This past year there have been a rash of publicized attacks on female runners. With each and every report, my reaction is anger. First at the perpetrator, and then at the reporter who has compounded these injuries, virtually attacking the runner a second time, calling her a derogatory slur, right there in the headline.
I am not a jogger, and don't ever call me one. These women were not joggers. These women were runners. And they deserved to be called by that word.
For those that don't run, this might seem like a small thing to get enraged over, but those that do run understand. They understand waking up before the sun and pushing yourself out of bed while the rest of the world sleeps peacefully. They understand what it means to lace up your dirty sneakers and forge out into the elements even if it's freezing, because running is a part of who you are. They understand what it feels like to twist your ankle, shake it off and keep going because those last few miles aren't negotiable. Anyone that calls themselves a runner uses that term with pride and reverence because they battled through pain, anguish, and exhaustion to claim that word for themselves.
For a reporter to strip a female runner of that hard-fought title simply because they are a woman is a violation. It might be considered a micro-aggression to some, but I can guarantee it feels pretty damn macro to anyone who's ever pushed their body farther than they thought it could go on race day, or shoved tissues in their pocket because they were running regardless of whether or not they were sick.
A jogger is someone who uses a scrunchie and prances around in the 1980's. The word comes with all sorts of prescribed images: a sort of leisurely skipping. Perhaps this defenseless female jogger is wearing a headband and a smile. Maybe she's even holding a coffee while she jogs in place, checking her Casio to stay on track. She's slow and vulnerable. Of course she'd be attacked.
I've run all over Los Angeles, and female runners are some of the most serious athletes out there. They're not smiling and bouncing along in a daze, ready to be picked off. They're wearing a grimace of determination and they're not to be messed with. In 2010 women left men in their dust, with more women completing races than their male counterparts. As women claim this sport as their own, thousands more women than men are putting tags on their shoes and bibs on their shirts every year. And if the men aren't joggers, the women lapping them certainly aren't.
The Seattle runner, Kelly Heron, who fought and apprehended her own attacker in May was called a jogger by the press. Even after she called herself a runner in every single interview she did. Ignoring her own terminology and denigrating her to a demeaning status was one more breach of her autonomy and personhood.
This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn't. Labels mean something, and calling female runners joggers certainly isn't arbitrary, otherwise the press would have followed Heron's lead and called her what she called herself. But they didn't. And that's because the word "jogger" evokes a type of feebleness that is necessary to the patriarchal narrative that tries to constantly put females in the last corral. To the underlying sexism in every use of the word jogger, us female runners have a couple things to say back: It doesn't matter how fast you run or how many miles you log. But it does matter what you call us. And don't ever call us joggers.