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Followed in Plain Sight


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  • #3699067
    Shilletha Curtis
    BPL Member

    @shiacurtisgmail-com-2-2

    Companion forum thread to: Followed in Plain Sight

    Shilletha Curtis recounts a harrowing encouter and invites the reader to see the world through her eyes.

    #3699089
    Yun Swanson
    BPL Member

    @yunwang0826yahoo-com-2

    Hike on, Shilletha! You’re a very very brave woman. I remember a drunk man shouting at me across the street, “Go back to where you belong”. And a girl at a café kept skipping me and kept taking orders from people behind in line (she was people of color, too, which made it hurting more). Learned to live with it and these experiences can only make us stronger. Looking forward to read more articles from you! Happy trails!

    #3699097
    Denis D
    BPL Member

    @hobs

    More male backpackers should support female backpackers and consider that things are much different for our coumterparts. I look forward to more of your articles.

    #3699101
    Marcus
    BPL Member

    @mcimes

    I always wonder where these douches/creeps hang about, and how they get far into the back country and are high or drunk.

    Sorry ladies. about half of men are pigs and the other half of us are decent but even some of them are probably racist too. Please know the rest of us are as abhorred by this as you (but we dont have to suffer their wrath so its not the same at all).

    White (mostly male) privilege is real. I’ve never been harassed in public, threatened, told to go back to my country, had slurs hurled at me for no reason, etc. and wish all people were treated based upon their own actions. Im weird and do weird things and am sure people think I am, but at least no one harasses me about it.

    My wife is pretty normal and does totally normal things and is told inappropriate things all too often (from both men and women, though most often white women, which she is too. Karens seem to discriminate against all people, but especially non-whites. at least women aren’t typically physically threatening)

    Everyone should have dignity and respect afforded to them until they prove they are unworthy of it. Also, let this be a reminder that We should fear bad men, but what we should fear even more is the indifference of good men. (substitute ‘people’ for ‘men’. its my favorite line from the Boondock Saints opening scene). If you see something shady happening, feel free to pipe up people.

    On a related note a this mace is carried by the police in many areas and only weights 64g. Its a decent insurance policy against 2 and 4 legged critters. Make sure you have a mace with at least 1% Major Capsaicinoids if ordering something else.

    https://www.copquest.com/first-defense-pepper-spray-13-mc-mk-6-canister_42-2450.htm

    #3699129
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    Good article, Shellitha.  thanks for posting it.  Let’s hope that at least a few people who need to hear this message get it from your work!

    #3699155
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    Thank you Shellitha. It shouldn’t be this way, and those of us who are able should have to the courage to everything we can to change it.

    As lightly edited to be genderless,  I have always been inspired by the following (I wonder if it inspired Boondock Saints?):

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”             ― Edmund Burke (in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer).

    And:

    “Whilst people are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable…When bad people combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

    –Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 82-83 (1770) in: Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, p. 146 (Liberty Fund ed. 1999).

    #3699300
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    As a male geezer I always carry a medium sized lock blade knife and sometimes bear spray her in the mountain west. The bear spray is mainly for bears and cougars.

    But yes, women backpacking solo,  or even as a female couple, are vulnerable to violence on the trail. My 2nd time on the AT mybudd and I were in the Shannandoah National Park was when two women were killed. Their dog survived.

    My buddy and I were questioned by Park rangers when we came off the trail for re-supply. The incident made even us, healthy men in their 40s, feel unsafe the rest of the trip.  As far as I know the murderer was never caught.

    #3699349
    Andre M
    BPL Member

    @bodybuilderandre

    5 shots of .38 special weighs 12 ounces. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety, especially on the mountain.

    #3699383
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    So, Andre, if a male’s behavior causes women to be terrified,. the answer is they have to carry guns. And if something happens at the hands of a male and a woman isn’t carrying, it’s her fault, right?

    How about advocating for changing male behavior? Your response misses the point entirely. Actually your response is the classic male response that needs to be reconsidered if we’re ever going to get anywhere.

