As a mother, there are so many things that scare me. But in the recent news of the Memphis kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher, what scares me most is how unsafe women are while simply just existing—or at least trying to.
Women aren't safe—while doing things that we love. While doing things that provide us comfort. Things that bring us a sense of relief. Things that help to balance us. Women aren't safe—while doing things that should be considered normal—yet for us, these things could very well lead right into harm’s way.
Eliza Fletcher was a woman. She was a mom. She was a wife. She was me—and countless other women who exercise or run errands alone (sometimes really early in the morning—and sometimes very late at night).
Eliza Fletcher was doing something that she loved, something that brought her peace. Something that was probably a personal form of self-care. Something that should have been safe and sacred for her.
Eliza Fletcher was jogging. Alone. At four in the morning.
And she had every right to be.
So why some people have resorted to victim-blaming, I can't even begin to wrap my mind around. We shouldn’t blame her for what she was wearing. We shouldn’t place ourselves in the situation and ramble on about the many things that we would have done instead—like not run alone, wait until it was light outside, have someone on the phone or carry some form of protection or another.
Nobody should be blaming her for simply being a woman.
We shouldn’t even ask why she was out so early in the morning. As a mother, I understand that sometimes the only alone time a woman can get is by going to sleep later or waking up earlier than everyone else.
I imagine what if she just needed time to breathe—and 4 a.m. was her only option? Before she had to get her kids up for school. Before she had to make breakfast for her family. Before she had to get herself ready for work.
Or what if jogging was just something that she did every single day and never had a reason to feel unsafe doing it—until then?
I can’t blame her. Nobody should be blaming her for simply being a woman. We wouldn’t dare question a man for why he was out jogging so early. We wouldn’t dare question what he was wearing, or if he had in headphones, or if he told someone where he was going.
Because the truth is, men rarely have to worry about any of those things. But women do. Because women aren’t safe. Women are largely unprotected. Women often fall into the hands of perpetrators. And we are tired.
We are tired of not being able to do things like jogging alone. We are tired of having to be cautious of every single step we take. We are tired of being told to carry protection everywhere we go. Tired of having to look over our shoulders to make sure we aren’t being followed. Tired of the things that should be filled with joy, being filled with fear for us instead.
According to a survey conducted by Runner’s World, 54% of women are concerned that they could possibly be assaulted or receive unwanted physical contact while running. This is compared to 7% of men.
If that doesn’t say something about the world we live in, then I don’t know what does.
That's what Eliza Fletcher was doing. She was existing. Just being.
I go for walks with my toddler almost everyday. Occasionally, I’ll go on a jog or a walk alone. And you know what the sad thing is? I’ve always been fearful. Fearful that someone may be following me. Fearful that someone may be studying my routes—so much so that I’ve gotten to the point of switching them up every day.
I’ve become so fearful, that most times I’m looking over my shoulder every .5 seconds just to gauge my surroundings. But being out in nature truly calms me after a long day, and it’s a form of self-care for me. I’ve purchased products that I can carry on my being for help if I’m in a dire situation (like this She’s Birdie safety alarm). I’ve shared my location with my husband or another family member while I’m out. I’ve had someone on the phone with me. I’ve clutched my keys between my fingers.
But sometimes, even with all that we do to try to prepare for danger—or try to avoid it—it finds us anyway. So what can we do? Do we simply just stop engaging in activities that bring us comfort? Do we live in constant, overwhelming fear? Do we simply stop existing?
The answer is no. Because even with the risks that are there, many women won’t stop running alone, or going out alone, or running errands alone—and we have every right to make that choice.
The real answer is demanding that something be done about the violence against women. The real answer is questioning why women aren't safe. The real answer is society changing how they protect us. The real answer is doing something so that we don’t have to feel the pit in our stomachs when we see “female jogger” in a headline.
We want a different outcome other than harm when we do something that we love. We want someone looking out for us. We want to make it home to our families. We want to just be—and not have fear be the driving factor in everything we do.
That's what Eliza Fletcher was doing. She was existing. Just being. And it seems as though society failed to protect her and instead found reason after reason to blame her.
I’m trying to find somewhere to store my anger. Perhaps in this society that fails to protect women. That tells us that somehow, it’s our fault—because we wore this or didn’t think about that—when we were simply just existing.
Related: Actually, motherhood is political
I don't know what it's going to take to see a change—but we need to see one. Because I'm tired of being afraid. I'm tired of women existing in fear. I'm tired of us not being valued or protected by the society that we live in. And I know I'm not the only one who has grown weary.
My heart goes out to Eliza Fletcher's family. My heart goes out to any woman who has been greeted with harm when she was just doing something that she loved. My heart goes out to every woman who has fear lingering over her head every single day.
We just need to see a change—and we need to see it now.