It’s Sexist and Demeaning to Call Female Runners ‘Joggers’

If you have run out of things to be offended by, Maia Deccan Dickinson writing at Runners World has a new one for your list of complaints.

Dickerson argues that by calling those women you see moving at 3 mph with sneakers, tennis shorts, and ripped Harvard sweatshirts, “joggers” instead of “runners” you are demeaning them and being sexist.

Why? For some reason, it has something to do with sexual assault. The author writes that a female runner, Kelly Herron, went on a long run in Seattle and was attacked by a registered sex offender when she stopped for a bathroom break.

Dickerson writes, “Herron posted a now-viral Instagram of the incident, including the hashtags #runnersafety and #instarunners. News media organizations around the world shared—and headlined—her post: Seattle Jogger Attacked in Public Bathroom Fights Back; Seattle jogger fights back after terrifying bathroom assault; Kelly Herron, Seattle Jogger, Fights Off Attack and Attempted Rape in Public Washroom. Her own language ignored, Herron became the Seattle Jogger.”

Herron then took offense at being called a jogger, confiding in Dickerson, “Even if I look like a wounded animal, loping through the woods, as long as my knees are bent and I’m putting one foot in front of the other then I’m running. ‘Running’ defines a motion. ‘Jogging’ implies a speed—a leisurely one, devoid of intensity.”

Being attacked while exercising is terrible, but I’m not sure why being called a “jogger” in any way undermines the horrific episode Herron endured.

Dickerson cites other women attacked when out for a “run.” Karina Vetrano was murdered while “running” in New York City and was later called the “Queens Jogger.” She writes about the attempted murder of Trisha Meili who was attacked when out “running”  The newspapers referred to her as “The Central Park Jogger” in the 1980s.

Dickerson concludes that because these women and others were attacked during their “runs,” plus the fact that in 2015, 57 percent of all road race finishers are now women (up from 25 percent in 1990), don’t call them joggers.

“If a male “jogger” is run down by a car, does the term cause the reader to trivialize his athleticism—to question if a finer athlete might’ve outrun the car? No. If a female “jogger” is yanked off a trail and raped, has the word “jogger” made a statement, implying a gentle, slow pace, a less-serious athlete—a target for attack?” Dickerson contends. “It is not important how fast any of these women were running. It is important that the default language used to discuss these attacks suggests that it was slowly; that when learning of a moment in which a woman’s strength was called upon to defend her very life, we read a word that undermines it.”

Got it. Makes me want to go out for a jog,  run.


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