Women, you are never alone. Never safe.

Originally published on Medium on October 15, 2014. As a result of the overwhelming feedback to this article, I also gave a radio interview to 640 WGST on October 30, 2014.

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Several years ago, I had a stalker. It took a while to reconcile what it was. In fact, I probably lived in denial for a year or so before I could really categorize it in such a way. You see, I knew him. Pretty well even. We went to the same coffee shop, a place a friend owned. As a consultant, I did a lot of work from there. He was a regular, the same way many other customers were. I became friendly with him, doing the stray crossword together, chit chatting about music. To me, the boundaries were always clear. I was dating somebody seriously and he knew it. Then it got strange.

He started to ask too-personal questions. If I were not at the shop when he expected me to be, he would question me when I arrived. He started bringing gifts. Then, leaving notes. He never knew where I lived and I took comfort in that. Until one day when I pulled into my driveway with my son. A few minutes later, he did too. He confronted me about why I wasn’t coming around as much to the shop. He told me he loved me. When I asked how he knew where I lived, he confessed he had followed me home once before. And since then, would sit at the gas station across the street in his car and watch me. To know somebody has been watching you, wanting you. It shakes your sense of privacy and safety.

I did what a responsible woman does — I sent my son inside and returned my focus to the stalker. I spoke to him coldly, explaining he was to leave me alone. I stopped going to the coffee shop. I consulted with a friend in law enforcement. And I routinely locked my doors and pulled the blinds closed with the fervor of a woman changed. At least, I thought I was.

Once, months later, distracted on a phone call in a local Home Depot, I walked to my car only to realize when I sat down that a man I’d halfway noticed in the store had followed me all the way to my door. I dropped the phone and locked the car doors. He stood there for a few moments giving an icy stare, saying nothing. Eventually, he walked away. And once again, I adjusted my behavior. No more phone calls in stores, coupled with a heightened awareness while walking to my car. A changed woman was changed a little more.

Years have now passed. I live in a quiet neighborhood with my fiancé and our children. Neighbors are friendly and conscientious, the kind of people you’d leave a house key with when you go out of town. We have a little dog, BBQ on the weekends. I garden.

That is why I was surprised when this week, one of my neighbors asked to speak with me. She was anxious but composed. Carefully she explained that she had some concerns about her husband’s fidelity and that it prompted her to look through his phone. This story didn’t sound uncommon, so far. Then she said softly but seriously that she had found pictures of me. I was gardening in my yard. He caught me in positions where I was bending over; as a result, they were more sexual.

The violation that I had felt years ago has flooded back. I am equal parts angry with him and angry with myself. I feel compromised. And I feel unguarded. I should have known that I am never alone. That I am never safe.

A Rally Cry for Men and Women Alike

This fear is unique to women. And it is hard to explain to men. In fact, telling this photograph story to my fiancé prompted more laughter than anger. And that is not because he doesn’t care for me deeply. It is simply hard for most men to identify with.

It is an issue so difficult that discussion is often heated on both sides. Women say men are ultimately pig-like creatures. Men say that the makeup of men that carry out these acts are not representative of the gender. In fact, a few years ago a hashtag emerged. #notallmen was meant to bolster the notion that not all men are perverts and predators. And while the point was valid, it did little more than fan the feminist fire, because it all but ignored the reality that some men are. For women in fear, that is enough.

To me, the reality is something a little more balanced. Not all men are pigs — but some are to a frightening extent. And as far as misogyny and sexism, women are at times quite complicit. With rabid attention, some women consume (and help create) the media that not-so-quietly promotes it. And some women use their looks and charm for personal and shameless gain. They violate what I call “women code.” That is — stay safe, represent your gender with integrity, and promote values that propel our opportunity for gender equality.

That said, men have to respect that being a man makes them wildly incapable of understanding what sexism means to women. Whether a man defines himself as sexist or not, many are socialized that way and even benefit from it. They enjoy the heavy end of unequal compensation and they don’t generally need to plan their route to their cars because they’re afraid of being raped. A man’s role should not be to dispel the issue of predatory behavior or sexism by claiming it is a minority practice. But rather to openly recognize that it exists and that it hurts women. They can distance themselves from the the worst of the lot by simply speaking out against it. And by being a living and breathing example of how men carry themselves with respect.

