Which undermines the Hollaback message that street harassment is committed by all kinds of men and endured by all kinds of people.
I’ve lived in New York for five years now, and I’ve been catcalled pretty much every day of those five years (okay, not every day, because some days I do not leave the house, as I am a sad lonely feminist blogger with an aversion to sunshine, people, and pants).
As one woman asked on Twitter right after the video was released, would it have been different if Roberts had been filmed walking through the Financial District?
The video has now been viewed over 35 million times, and it’s sparked some necessary conversations about the problem of street harassment and some necessary criticism of the depiction of that harassment in the film as something that’s mostly done by men of color and only inflicted on white women.
In the most recent response, friend of the site Collier Meyerson created an excellent video, in which women of color respond to the video, talk about their experiences of being harassed by white men — on the street and elsewhere — and seek to “open the conversation [and] make it broader.” Hollaback has responded to the criticism, pledging to create a video series “to show the complete, overall picture” of street harassment.
First is the fact that if I was harassed, that meant that I “passed for cis” and that in its own fucked up way patriarchy validated me, and as degrading as it was, I should feel grateful they did not read me as trans with all the connotations of “freak” that that carries.
The perversity here, the twisted thing, is that as a trans woman with no recourse against male violence you are made to feel grateful for that blown-kiss of death bestowed by men who harass you.
Furthermore, I have a problem with Hollaback’s strategy for eradicating street harassment.
Documenting harassment on a mobile app so that other users can see the “hotspots” is reminiscent of anti-rape tools that place the responsibility on survivors to avoid rape by not going to certain places at certain times, blowing their whistles, fighting off their assailants, and/or reporting their assaults.
To that end, some of the Feministing crew sat down at our digital roundtable for a bit of a chat about these videos, the push to change the perception and practice of street harassment, and our own personal experiences out on the streets.
Chloe: In the Hollaback video, the overwhelming majority of the men doing the harassment are black and brown, reinforcing racist notions that black and brown men are more likely to harass women on the street — that it’s not something that “good” or “classy” (read: white, upper and upper-middle class) men would ever do, and taping into centuries-old and deeply pernicious stereotypes about black men and sexual violence.
*sips tea* I’ve taken issue with the framing of street harassment itself.