    I’m male and hate guns. I would never carry one backpacking in particular and have never felt that I needed to. I feel perfectly safe hiking solo in the wilderness. I think Shilletha should be able to feel safe as well. Shilletha has every right not to be stalked (!) by some creep in the woods. How about standing up and agreeing to that. Call out the creep, don’t lecture Shilletha.

    #3699386
    Sarah B
    BPL Member

    @sarahbees

    Thanks Shilletha for bringing this out into the open. I too carry a visible neck knife, an inReach, and a can of bear spray.  I recently completed a long section of the PCT solo, and several men felt the need to comment on how they “never felt the need to carry bear spray.”  I’m not afraid of black bears guys, and I really don’t need you schooling me on what you think I should carry! The statistics ring true – virtually all women have been harassed, and most of us have had creepy encounters.  That being said, I’ve recently seen an unprecedented number of women backpacking solo or in pairs as well as more BIPOC folks on the trails.  This is what’s needed to (re)claim the outdoor space for everyone!

    Sarah

    #3699390
    Link .
    BPL Member

    @annapurna

    +1 with what jscott said!

    #3699394
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: Western US

    Too bad people can’t enjoy a trail without less drama and potential crime.  Lightweight gear allows hikers a means to get out of a situation though a persistent pest may need to be dealt with.  Think before the recent AT murder of a 50+  year old thru-hiker may spur law enforcement to take threats more seriously.

    a lanky white man who appeared to be in his early thirties, standing behind a tree…. Billows of smoke dissipated in the air, but there was no scent… A long navy-blue duffle bag lay in his hands ..

    That would worry me as well … and probably compel me to put some distance between me and that whole scene.  Probably harmless with some sort of cooking fire, but better safe than sorry!  The AT is reportedly near more population centers than the other long trails, so there may be a more “varied” population as homeless numbers climb, people get it in their head they can live off the land (well maybe some can but think they’d at least camouflage it so hikers don’t feel threatened… call the police).

    #3699412
    Bonzo
    BPL Member

    @bon-zo

    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I dislike doing so, but I feel that a few points need to be made, here:

    So, Andre, if a male’s behavior causes women to be terrified,. the answer is they have to carry guns. And if something happens at the hands of a male and a woman isn’t carrying, it’s her fault, right?

    This is a fallacious conclusion based on little but rhetoric.  The quoted words are your words; not the other person’s, and little in what the other person said logically leads to what you said here.

    How about advocating for changing male behavior? Your response misses the point entirely. Actually your response is the classic male response that needs to be reconsidered if we’re ever going to get anywhere.

    Changes are certainly and absolutely necessary on some points of the behavior of some people, but outright dismissing one person’s solution or advice because of a personal disagreement with that solution is an act of both intolerance and aggression.  Instead of listening to your interlocutor, you’ve marginalized him entirely; progress of any sort is not likely after an action like that.

    I’m male and hate guns. I would never carry one backpacking in particular and have never felt that I needed to. I feel perfectly safe hiking solo in the wilderness. I think Shilletha should be able to feel safe as well. Shilletha has every right not to be stalked (!) by some creep in the woods. How about standing up and agreeing to that. Call out the creep, don’t lecture Shilletha.

    It’s perfectly fine for you to like or dislike things as you feel directed, and to advocate for solutions along whatever lines you feel to be reasonable…but those rules also apply to others, and having a positive discourse that arises from those disparate perspectives is a far more likely road to systematic solutions than lecturing a person about lecturing others because you disagree with what they believe, what they said, or the way in which they said it.  It is reasonable to say that all persons in possession of a social conscience are aware of the need for increased safety and equality in our interactions with others, but intentionally antagonizing those of different opinions retards the very progress that we all consider necessary.

    Also:

    I’m not afraid of black bears guys, and I really don’t need you schooling me on what you think I should carry!

