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Street harassment is a serious problem that needs to be taken seriously

street harrassment, cat calling, Kealie Mardell, kettlemag,
Written by Kealie Mardell

Earlier this week a new video went viral. Unsurprising. But this wasn’t a cute animal or hilarious prank. This time the video that was cropping up all over my newsfeed was addressing the issue of catcalling and street harassment. ‘10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman’ shows the journey of one woman and the typical verbal abuse received every day by women all over the world.

Actress Shoshana Roberts was filmed with a hidden camera for 10 hours while walking around Manhattan, during which she was catcalled more than 100 times. Creators Rob Bliss Creative, the viral video marketing agency, and non-profit Hollaback!, are calling the video a public service announcement. The two minute video has already been viewed over 20 million times and has received over 50,000 comments.

It seemed that a commonplace issue of everyday sexism was finally receiving the recognition it deserves. 

Criticism of the video cut

Unfortunately, it seems that nothing slips through the net nowadays, and within what seemed like hours the critics came stomping all over our parade. The accusation was that the video makers, when cutting down 10 hours into just two minutes, had been too selective in their editing. Critics had noticed that the majority of men shown in the video were black or Latino. 

In defence of this criticism, the creators said that in reality the numbers were fairly even across men of all backgrounds, but for different reasons a lot of the footage was unsuitable to use in the final video. At the end of the day – no video, and no edit, would ever be perfect. Flaws aside, it is still better than nothing.

While all of this was going on, the comments continued pouring in on the Hollaback! video. There was support, there was criticism, but most outraging were the reported rape and death threats towards Roberts. This may sound shocking, but it is commonplace across many platforms. 

Doesn’t this just prove the point? An actress can’t even appear in an awareness video about street harassment without being subjected to further harassment. It is time to stop ignoring this serious problem, yet not everyone is taking it seriously. 

Check your privilege 

Just days after the release of ’10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman’, online comedy website Funny or Die published a parody video in response. Their video, ‘White Man in NYC, depicts the exaggerated stereotype of the privileged white male. In this video, we see high-fives, football passes, compliments and job offers a plenty. 

I for one was neither amused nor impressed. You can call me a cynic with no sense of humour, but taking such an important issue and demeaning it into a parody is in bad taste at the very least. It undermines the importance of the Hollaback! campaign and the issues it seeks to address. Street harassment is not a joke, and there is no reason to make it one. 

Sexual harassment in any form is an issue for everyone. It can affect both men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Yet there is a prevailing dominance of street harassment against women. It is women who fear walking alone. It is women who report this treatment at such a high level. 

Being catcalled on the street is not a compliment; it’s not flattering, and it’s certainly not something to be grateful for. It is harassment; and it has to stop.