During my runs, I’ve come to expect remarks from men I don’t know:
“You must be on the track team.”
“Bet you want some of this sandwich.”
Compared with more suggestive catcalls and comments, these three from last week seem merely annoying. But anytime a guy decides to yell at me, I can’t help feeling a familiar, gnawing shame.
In those moments, when my cheeks burn and my stomach twists, I do not wonder what Jesus would do. Instead I imagine some kind of expletive-filled sentence I wish I could yell back.
Last year, nearly two-thirds of women nationwide said they have encountered “unwanted comments, gestures, or actions” from a stranger in public, according to the organization Stop Street Harassment. I can ask almost every young woman I know—my roommates, sister, female classmates, and coworkers—and hear similar stories of inappropriate remarks. It’s so common that we have come to expect, and almost accept, that men will shout at us.
Especially in recent years, activist groups and campaigns have launched a movement against street harassment as a form of gender-based violence—urging communities to raise awareness and take action against it. But when it’s someone hollering at me on as I jog along the sidewalk, this issue gets intensely personal. It feels like I have to do something to respond, and my instinctual response is anger.
I know I shouldn’t let that anger overwhelm me. After all, Jesus preached a gospel of peace and reconciliation. Matthew records his harsh words for those who looked on others with contempt; in terms of those who would be “subject to judgment,” Jesus expanded ...1
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