Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pissing me off


Sign found at the trail-head of one of my
favourite trails.
There aren’t many things in this world that Piss me off.  At most you may get the sense of mild irritation from me, but as far as stuff that actually makes me angry, well, they are pretty few and far between.
As I came off a walk on a local trail the other day.  I saw something that really pissed me off.  It was this sign

The trail I had come off is one of my hidden favourites.  It generally is quiet and although it’s really only a short trail and not technical, I loved the fact that here I was off the beaten track, but still relatively safe.

The unfortunate situation we have here in Vancouver is the regular attacks on women on trails.  I am sure that it’s possibly the same in every city, but perhaps it’s the fact that Vancouver is portrayed as generally a safe city to be around, these attacks always come as a shock.  However, at least once a year, there is usually a murder on one of the many trails around here; the victim is always a woman.  Last year, the murder happened to be on one of the trails I was running with a friend in Burnaby.  The year before the murder happened to be at UBC.

I am not an overly cautious woman.  I don’t jump at my shadows or feel scared to venture out of the house.  I lived in South-East London during college and the area I frequented wasn’t necessarily the safest place on the planet.  I prided myself that I was always super-aware of where I was, aware of the nearest safest places I could run to and that I could handle myself if needs be.  In an very urban environment, it’s easy to get help, you are never more than a shout away from another human being - saying that attacks happen there more frequently. I judged the risks and I carried on.

The same in running trails.  I am aware that when I am out in the wilderness; that the likelihood of someone coming to help me if I get into trouble are very small.  However, attacks although publicised are not necessarily that common compared to an urban area.  Despite all of this, I have to admit, I am usually more concerned about a Bear encounter, than an attack by another human being.  I still run alone on the trails and I glory in the fact that this is my way to escape from the normal life.  I wouldn’t swap that for anything.  I still felt relatively safe. 

I am also well aware that I am only 5’2” and a 110(ish) lbs.  If I did get attacked, my only means really of protecting myself is running to the nearest safest area.  This is why I chose trails that are either more populated, or are small and have good access to roads/houses/anything with people on it.  If I run unknown trails or those that are not frequently trafficked, then I run with others.  I hate to do it; but I accept it.

Would I have felt different if I was a man?  The thing is that if I was a 5’2” man weighing a 110lb’s, then I still would be incapable of fighting off a stronger, heavier adversary.  Gender in that respect has nothing to do with it.

So when I saw this sign, I got angry. Angry on so many different levels.  I was angry that someone felt they could upset and frighten another human being.  I felt angry that one of the few places that I felt safe to run by myself was taken away. I was angry that this petty little man had felt that he had a right to do this. I was angry that his actions had made me consider altering my own in a way I didn’t like.  I was angry that I felt smaller because, perhaps, he in fact, thought he was insignificant.

Unfortunately what gender does have to do with, is that women are still seen by a section of men as an object and that they can do with what they want, when they want.  That unprovoked attacks like this, are more likely to be men against women, not the other way around.  That if I was attacked “some” sections of society would claim it would be “MY” fault because I was acting in a manner that was not appropriate - I wasn’t in the stereotypical place of the home with kids.  

I get angry that even in our supposedly enlightened age and society, women are still counted as second place to the rest of population. Wages, jobs, perception - even after all this time we are not counted as equals.

I suppose in some respects I am just as angry at myself because by typing this I am allowing this “unknown, middle-aged” man to upset me this much. I am blaming him for making me feel this vulnerable.  I feel cheated that I am having to alter my actions.  I am angry at myself because I feel like a potential statistic for enjoying a sport, which I enjoy doing alone.

A couple of days later I went back onto the same trail.  I am trying to do a little photography and this trail is beautiful.  As I walked towards the trail-head an elderly lady stopped me and in her faltering English, warned me not to go on the trail. As she put it “There is a bad man”.  I comforted her that I was only going a little way onto the trail. During that one hour I was there, I met a few people walking their dogs.  Each time I was always a little wary when a solitary man went past.  However, you could see it in the faces of the people that passed me, each man was thinking, “I hope she doesn’t think it was me!”  I then began to realise that it wasn’t just the woman who frequent the trail that had something taken away from them. The men had too.  The men were having to be just as guarded and they had in a way, altered their behaviour because of the actions of one man.

It’s safe to say that during that hour I spent on the trail I wasn’t accosted or molested and in some ways that made me feel stronger in reclaiming my trail back.  Doesn’t stop the fact that despite my determination to run there regardless that for the fore-seeable future, the actions of one man has altered the behaviour of everyone who frequents the trail. That he has made the world a scarier place for everyone.

And that really Pisses me off.

2 comments:

  1. Wow that is horrible! I'm sitting here getting angry right with you!!!!!!!

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  2. Kate, it's an outrage. I appreciate so much of what you wrote, but it was particularly interesting that you saw the impact on other men. Violence impacts everyone. ~Caity

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