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Because males are much less likely to be victims of a random sexual or physical assault in public spaces than women are, they may not prove as sensitive to that potential as one might hope, as demonstrated—in the case of the Roanoke River Greenway—by the presence of public bathrooms without doors and locks.This is to say that leisure activity for women “is deeply gendered, both in terms of the spaces and places that young women occupy and their behavior within such spaces” (Green and Singleton 2006, 2).
Personally, I have chosen not to carry a weapon when I run, but this is not to say that I am not conscious of the potential risks of physical or psychological abuse I bear when I use the Roanoke Greenway.
Running, for me, as for many of the other female runners I know, is a therapeutic and self-esteem boosting activity. (2006) ‘Risky bodies at leisure: young women negotiating space and place’, , 40(5), pp.853-871.
Men engaged in such behaviors are often demonstrating “territorial harassment”—untoward comments ultimately predicated on a view that the public environment in question, whether a street, sidewalk, a subway or a park—is “distinctly male turf” in which, in this view, women do not have the right to act autonomously.
In these cases, as these males understand gender roles, women traveling to work or otherwise active in public spaces are outside of their “appropriate” home-sphere, and their goal (conscious or not) is “effectively to drive women back into their private sphere, where they may avoid such violations” (Thompson 1993, 323).
Moreover, Turner’s father publicly insinuated that the victim had placed herself in a dangerous scenario and contended that women should be more careful in the future to avoid such spaces.
These behaviors suggest that some people persist in judging women harshly for using public spaces and that social conventions concerning those norms continue in practice to restrict female freedom of movement and action and, thereby, their civil rights.
The message of such catcalling is that women do not belong in public spaces unaccompanied by a man.
While, in most instances, lewd and vapid remarks remain just that, as ugly and hateful as they may be, they do serve to signal a vague hostility and as a reminder of the constant potential of personal violence to those women so targeted.
This reality limits women’s engagement with such public entities in ways that men need not, and often do not, consider (Mc Dowell 1983).
Whether these specific potentially threatening spaces actually produce physical or verbal attacks does little to allay the feelings of fear, anxiety and avoidance experienced by women who must nevertheless remain mindful of them (Green and Singleton 2006).