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At 5 a.m. my running partner and I pass a woman running alone in the dark. We remark how brave she is to go it alone and contemplate inviting her to join us. It’s not safe for women to run alone. Especially in the dark. Because we live in a world where we must be vigilant about protecting ourselves from men who would hurt us.

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When I get home from my run, I leave the kitchen door open so a breeze can come through the screen door as I make coffee and finish packing lunches. I fling open the sliding door in the dining room, too.  I’m careful to close and lock both before I go to shower because it’s not safe to leave it open while three women are in the house unawares.  This is the world that we live in.

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It’s still ridiculously hot for October in Erie, so I chose a lightweight navy blue top to wear to work. It has a low v-neck with a tie at the top. I usually keep it tied, but it’s hot…so I decide to maybe leave it untied. But then, I think, it’s too low, so I fish a tank top out of my drawer and layer that underneath, defeating the purpose of trying to dress cool, but…this is what we have to do.  Because I’m a woman and I have to constantly keep in mind how I dress and what “messages” it sends.

Is my skirt too short? Is my top to low? Is my bra strap showing? Will it draw too much attention?

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At lunchtime, I pull in next to a beat-up pickup truck at the ACL lab. There’s an older man sitting in there, probably waiting for someone in the lab. I can feel his eyes watching me. I’m careful about how I get out of the car, lest my skirt rise up too high. I’m thankful he’s on my side and can leer at me instead of my daughters who are getting out on the other side. This is the world we live in.

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That evening, Kelly and I go hiking on the trails at a nearby reservoir. I am careful to bring my keys, which have a whistle on them and my cell phone because we are two women walking alone in the woods and we must be careful. This is the world that we live in.

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We do these things automatically because this is the United States that women live in:

kill them

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.