I do occasionally wear headphones to block out catcalls and similar harassment, but I do not pretend to be completely comfortable on the Greenway at dusk or in that path’s bathroom at any hour, without someone standing watch outside.
Nevertheless, I do routinely pursue an activity I enjoy in that public space.
The dominant customs of the period expected women to spend minimal time outside their homes, apart from ensuring that responsibilities for the care and management of that dwelling and their children were met.
This social expectation of separate spheres of activity and influence continues to characterize the behavior of some men, and therefore shapes, in turn, how women affected by that male conduct relate to public spaces.
The message of such catcalling is that women do not belong in public spaces unaccompanied by a man.
While, in most instances, lewd and vapid remarks remain just that, as ugly and hateful as they may be, they do serve to signal a vague hostility and as a reminder of the constant potential of personal violence to those women so targeted.
Parks, sidewalks and public transportation are areas where women must be alert, due to the constant potential for harassment there.
Sexualized comments directed to women occur, “generally in the public world where people are strangers to one another” (Thompson 1993, 315).
In short, women’s mobility and activities are persistently circumscribed by the social production of public space and its attendant risks (Green and Singleton 2006).
Being able to run, bike or go for a walk on trails or even sidewalks alone is restricted for women by such structural elements as “poorly lit spaces, boarded up houses, alleys, a tunnel to the supermarket, parks and bushes” as well as by time of day (Green and Singleton 2006, 7).