Subjective annoyance … or let’s call it “street harassment”—The not so subtle racism of Hollaback!

There are now two videos making the rounds on the information superhighway. A few days ago it was that video of children using the F-word for that radical ideological cult they call gender feminism. FCKH8 used shocking images and inflammatory and incorrect statistics to sell T-shirts. Now we have a woman clearly using Black and Latino men as props to spread hate and distrust. The people behind this video, Hollaback!, want to perpetuate the gender war so that people can donate to yet another organization hell-bent on demonizing men.

This was a set-up and people fell for it. I feel that these organizations attempt to attract attention in ways that are repulsive. Hollaback! does their own agenda injustice by posting this video and calling the actions we see here “street harassment.”

Have you even looked into the concept of street harassment? I have. It is just more nonsense from fringe members of the cult of man-haters. Until the actions rise to the legal definition of sexual harassment, catcalls will remain an annoying fact of life for some attractive women in our country.

Men who don’t have high status, money, or position to entice and woo women tend to use low investment strategies in the pursuit of the opposite sex. It costs them nothing to catcall. It is completely free. They might stand in the street for days and be on the hunt for women and catcall. Some women in certain neighborhoods turn around and smile, they laugh, they giggle. To these men, this is seen as an open door and they eventually get a phone number or two. They achieve very high return for a minimal investment.

This happens often in places like the ones shown in the video. Over the past few days I’ve heard from women who have actually said, “No woman likes catcalling.” They are completely wrong. Today, men have real options. Women in many communities in New York City are available and interested in getting attention from men through catcalling. Do I condone this behavior? No. Do I understand it? Yes. If it works just once, a man like this knows it will work again if he keeps trying. Low risk–high return.

Harassment is a crime. No crimes were committed within this video. Is catcalling annoying? Yes. Is it a crime? NO! Therefore, what is being described and depicted as harassment is really subjective annoyance, and annoyance is not a crime. All of the men I saw in the video seemed to be variations of the same man from the same neighborhood. There was not an accurate representation of life in New York City depicted here. It might have been more representative of certain people who live in those communities.

In this video, there were no threats made, no requests for sexual favors, no graphic descriptions of explicit sexual acts, no attempts to physically impede her movement. The majority of the men here were being complimentary, friendly, and behaving well within their First Amendment rights. In short, the men were behaving consistent with their gender role as the pursuer and initiator. The one man who was supposedly following her for five minutes was being rude and was way out of line, but let me tell you, my girlfriend gets approached ALL THE TIME. I expect this because she is beautiful. When a man compliments my girlfriend or attempts to catcall, a simple “thank you” or “no thanks” is the response she uses when she does not want to engage. It acknowledges them and shuts them down. Some keep trying, but she keeps moving toward her destination. She understands how it feels to be catcalled but knows how to handle herself in this city. It is the same approach anyone uses when bombarded by people on the street here in Manhattan when they are trying to sell you something. You either ignore them, acknowledge them, or engage.

By the way, this is not your average day in this city.

No one walks around for 10 hours looking for trouble. These events happened in certain parts of NYC (notably 125th Street). If this experiment took place near the financial district, and the woman in the video was surrounded by millionaires in Brooks Brothers suits, would this woman ignore their advances? I noticed that none of the streets included were Park, Madison, Fifth, or Lexington Ave. Neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, the Upper East Side, or Williamsburg were nowhere to be found. How about the High Line? Why not? Nothing filmed there either.

I find the racial politics of this video very problematic. When specifically asked about the demographics of the men featured in the video, Emily May, co-founder and executive director of Hollaback!, mentioned in an interview on the NPR show The Takeaway that it “cut across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum.” If that were the case, then why edit the video to show predominately Black and Latino men? She never addressed or answered the question. The harassment of women by men is an important issue, but when attempts such as this one uphold the narrative that Black and Latino men are uncivilized brutes, then it does nothing but perpetuate the many ways Black and Latino men are stigmatized and demonized. Is justice really being served here?

When you look closely at the video, you will notice several scenes where the audio does not match the video. It appears as if there were cases of audio overdubs. Also, how do we know this was 10 hours, and where are the 108 supposed examples of street harassment? When asked about the absence of White men in the video and the editing process, director Rob Bliss replied, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” If that is the case and you find yourself editing out all the White men who catcalled, maybe you could have taken another 10 or 20 hours looking for that White guy. You can certainly find it if you really are looking for it.

Again, sexual harassment is a CRIME. Nothing here was criminal. Being an attractive woman who gets catcalls is another unfortunate aspect of living in a city of 8 million people. Do we strive for a better life? Yes. But to label all of these videotaped interactions as sexual harassment is stretching the definition.

How does one expect to interact in this large city and have no one talk to them or even say “Good morning”? Good luck figuring that one out.

The whole premise of this video is flawed and became a poorly executed exercise that achieved nothing except more confusion and negative attention for Hollaback! and radical gender feminism.

What is supposed to be done about “street harassment?” Do we make catcalling illegal? According to Hollaback!, yes.

Hollaback!’s mission statement says that the group is interested in modifying state and federal laws to punish offenders. This raises significant First Amendment concerns. They feel that the comments documented in this video are the “most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against.” Hollaback! hopes to “inspire legislators, the police, and other authorities to take this issue seriously—to approach it with sensitivity, and to create policies that make everyone feel safe” because they feel catcalling is a “gateway crime” that ultimately “makes gender-based violence OK.”

This sets a dangerous precedent.

Unfortunately, catcalling is symptomatic of a far deeper societal problem. It is important to note that, like most people, these men are not inherently bad; rather, they are acting based on their natural instincts and the expectations of the people in the community where they live.

As a healthy heterosexual male, I always notice women and I always appreciate when there is an attractive one in the room. That being said, I have never catcalled a woman or made any other sexual comments to a woman I was not intimate with. I try to the best of my ability to treat women exactly as I would a man. I attribute my behavior to my upbringing. My parents had rules for how I was to treat and respect women. In addition, they had guidelines for how my sisters and I were to conduct ourselves, which encompassed dating, dress, and a curfew. I do the same thing with my own children. My parents served and continue to serve as role models and demonstrate what a loving and respectful relationship looks like.

Nowadays, long-term relationships are on the decline, and as a result, proper relationship role models are becoming increasingly rare. It does not help matters that we live in a hook-up culture, which I think reinforces viewing a woman as a sexual object rather than as a person deserving of respect. Until Hollaback! addresses the larger societal problem, I do not think they will be very effective.

Their ultimate goal? They want to make free speech ILLEGAL!

Sexual harassment exists, but are we now redefining it to include casual greetings? This video was edited in such a way to make it look like the harassment is constant, which is false. Harassment is never acceptable, but I feel more sorry for the homeless men in the video than for the person the men in the video were saying hello to.

Why is it that so much attention is paid to what seems like a damsel in distress, when the truth is she wasn’t. There was such an outcry in support of her over the past week even though this whole thing was a set-up and a massive hoax. We seem to neglect the plight of the men who are stuck in these communities and only focus on this one woman who is doing quite well and is under no form of “oppression” at all in this country. Why is it that men’s issues are totally neglected, but we fall over one another to figure out a way to help out women who feel threatened by a man saying hello? It is time to call these people out and start asking deeper questions about what the motive of organizations like Hollaback! really are.

When we pay the same amount of attention to the gender aspect of homelessness, incarceration, job deaths, suicide, dropouts, and mortality rates, and discrimination in family courts, criminal courts, and domestic violence services, then maybe I’ll sympathize with a woman being asked how her day is on the street too many times.


This item first printed on TheSoccradockMethod.–Eds.

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