I’m sure by now most of you have seen this video. Since hitting the Internet on Tuesday, it’s racked up almost 15 million views and has been the subject of much debate, criticism and national media coverage. It’s been called everything from sexist and racist to hilarious and an accurate depiction of typical city street harassment.
In it, New York City-based actress Soshana B. Roberts walks around Manhattan for what we’re told is a total of ten hours (edited down to less than two minutes), being filmed by a hidden camera attached to a backpack carried by the person walking in front of her. The video, produced by nonprofit street harassment awareness group Hollaback, captures over 100 catcalls from various men in various areas of the city. Some of the men’s comments are completely benign and innocent. Others certainly cross the line of decency.
Have a look:
Apparently, some people are demanding to know why the video primarily depicts only black and Latino men. A blogger over at Slate thinks that the video still makes its point — that women can’t even go for a leisurely stroll down city streets without hoards of men demanding their attention. I suppose this could be true in a city as large as NYC where millions of people walk the streets and sidewalks every day. When questioned about the racial aspect, however, Rob Bliss, who worked on the video in collaboration with Hollaback, admitted that the video wasn’t a perfect representation of everything that happened that day. (No kidding.) In other words, there were probably plenty of white men who made crude comments as well and were, for whatever reason, edited out of the final cut.
Honestly, I think anyone who is looking for some sort of racist element in this video is missing the bigger issue. Besides, this isn’t the first hidden camera video to capture various forms of street harassment and catcalling. It’s not a black man problem. It’s not a Hispanic man problem. It’s not a white man problem.
It’s just a man problem. Plain and simple. Nothing else.
Before I go any further, let me be clear that I am against street harassment in any form. Men everywhere really need to exercise self-control when speaking to women in public. Harassment in any form isn’t just wrong, it’s illegal.
That being said, I’m addressing this video in particular because it has received so much criticism and not just from men (some of them think it’s a sexist generalization of the male population), but from women as well.
I’m sure we can all agree that the majority of the men in this video cross the line of decency — particularly the one guy who walks next to Soshana for over five minutes without even saying a word. (We call that stalking here in America.) And there’s also that creepy dude who speaks to her repetitively despite her lack of a response.
But, in fairness, there were also quite a few men who greeted her politely and then went about their business. Let’s keep things in perspective. Not everything in this video is harassment. In fact, some of it was cordial and polite. As a society, we have to be careful not to vilify all forms of social interaction with a stranger and label it “harassment." Otherwise, no one would ever make new friends, meet their neighbors, approach someone they’re attracted to or go on blind dates. Saying “hi” or telling someone to “have a nice day” certainly doesn’t qualify as harassment. And the video, obviously, does not represent the male species as a whole.
The real issue here is the men who believe it’s acceptable to make sexualized comments about a woman as she’s walking by. This goes for men of all ethnicities, all social levels, all educational backgrounds, and all ages. To those in the media who are trying to make this a racial issue, please stop. The black men in this video who made disrespectful comments didn’t do so because they’re black. They did it because they’re men. Imperfect men. Rude men. Sex-obsessed men. Thoughtless men with no consideration for the feelings of the woman to whom they are speaking. Their skin color has nothing to do with it.
What makes matters worse is that it’s these men who help to perpetuate the myth that every man is, by nature, in search of some sort of sexual encounter with a woman. (And it’s these kind of men who give feminists reasons to push their agendas and use false statistics to demonize men as I discussed in my last two posts.)
Furthermore, these men, who can’t seem to keep their hormones and sexual urges under control, have made it harder for the men with pure intentions to feel comfortable approaching a woman in an attempt to get to know her. They have given the honorable men a bad name. And, ironically, they have made many women more unapproachable. The natural response for a woman in Soshana’s position is to ignore the men. Don’t speak to them. Don’t acknowledge them. Don’t make eye contact. Put some headphones in. Make a fake phone call. Start texting someone.
Do you see the problem here? Men begin to believe that women are unapproachable all because of the actions of a select group of men who are complete buffoons. Total idiots. It is in no way the fault of the women. These ladies are simply responding in the way that seems most logical to them. And, in many cases, the way that ensures their safety.
In reality, men who catcall from construction sites or street-stalk women while spouting sexualized comments have no idea what a real, genuine, healthy, authentic relationship with the opposite sex entails. In fact, they’re just looking to get a rise out of the woman. To get some sort of response. Any response. It would make their day just to hear the woman shout: “Get away from me, you freak!”
How pathetic. How sad.
As men, honorable men, we need to be an example in a culture that continues to view women as nothing more than sex objects. Fathers, of all races, need to teach their sons to treat women with respect. To value a woman’s worth as a human being. To value her mind, her personality, her uniqueness, her character, everything that makes her who she is.
I find it insulting, as a man, that much of our society simply believes that “boys will be boys.” This video promotes that falsehood. The very idea that I, as a man, cannot control my thoughts or actions in the presence of an attractive woman is tantamount to calling me a primitive neanderthal with no ability to adhere to civilized interactions with the opposite sex.
This is ridiculous.
To the mainstream media and the video makers at Hollaback — be very careful in your so-called “reports” on street harassment. It is not a race issue. It’s a matter of what it means to be a real man in today’s society. And real men don’t spout catcalls and demean women in public, or anywhere else.
Real men respect and honor women.
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