Explanation for that viral street harassment video

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By: Andrea Alarcón

I was not going to write about this, given that well, everyone has. But I figured I should give an explanation to why you are no longer my Facebook friend. You see, when I posted the Hollaback! video on my wall, it served as a filter. If you commented something like “but she is getting compliments, not getting harassed!” then you fit this criteria. Trust me, you don’t want any of my feminist rants on your feed either, so I am doing us both a favor. Also I met you once or twice and didn’t like you much anyways, so not a big loss.

For those who haven’t watched it, here it is.

You see, I am in my late twenties, and so are most of my “friends” on that platform; if by this point in your life you still cannot understand this video,  then I cannot help you. It’s like when I couldn’t help that guy I lived with who was 30, spilled a bottle of Ragú in our kitchen and didn’t bother to clean up the mess, to understand that there is no such thing as a cleaning fairy. You are pretty much formed at this point.

The video was created by an agency whose aim is to make viral videos, and hell, it worked. And usually successful videos like this achieve such popularity because of the ressonance they have. But our sexist internet never fails to dissapoint, and this woman is now getting rape threats. On a lesser scale, many are saying that the video is overly “sensitive” like that former Facebook friend of mine. There is also a race complaint that may be valid, but it does not detract from the main point.

For those who still do not get it, a few bullet points:

  • Cat calling a woman is never ok, even in the form of compliments, creepy “hello”s  or a demand for your smile:  Almost no one wants to hear opinions about their bodies, particularly from strangers. A harasser is simply establishing his believed power dynamic: he is a man, and it doesn’t matter if I am young or old, wearing a burka or a mini skirt, a maid or a CEO, I am a woman and I am on this planet to be judged by men. You are letting me know you have an opinion on how I look, and I do not care. It is as offensive as if you yelled at me how ugly I am. Think about it in some other dimension, like someone saying to you “hello you are very brown”. It is not meant as offensive, it is what they think, hell it could even be meant as a compliment. Yet even though I am indeed brown, I am also a person, walking to work, who does not need to hear it from you nor know why you feel the need to say it to me in the first place. (Check out the “#DudesGreetingDudes” responde. It´s pretty funny.)
  • It is scary: And you know this. As a woman, I can feel the tension inside of me when I walk close to a construction site. I have to make a “bitch face” and ensure I do not make eye contact. I have to switch to the other side of the street, still feeling the “gaze” on me. My walk to work becomes stressful, and unnecesarily so. The “compliments” the whistling, do not lift my ego, do not validate me,  they make me feel harassed. This idea that women love attention from all men is not only sexist, it is innacurate.
  •  “Ignoring” “getting over it” “boys will be boys” etc. are not solutions : It turns out, it is not my responsability to not get harassed, it is YOUR responsability not to harass me. When people address you it is usually for a reason. If a beggar asks for money it is because they want money, if you ask me to smile is because you want to see it. Am I obligated to please you, random stranger? A beggar is appealing to my pity, my humanity. What are you appealing to?

Another great video to watch, in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, a little funnier, yet still getting the point accross.

Every once in a while I do turn around and meet them right back. Of course I am mindful of the circumstances. Like ensuring it is daylight, that the street is full of people, etc. Once it was a group of bodyguards standing outside a building, and I turned around and said:

“Excuse me, were you adressing me?” in the most polite way I could. The guy looked abashed and said “uuummm well  just wanted to say you are pretty.” I responded: “Oh thanks, but no thanks. I do not need to hear that from you nor does any other woman.” And I walked away. I believe all I achieved was to embarass the man in front of all his other body guard friends. But hey, one step at a time.

More on this:
Hollaback! You won’t believe how many times this woman gets harassed in 10 hours.

What men should ask themselves instead of wondering why women don’t like catcalling
A Hidden Camera Reveals How Women Are Constantly Harassed on the Street
Belgium documentary on Street Harassment
The disappointing aftermath of that viral street harassment PSA

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