jenny moloney photography—jennymoloney.com
August 16, 2016

Erin Bailey is a 25-year-old fitness instructor with a message: She’s sick of being harassed.

In an essay titled “What do I deserve?” on her personal blog, Bailey describes numerous times she’s walked or run on a street and in a park and men have stopped her, followed her and made obscene comments to her face.

While taking part in an outdoor bootcamp one day, Bailey wrote in the essay, she “had a guy come over to me from across the park and start talking to me from a few feet away. I took my headphones out thinking he was asking me something, instead my ears were filled with profane things he ‘wanted to do to me.'”

When Bailey’s working out, she wrote: “I deserve to be treated like a human, not just a woman, because that means something different these days.” She continues:

Although one male commenter wrote, “If it’s just a cat call, or something mildly annoying, but not particularly harassing or bothersome, take it as a compliment,” Bailey doesn’t agree.

“There are so many ways to compliment a woman respectfully,” she told Motto via email. “Catcalling is not one of them.”

She told Motto she decided to speak out because she was upset. “These harassment occurrences were starting to happen more and more to myself this summer and as soon as I would share one with a friend, they had three stories just like it,” she said. “It was horrendous.”

For Bailey, the gym represents a safe space—the place where she feels “the most empowered.” Bailey said the gym is “the one place I feel men should respect me most because there I feel like we’re on the same playing field.”

But even at her “safe zone” at the gym, Bailey said she’s faced harassment. She described one particularly horrifying time: “I had a man come up to me a couple months ago at the water fountain in the gym as I was filling up my water bottle he waited patiently. He then told me he liked my leggings, that they made my a– look great, and they’d look better off.”

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Bailey’s article about harassment while exercising comes at a particularly tense time for female runners. Recently, three women in the U.S. were slain while jogging: Katrina Vetrano in New York, Google employee Vanessa Marcotte in Massachusetts and Alexandra Nicolette Brueger in Michigan.

Bailey said the murders of the runners were “very scary.” “I had so much in common with those women, that could have been me or my friends,” she said. “It was terrifying. But the reaction was worse. People began to blame these women for what they were wearing or doing as the cause, when that is absolutely not why they were killed.”

Bailey’s blog post has received mixed reviews, leaving her “shocked” and “humbled.” When asked if any specific reaction stood out, she mentioned one about a father who made his two sons, ages 11 and 14, read the post. That’s how she thinks change can happen, by educating “younger generations how to respect each other both men and women.”

Bailey believes in making people stronger, not tearing them down. Her own motto “we all lift each other up” can help illustrate exactly what women “deserve.”

Read her entire post here.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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