And women, boy do we have some work to do. We need to be our own bodyguards. We can exercise some control by being self-aware. And we can boldly tell our stories so that we may help other women. But we can do more than that. We can speak out against the women that have a role in compromising our progress. And we can speak up for the men that are breaking the mold. Because there are many; I am proud to call several of them my friends.

Progress is made through conversation, not accusation. When I see that balance shift, it will be a sign that we can put differences aside and focus on impacting change.

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Ode to Cohutta

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On April 26th, I participated in the Cohutta, a 100-mile mountain bike race.

Legs afire
This climb is a thirsty beast
The summit in sight, the soul prepares for relief
Like a mirage, it is but a savage illusion
Are the trees that form my false apex mocking me?
Back muscles scream under tension
The climb is surely waning now
Shivers call up the rising heat 
Another climb
It’s still time
Bicycles wend their way across jagged gravel
Only when we give fully in
Descend

I finished 100 miles, with 16,000 feet of climbing, in 11:56. I am pleased with that time, but that only gave me 14 out of 21 (women were just 13% of the field!). The girls who come out to race are animals. All in all, it was a blast to be out there riding with these boys and girls. Mountain bikers are awesome! Except that one who forced a pass in the first 10 miles (really dude?).

Five Crowdfunded Wearable Tech Devices to Watch

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We are witnessing — and taking part in — one of the largest shifts in product development of our time. Crowdfunding has completely reinvented what it means to create a product, reducing the time to market and bringing a more complex and innovative set of goods to the marketplace.

Even a cursory look through the popular crowdfunding platforms shows that there are some very interesting products being developed, very quickly, in the wearable tech arena. Here are five.

1. Fin: A ring that makes your hand a gesture based control for common actions (Funded, 4 days left)

Fin is a small ring, fitted for the thumb that turns your hand into a numeric keypad; it also uses gesture-based controls such as hand waving. It’s designed to be connected to smartphones, smart TVs, automobiles and home automation. One can imagine tech like this becoming commonplace for every day use. Plus, it has the very altruistic benefit of helping people with limited mobility or visual impairment.

2. Atlas: Nike Fit Band on steroids, with a Strava-like competitive facet (Mega-funded 18 days left)

As an owner of a Garmin, I was blown away that my device could figure out when I was doing freestyle versus breaststroke. Atlas makes this look like child’s play – it knows a bicep curl from a hammer curl, and even tells you if your form sucks. And, you can teach it new tricks (cross fitters, rejoice!). Oh, and it builds in a Strava-like community that lets you measure your activity against your friends.

3. Haloband: A wristband that controls your smartphone (Funded, pre-ordering now available on Indiegogo)

Perhaps the simplest on this list, Haloband could be a very common device in the very near future – because it is simple to use and can pretty immediately address common problems. An extension of your smartphone, it uses NFC (on NFC enabled phones) to perform tasks, without having to dig your phone out of a pocket or bag. These tasks could include switching songs on your media player, or even taking the place of your office pass card.

4. Atheer One: Google Glasses with a 3D angle (Funded)

Google Glass has spawned all kinds of me-toos. Antheer One does a better than average job of doing so. With a depth sensor, it gives a three dimensional immersive view. And, it combines what appears to be a more complex set of gesture-based controls. Watch the video, it’s hard not to see how these glasses are paving the way for immersive user experiences.

5. Angel: Blood Oxygen Sensor (Funded)

An open API will really give this product an interesting future. Yet, even off-the-shelf, Angel is pretty powerful. Worn on the wrist, it monitors pulse, temperature, activity and blood oxygen level. With funding, the company plans to transfer and integrate that data into smartphone apps, laptops and even treadmills. The device has great potential for not just athletes — who are the obvious first-users — but also for those with medical conditions that require regular monitoring.

http://vimeo.com/74271995

[Originally posted on the Proving Ground blog]