mississippi river road path south/mississippi river road path north/greenway
After we got back, as I was eating my favorite breakfast–cheerios, bananas, walnuts–I started reading one of the books I just picked up from the library, Flanuese: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin. On page 2, she writes:
women came to the city…to pass unnoticed, but also to be free and to do what they liked, as they liked.
Then she describes “the key problem of the urban experience”:
are we individuals or are we part of the crowds? Do we want to stand out or blend in? Is that even possible? How do we–no matter what our gender–want to be seen in public? Do we want want to attract or escape the gaze? Be independent or invisible? Remarkable or unremarked-upon?
My immediate reactions to these passages include:
- Yes! I want to go unnoticed so that I can do what I like, as I like!
- You mean other people feel that way too? I’m not the only one?
- Being able to go unnoticed requires a lot of privilege. Who can choose to be invisible (as opposed to being rendered invisible) and who is always hyper-visible?
- Wow, I’m only on page 2 and this book already has me thinking about so many things.
- I want to write about this in my log entry because one aspect of running that I’ve barely addressed but that certainly subtly shapes my experiences, is being a woman running in public.
- What does it mean to be a woman running in public?
- What does it mean to be this woman running in public?
- What does it mean to be this white woman running in public?
- What does it mean to be this white, middle-class woman running in public?
- What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public?
- What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and safe?
- What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and fairly safe, but still seem haunted, perhaps only slightly, by the threat of an unwanted encounter or assault?
In thinking about running in public l want to link my experience to the larger history of women in running (less than 100 years ago, a woman wasn’t supposed to run for fear that her uterus would fall out! Kathryn Switzer was attacked by the race director while running in the Boston Marathon in 1967. The woman’s marathon wasn’t in the olympics until 1984.) and women in public, including: women and safety and women and sexual harassment/assault. Of course, you also can’t leave out exploring an intersectional history of who is allowed to occupy public space and how running bodies get read by others–are they seen as exercising or running from a crime, for example. Both of those are heavily shaped by race. And, what about the types of public spaces runners have access to–dedicated paths? busy sidewalks? In what parts of the city do they exist?
Scroll over the first paragraph to reveal the hidden poem.