    This – this right here – bears a massive degree of consideration.  Few people have put the entirety of the issue into such clear perspective with so few words: well done.

    Pompous lecture concluded, flak vest donned, range established: fire for effect.

    #3699418
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    “5 shots of .38 special weighs 12 ounces. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety, especially on the mountain.”

    Carry a gun, you’re responsible for your own safety. that’s the response to Shilletha’s article. I’m suggesting that’s a classic male response. I stand by my saying that it misses the point of the article. the article is trying to show a far too common occurrence for women. It’s trying to get people, and men in particular, to be aware. It asks for acknowledgement, as in, “yeah that’s terrible and I get it”. I think this last calls for a bit of understanding and empathy and self examination.

    Instead, Shilletha is told to carry a gun and the problem’s on her to deal with. Again, I’ll suggest that men need to be the ones acknowledging this is OUR issue too. We scare women more than anything else in the wilderness. What will we do about it?

    This may be akin to “being pulled over for driving while black”. Lots of white people simply don’t get that. Black people can’t get some to even acknowledge that it happens. Or, like here, the response is, well being pulled over for driving while black is just the reality and it’s on you to deal with it.

    I think it’s on us to change. that’s a better response. Or at least conveys that the concern has been heard and is understood.

    by the way, what if Shilletha doesn’t want to have to carry a gun? I certainly don’t.

    all that said: I was probably too rhetorical as was suggested. I certainly am NOT attributing any bad behavior to (sorry I can’t see the name of the poster because I’m in a field that won’t allow me to see it.) I often post something specific that doesn’t take the broader context into account. sorry if that’s what happened here.

    #3699426
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    I have a daughter that travels alone and I worry. I want the world to be safer for her; I am also not going to wait for that to happen before I teach her everything I can about being safe; it  would be irresponsible not to. That includes thinking about where she goes and what time of day; that includes being aware of men in the area, particularly young men ( of any race); that includes self defense classes and other defensive methods. There are platitudes about the world needing to be made safe and it’s a man’s responsibility to make it so and then there is the care and practicality of teaching our kids to navigate the world with their own safety in mind-at all times.

    My post is not in reply to the write up but to the usual responses that boil everything down to gender and race.

    #3699428
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    But yeah, when I was younger I found myself in a few really scary situations involving men of varied demographics. I can relate about fearing for my life. It sucks.

    #3699429
    Kate C
    BPL Member

    @simcoi

    It would be nice to set up a “safe culture” phrase that a guy could say when paths cross. Something that eludes to “hi, what a wonderful day, I’m here, but I’m also leaving your space.”

    #3699433
    Bonzo
    BPL Member

    @bon-zo

    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I think it’s on us to change. that’s a better response. Or at least conveys that the concern has been heard and is understood.

    That is a better way of both examining and conveying one’s thoughts.  I agree with you: the author should not have to resort to carrying a gun in order to secure her own safety…but it is an option that she has as much right to employ as any other citizen.  That being said, it is on us – all of us – to effect decisive solutions that do not threaten lethal force, less we be left with fewer alternative options.

    all that said: I was probably too rhetorical as was suggested. I certainly am NOT attributing any bad behavior to (sorry I can’t see the name of the poster because I’m in a field that won’t allow me to see it.) I often post something specific that doesn’t take the broader context into account. sorry if that’s what happened here.

    A mature, charitable and honest approach, that.  Likewise, I apologize for having singled you out…but if both of our actions lead to better discourse and the both of us parting amicably, so much the better.

    There are platitudes about the world needing to be made safe and it’s a man’s responsibility to make it so and then there is the care and practicality of teaching our kids to navigate the world with their own safety in mind-at all times. My post is not in reply to the write up but to the usual responses that boil everything down to gender and race.

    A reduction to the simplest values is often educational insofar as theory is concerned, but comparatively useless in the real world where the sheer number of exceptions and variables makes theoretical understanding almost meaningless.

