Street harassment should not be considered a compliment


Recently, a video of a woman walking through the streets of New York getting catcalled over 100 times has been released. This video was created by director Rob Bliss collaborating with the international movement, “Hollaback!”, that works to end street harassment. 

The footage shows an actress dressed in jeans and a black crewneck t-shirt, walking her daily route around the city. As she walks, the actress makes sure to give off the impression that she does not want to be approached verbally or physically. Yet the hints are ignored by several dozen men who call her out with lines such as, “Damn!”, “Sexy!”, “You should smile more!”, even a “God bless you mami!” At one point, a man compliments her then follows her around for a whole five minutes after she does not pay him the attention he wants.

This video hit a nerve and people were enraged. Comments were swirling around the internet such as, “Asking how someone’s day was is now considered street harassment?” or “This whole thing was probably made by another pissed off feminist.” It’s gotten as bizarre that the actress has received rape and death threats.

The fact that the vast majority of the men in the video were African American and Latino did not go unnoticed. Many people lashed out on this sole argument rather than the actual street harassing issue. Bliss said that it was not his intention to narrow it down to men of color, and stated that he only wanted to present evidence of street harassment.

There’s also the argument that the women who get street harassed are the ones at fault due to their “provocative” clothing. This action of blaming the person being call out is the root of victim blaming. “Well, it’s their fault because they wear revealing clothes. If you know what you’re wearing is provocative then don’t complain when guys call you out on it.” So that gives you the right to objectify me? Because I have the right to wear what I want?

Freedom of speech does give people the right to say what they want, but people also have the right to respond.

How are men able to speak about this situation if they are not a woman walking on the streets in their everyday life being hollered at?

I’ve experienced catcalling as early as the age of seven and I remember it clearly.

My mother was holding my twin brother and I with each hand while we walked down the street. And driving by, a middle aged man whistled at my mother, puckered his lips making kissing noises as well. I didn’t know much then but my mother just told me to ignore it and to not worry.

This has happened to me at the mall, at a gas station and walking back from school, it does not matter the place – it can happen anywhere.

Even two weeks ago, I was walking to my bus station with my mom and twin brother. Yet again, a guy sitting down had the audacity to speak up. “Damn! Is that your mother? She’s sure is beautiful!” My mother, who’s gotten used to this arrogant behavior, walked on acting as if she did not hear a world — I even had to do a double take to see if she had even heard. This left the guy furious, “Geez, not even a thank you?!” As if we were to respond to his rude remarks.

I never understood how people could be so disrespectful.

That’s what these men want out of their behavior – they want a reaction.

Women live under the fear of walking alone, no matter the time of day, because of situations like these. Girls are advertised in the media to learn tricks on protecting themselves when they’re alone: with car keys, or the classic pepper spray. Women are told through subtle messages on the media that we shouldn’t go out at night because there’s a bunch of people in dark waiting to hurt you. Street harassment violates someone’s comfort and that is no where near okay.

If you haven’t realized yet, letting a woman know that you want to sleep with them through an unflattering, objectifying message is not a form of complimentary.