By now, you’ve probably either seen or heard of this video:
In the video (which was commissioned by Hollaback, an anti-street harassment advocacy group), Shoshana Roberts walks through various neighborhoods in New York for ten hours, following filmmaker Rob Bliss, who had a camera hidden in his backpack.
By her definition, which is the only one that matters here, Shoshana was harassed 108 times in those ten hours – and this doesn’t count the countless winks, whistles, etc. “Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this,” she later told NBC.
Some of the interactions might seem innocent the first time you watch the video, such as men walking by and saying “hello” – until you notice that they’re staring at her breasts instead of making eye contact. Or acting as if they deserve a response from her, and getting more obnoxious when she doesn’t respond.
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano wrote in the blog Feministe in 2011: “Hello isn’t always as friendly as it seems. I’m talking about the hello that slides up and down the scale, the echo of a wolf whistle, its tone indicating what its denotation cannot. I’m talking about the hello that happens just as I pass a man on the street, the hello that is not a greeting but a whisper, the hellothat puts me in a position of reaction — to turn my head in good faith to acknowledge the existence of a fellow human … or to hurry past, knowing full well that there’s a good chance it’s not my human existence, but my female existence, that’s being acknowledged.”
She went on to say; “Over the years I’ve learned that sometimes hello indicates you’re willing to have a longer conversation — and that often that longer conversation quickly enters the realm of what is unquestionably street harassment,”
The YouTube comments are, unfortunately, what you’d expect. While some people do get it, there’s many others who don’t. Some examples:
“She definitely targeted an area where she could expect that kind of reaction. Not only that she wore a form fitting outfit that excited the imagination. I think she is a narcissists that just enjoyed the attention. Ignore her protestations, she loved the attention!”
“OMG THIS HARASS IS SO BAD!!! My class mate harassed me today too! She said; “Hey how you doing?!”, CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? Later the same day the store clerk did the same thing! He said; “Have a nice evening”, what a pervert! WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO!?!?! I BETTER MAKE A VIDEO!!!”
So, we have people minimizing the situation, and people blaming the victim. Then, of course, we have the idiots over at Fox News, where Bob Beckel said; “She got 100 catcalls, let me add 101. Damn, baby, you’re a piece of woman.” Beckel’s male co-panelists, Eric Boller and Greg Gutfeld, argued that the majority of remarks aimed at Roberts in the video were actually complimentary. What else do we have? How about rape threats?
I have a question for our “friends” at Fox, and for anybody else who finds this much ado about nothing. What would you think if this were YOUR daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, friend, cousin? Would you be so quick to call the remarks complimentary? Would you add that 101st catcall if she were the wife or girlfriend of a friend of yours? If the answer is no, then what makes it OK in this situation?
Before scoffing, threatening or making light of the whole thing, ask if THAT reaction is based on YOUR view of rape culture. If it is, please consider getting professional help instead of continuously BLAMING THE VICTIMS for your crimes and those of people like you. Our society no longer wants or needs you, and we reject your participation in it.
Change happens one individual at a time. Where are you at with it?