    But yeah, when I was younger I found myself in a few really scary situations involving men of varied demographics. I can relate about fearing for my life. It sucks.

    I can relate as well, but as a male, my experiences that allow me to relate to your situation – and that of the author – are almost universally dismissed or marginalized by both men and women of all backgrounds.  As a man, I am expected to be capable of “handling things” and exerting pressure on male society simply by nature of my chromosomal makeup.  Naturally, this is as fallacious a conclusion as any other that comes from outright assumption, but irony, it seems, is not without a sense of vicious satire.

    It would be nice to set up a “safe culture” phrase that a guy could say when paths cross. Something that eludes to “hi, what a wonderful day, I’m here, but I’m also leaving your space.”

    Passwords are wonderful things, until they are stolen; then they become access roads to all manner of misery…but I agree: it would be nice if we could do such a thing.  In lieu of that, I would suggest a different approach: multi-layered security.  On a societal level we must both educate, advance and correct…and we must correct heavily, if needed.  On an individual level, we must proactively defend ourselves…or, phrased another way: we must accept that the most secure bank is the one that nobody wants to rob.  Hobbesian, yes, but also effective; the rewriting of our social contract would do well to examine the idea.

    #3699453
    Denis D
    BPL Member

    @hobs

    @Andre we don”t need firearms on  trails. We need men to stand up and understand what our counterparts are going through and support them..Look at sarah’s responce  and waht she had to do on the PCT. The AT is just as bad with guys chasing girls in the trail…

    #3699457
    Bonzo
    BPL Member

    @bon-zo

    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    We need men to stand up and understand what our counterparts are going through and support them.

    That is a very effective solution for the majority of the population; social pressure and the desire to be accepted by other humans are quite good at reshaping the behaviors of people that haven’t yet bothered to do the same reshaping on their own…but nothing about the encounter that was described is indicative of a person that can be deterred or directed by an understanding and equality-supporting society.  In fact, quite the opposite is true: the antagonist in that piece shows many characteristics of a person that is, at best, on the fringes of a society, and consequently not nearly as concerned with it as other, more functional people.  This brings up an important question: how are we to address perceived threats when the threat itself is both unknown in terms of its origin, unpredictable in its motivations and actions, and possibly uncaring in regards to consequences?  We know but little of what was happening with that particular antagonist: substance abuse or mental disability could have been as much in play as nefarious intent…and without knowing the cause and motivation of that person’s actions, we cannot simply pressure them to act differently.  Social pressure is a tool for the sane majority: it acts on you and me and the masses because we can be reasoned-with, and if willing, we can understand the perspective of others and influence our peers to do the same.  Social pressure does not work on those who no longer feel it as we do, so through no fault of our own – as evidenced by the author’s encounter – we may find ourselves in situations that no amount of societal solidarity can eliminate.  What, then, are we to do?  Personal preferences aside, we have as much of a right to defend ourselves as we have a right to not need to do so; the only logical solution, then, is to ensure that both rights are treated equally, and to ensure that we support our fellow humans as best we can regarding their decisions about personal safety.

    #3699479
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    What is wrong with empowering women to not wait for guys “to step up”( however you think that part is going to be achieved)?  Why not teach our girls that they can make themselves safer regardless of what guys decide or don’t decide to do? Would that not send a clearer message to men, that we are not going to let this happen and if we need to be violent to prevent it we will?
    Let’s work on creating a culture of safety and respect and let’s also make it clear that violating us will not be tolerated, not just in court, but right then and there. I am not advocating guns but suggesting that a woman take control of a situation in whatever manner she needs to is not putting the blame on her when things go wrong, it’s an overall message that we are done with it. Imagine being a predatory male reading this forum and hearing that women should not carry defensive tools because society needs to change…or hearing that, since we are physically more vulnerable, you should assume that in one way or another we are prepared to fight you off.  I don’t need men to save me. I don’t need men to step up and start treating me right;   I need them to understand that not doing so is not going to fly, period.

