they were raped and murdered by men they knew. Men they felt they could trust.

    Everytime I hear another woman has been raped/murdered/abused – I wonder if this will be the one that creates the momentum for significant societal change. How many more will have to die before it changes?

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  12. “She had a right to be safe, and to move as she wished through her world.” And yet, I carry jogger mace on the heavily populated trail near my house, and move to the other side of the street if I am alone and a group of men are coming. As much as things improve, it constantly feels like two steps back. When I used to work second shift, I would run on the campus of the hospital I worked at because it was much cooler at night during the peak of summer. It was well light, for the most part, Security drives around, and the campus is in a relatively “safe” neighborhood. It was safer than running after dark in my own relatively “safe” sleepy hamlet of a town. And still, co-workers expressed their concerns that I shouldn’t be engaging is such “risky behavior”, something they would never say to a male co-worker. Because if something happens, it’s my fault for being a woman deigning to be out after dark. It is infuriating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you so deeply, and I feel your fear and frustration in my bones. Thank you for running nevertheless, and being brave and honest x 💪🏼❤

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  13. So true. I often think back to when I was much younger and hadn’t lost that innocence yet. It didn’t even cross my mind to be afraid or aware of my surroundings. I enjoy walking outside especially when I’m alone. It kills me to think if something happened to me, people would say I wasn’t being careful, somehow implying it’s my fault. Insane!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally insane. Thank you for adding your clear voice to the essential discussions we need to keep initiating 💪🏼💪🏼🙏🏼 G

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