By now, I’m assuming you’ve seen this viral video of Shoshanna B. Roberts walking silently around Manhattan while receiving over 100 catcalls and compliments in 10 hours. I was expecting people to be shocked. Instead, comments overwhelmingly fell into the following three groups:
1. People who were not even remotely surprised.
2. People who slut shamed her for wearing jeans and a shirt that were, in their opinion, too tight. (My favorite: “if she was walking around in an amish dress, none of this happens. I’m not blaming the girl [my note… um, really? Sounds like you are] but if you dress in tight jeans and a tight shirt, you are doing it to draw attention to other men” [sic])
3. People who denied that most of what people said to her was harassment at all. (Example: “stop blowing everything up like it’s a f’n controversy to keep women down. if she doesn’t want to hear people talking to her in one of the most populated pedestrian cities she should wear headphones”)
People who are both #2 and #3, including this character: “There are worse things in life than being attractive and getting “cat calls”. If she really hates all the attention, maybe she should gain 100 pounds? Ridiculous.”
In a quick, rough estimates of the comments, 2/3 of the people (and I say people deliberately; both men and women fell in every category) blame the silently walking women for (a) deserving the comments and (b) being bothered by them.
I would be very curious to see if a silently walking man in the same outfit drew the same attention. I’m going to go out on the proverbial limb here and say he wouldn’t receive any comments. I’m also willing to bet that over 90% (if not 100%) of the people who talked to Shoshanna that day were men, and that these men did not similarly address fellow men. This video is, in my opinion, endemic of the larger cultural problem in which men think it is okay to beat and rape women. Women are bodies to be commented on and visually consumed. They are seen as objects of appreciation and desire. And if we want to tackle the problem of violence against women, we have to start small, start here, by teaching our young men that catcalls, even when housed as “compliments,” are not appropriate or respectful ways to address women, particularly those whom you don’t know.
What can you do? Read more about Hollaback’s international mission to end street harassment here.