    #3699483
    Kevin R
    BPL Member

    @kevinr

    It is true that “human bears” are generally of greater concern than wildlife encounters. Of the (relatively small, yet tragic) numbers of murders on the AT, the majority have been targeted towards women and couples and have been near civilization (it would have been helpful if the article actually provided these statistics). However, I think it is inappropriate to single this out as a “women’s issue”. I have heard many stories on this site of individuals who have had harrowing encounters with other humans on the trail, and many of them do not fit the demographic of the author. I myself have had several. Once, will camped near a remote fire road, I was almost run over by individuals doing donuts in a clearing while drunk (or on drugs). Once I made my presence known, vehicle drove up within a few feet of my tent and threw a beer at me that almost hit me in the head. Zero cell service, limited escape routes. Another time, while I was working as a ridge runner near the Delaware water gap, I was persistently followed by a lonely individual, including waking up to them at the door of my tent before sunrise and anonymous letters being left on my personal vehicle at trail heads. It eventually ended with a state police investigation and the individual being banished from state lands. As a young male, I occasionally received overt solicitations from women while on the job. In our culture, I’m told that I should be complimented by such things, but that quite frankly strikes me as a double standard and inappropriate. The author is right in suggesting situational awareness and projecting confidence vs “victim”. However, while there may be somewhat greater instances of violence against women and minorities (what this discrepancy is should have been included in the article, especially given that this is science driven BPL), this situation can be easily applied to all of us (although I’m uncertain about the value of focusing on such things, given that the reality is that the outdoors is statistically safer for all demographics. I rarely share my stories because it’s easy for the inexperienced to get the impression that the outdoors is filled with danger. However, it is certainly worth discussing how we can ALL be and feel safer- be situationally aware at road crossings, careful about who you camp around, etc.). With a very broad brush, this article paints men (particularly white men?) in the outdoors as dangerous and venomous. If such is the case, it should be backed up with accurate statistics. Otherwise, such journalism perpetuates irrational fears that unfortunately break down relationships between all of us and build fear in a hobby where you are far more likely to die driving to the trailhead than to be raped or murdered. My personal experiences were harrowing and scaring, and I do not deny the real fear that must have been felt by the author; however, I think with a healthy dose of prudence we all can and should recognize the outdoors as a (relatively) safe space and avoid spreading fears. A small minority of men very well may be a threat to women out there. However, the overwhelming majority can also be the opposite: selfless protectors. I am confident that almost every man I have met on the trail would stand up for a women (or man) who felt unsafe. However, if the narrative of “men are dangerous” continues, it becomes increasingly likely that they won’t even be able to get close enough to be there in a time of need.

    #3699485
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    ^^^ agreed.

    #3699486
    Kevin R
    BPL Member

    @kevinr

    You know that awkwardness when you end up leap frogging/following someone else on the trail and for whatever reason you can’t pass them? It happens all the time. It’s especially awkward when it’s a man following a woman. Nothing the man can do, other than to awkwardly smile and appear friendly (which may be interpreted as flirtatiously aggressive). Articles such as this reinforce the notion that the woman should avoid contact at all costs, when such situations can easily be disarmed by a simple “hello, you’re welcome to pass if you’d like!”, allowing both parties to go on with their day and hike at each owns pace

    #3699488
    Bonzo
    BPL Member

    @bon-zo

    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I have heard many stories on this site of individuals who have had harrowing encounters with other humans on the trail, and many of them do not fit the demographic of the author.

    I would be interested to know exactly how many such encounters go entirely unreported amongst all demographics; that can never be known, but it would still be interesting to find out.

    Imagine being a predatory male reading this forum and hearing that women should not carry defensive tools because society needs to change…or hearing that, since we are physically more vulnerable, you should assume that in one way or another we are prepared to fight you off. I don’t need men to save me. I don’t need men to step up and start treating me right; I need them to understand that not doing so is not going to fly, period.

    Nail on the head, Kat…nail on the head.

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