Street Harassment from Both Sides

Lately, a certain video has been getting a lot of attention on the internet. The video features a young girl walking through the streets of Manhattan for ten hours who experiences over 100 instances of verbal harassment, or as some call it “cat calling.”

A lot of people watched this video with a lot of sympathy and realization of what happens to women every day. But just like with any growing controversy, plenty of people had complaints. One criticism of the video that is being thrown around a lot is that no one cares when these kind of incidents happen to men. I found this particular response video that really upset me.

Now the part of this video that really got to me was the way that the men producing it kept putting air quotes around the word harassment obviously implying that it’s not real. Now, I watched the video, I saw the multiple women and men that approached him, but here is my question…why does the fact that it happens to both women and men mean it’s not harassment?

I think this video is a perfect representation of how a patriarchal society negatively affects not only women, but men as well. The macho expectations of men in society don’t allow them to feel harassed because harassment is something that only happens to weak people, like women. Now I watched this response video and thought that the ways in which the man walking the streets was being approached were incredibly disrespectful. But the men who made this video don’t seem to see it that way.

They simply see it as being approached, and the fact that it happens to them means it’s not harassment. Then they force that lack of sympathy towards men with regards to harassment back onto female victims, inadvertently reinforcing the idea that street harassment is something that women should just get over and ultimately that they’re bodies are meant for male attention.

In her famous speech at the UN, Emma Watson said “we don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.” The system of gender inequality and the expectations we place on gender roles hurt men just as much as women. They are not allowed to feel “harassed.” And that expectation ultimately belittles the issue of street harassment for men and women alike. If we can change the ways that we view and enforce these gender roles, perhaps we can make strides to end things like street harassment for both women and men.

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2 thoughts on “Street Harassment from Both Sides

  1. I really liked this article, but I wonder: Did you think that the Hollaback video’s featuring only men of color catcalling the white woman in question in its showcase was problematic? I wonder if that doesn’t undermine the message somewhat – not having white guys in the video sends the message that only people of color harass women in the street, which simply isn’t true.

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    • That is definitely something that I noticed with this video. There are white men featured in the video and the disclaimer at the end does say that she was harassed by people of all sorts of different backgrounds, but there is no denying that the majority of the men in the video are men of color. While this does bother me, I think an important thing to remember is that New York City has a fairly high non-white population (33% white, 25% black, 23% Hispanic) We also don’t know what areas of the she was walking through for this video. NYC has a lot of neighborhoods comprised almost exclusively of white, black, or Hispanic populations.

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