During my stay in New York I experienced exactly the same as in this video. It’s uncomfortable, intimidated and sometimes even scary. Anti-street harassment organization Hollaback! created a video showing a woman being harassed more than 100 times in 10 hours while walking through New York. It went viral, and has already been seen by more than 36 million people on YouTube since it was uploaded on 28 October.
The clip claims to show every instance in which the woman in the video was either catcalled, whistled, or shouted at in the street while walking silently and “through all areas of Manhattan wearing jeans and a crewneck T-shirt”.
There’s been an ongoing and wide-ranging conversation about street harassment over the past few weeks, sparked by this now infamous video of one woman’s catcall-filled journey around NYC—the same catcall-filled journey that many women experience every day.
The video was generally praised for highlighting the levels of intimidation women have to endure when walking down the street. I as a female was already aware of the harassment on the street worldwide. But I think it’s important to make this statement. So that everybody men, women, black, white will see this and say ‘Holy crap’
Similar videos had previously circulated without attracting as much attention, perhaps because none cut to the root of the problem with such stark elegance. Men were surprised to learn that the same streets they traverse unmolested each day are often a battleground for women; women, in turn, issued a collective grimace of recognition.
Street harassment is a widespread problem for women in NYC, it’s time to look at its underlying psychology—why do men do it and what effect does it have on women?
Debjani Roy, deputy director of Hollaback, said the issue with street harassment stems from its unpredictability—what guarantees, that what starts as a catcall won’t lead to an arm-grab or an attempt to follow a woman home?
“There are some people who might say, ‘back in my day, you would just say ‘thank you’ and move on,’ and it wasn’t such a big deal—and some people nowadays will say it’s not such a big deal,” she said. “That’s for you to decide. But our philosophy is that this is something that happens in a culture. It’s in our cultures roots and that has normalized it for such a long time, in a culture that is patriarchal and misogynistic and has taught women and girls to deal with it.”
Roy said a large part of Hollaback’s mission is to educate young boys on the detrimental effects of street harassment, and that the results are gratifying. “I’ve seen, you know, the light bulb go off in someone’s mind,” she said. The virtues of respecting women and their bodies aside, Roy has another point. “It’s not effective,” she said. “According to all the stories we’ve read and people we’ve spoken to, it does not work.”
The creators hope people will walk away with an understanding about how it feels.