Lady harriers face catcalls when practicing


Contributed Photo

Here, the team runs in a pack during a competition at Tarrywile. But when practicing, the team runs on city streets and sidewalks and is often subjected to catcalling.

Gillian Brown, Staff Writer

Women all over the world are forced to brave sexual harassment such as catcalling and the Girls’ Cross Country team is no exception.

“We still get catcalled. It just happened the other day when we ran together,” Marsha Turek, the Girls’ Cross Country coach of 14 years, said. “You never get used to it. It’s disgusting.”

Catcalling jumped into the news this fall when Noa Jansma of Amsterdam used Instagram to create awareness of the harassment she receives daily from men. When harassed on the street, she would stop and take a selfie of herself with the catcaller. Her account went viral as women across the world shared their experiences.

The team practices by running routes all over city streets and sidewalks.

Madison Albano, senior, loves cross country, but admits there have been instances that made her uncomfortable. “There was a guy standing outside of his house, watching us for a while,” she recalls. “It can be a little bit uncomfortable because there will be people outside who will say stuff to us like ‘great job, girls,’ or ‘keep moving.’ You realize it’s not about what they say, but what the intent is. And too many people have bad intentions.”

Even seasoned runners like Coach Turek still experience street harassment. “I’ve been egged before, I’ve been attacked by a dog, I’ve been chased by a man before,” she said.

This hard reality has shaped her rules for her team as well. “That’s why it’s safer in a group,” Turek said. “You’re less vulnerable. It’s one of our team rules that we stay together in a group of at least four people and when we’re out on the trail we have multiple coaches on the course to make sure everybody’s okay.”

This group has remained a very close-knit team. “Everyone’s very close to each other. We feel safe because we’re with each other; no one ever gets left behind,” Albano said.

However, these incidents haven’t affected their performance. This year, they became the first girls’ team in the school’s history to finish 2nd place at the State Open Championships. Lauren Moore, junior, and Alexandra Chakar, sophomore, earned All State Honors.

Even with the safety in numbers, though, the team still has to take precautions. “You see the boys’ team running shirtless on hot days and sometimes wish you could just wear a sports bra, but then you think about how you regularly hear about girls who are sexually harassed on the streets and how people say inappropriate, vulgar things,” Albano said.

“There’s not much we can do to change how other people treat us because if someone’s not going to respect you now, it’s pretty hard to change them,” Team Captain, senior Julianna Carney, added. “But what you can do is stay safe.”

“So many people think that if we don’t talk about these problems and we don’t address these issues, then it’ll just go away. But we need to address them,” Albano said.

Even Turek doesn’t know if there’s a perfect solution to catcalling. “It’s a culture,” she said. “It’s very sad. I’m not young anymore and it still happens.”

Albano had her own ideas about addressing the issue. “It has to start at a young age,” she said. “It’s not something that you put a band-aid on and it just goes away. We have to change how we raise people and change the way they think.”