What Really Constitutes Street Harassment And Why That Viral Catcalling Video Does More Harm Than Good

screenshot via YouTube/Street HarassmentVideo

Everyone deserves to be able to walk down the street without fear of harassment; unfortunately, most people don’t get what they deserve in life. There are a lot of assholes in the world and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. It’s usually best to ignore that kind of shit, but you may decide to make a misguided video and post it on the Internet instead — to each his (or her) own.

Most reasonable would likely agree that the issue of street harassment of women is a real one. I don’t know what it’s like to live life as a good-looking woman, but it’s probably full of positives and negatives, just like with anybody else. Sure, you never have to pay for your drinks and it’s easy to talk your way out of a speeding ticket, but when every man you encounter wants to fuck you, I imagine that it can get pretty exhausting and sometimes scary or even terrifying to deal with. So let’s put that on the table right now, OK? I feel for you, hot chicks of the world, and on behalf of douchebags everywhere, I apologize.

So now that all that’s out of the way, let’s talk about that stupid fucking video by Hollaback. You know the one — the woman who takes a 10-hour walk through New York City in a tight T-shirt and gets about a hundred comments from men on the street. First off, only a hundred in 10 hours? Not exactly a statistic that suggests a problem of epidemic proportions, but whatever. The argument is going to be that even one is one too many, so I’ll leave it alone. Second: Sorry, but your video is racist, so fuck you for that. It’s hard to believe that you couldn’t find any white dudes to pop in there, especially with your extremely liberal standards of what qualifies as harassment. Which leads me to my third, and really most important, point.

It’s irresponsible to lump guys saying “hello” or “have a nice day” into the same category as guys who say “I want to fuck you in the ass and come on your tits.” One of these things is not like the others. The only reason I can think of for including the innocuous comments in the video was to pad it, but in doing so, they diminished the impact of their message. Defenders of the video basically say that any attempted contact with a woman on the street is harassment, and that’s just bullshit. Does anyone really want to live in a world where smiling at a pretty girl will get you labeled as a sex offender? I mean, my God. When I’m out walking my dog and I make eye contact with someone, it’s a reflex to do something. If it’s a woman, I smile; if it’s a man, I nod. Sometimes those little gestures lead to actual communication and, you know, basic human-to-human connection, which shouldn’t be branded as a bad thing. Didn’t your mom ever tell you not to let a few rotten apples spoil the bunch?

So in some ways, I think this video and all the shit like it that’s clogging up the Internet these days are probably going to make the problem worse. I can’t imagine that anyone who watched it was legitimately surprised by anything they saw. It’s that sort of easy “preaching to the choir” shit that drives me insane. It’s not the least bit enlightening and stands absolutely no chance of changing anyone’s mind on the issue.

Guys who whistle at or yell, “Hey baby” to women on the street have always mystified me, not only because it’s really rude, but because I can’t believe it’s a successful strategy. If those guys actually want to meet, date and hopefully have sex with a woman, they’re going about it all wrong. They have to know this, because I seriously doubt any woman in the history of that practice has responded by running over and dropping her panties. And if their lack of getting laid hasn’t gotten through to them, a softball video like this has no chance in hell of making an impact.

Then there are the guys who harass women for sport or in some kind of “dominant male” way. Not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, are they? Explain to me how this video is meant to reach dickheads like that, because I can’t figure it out. I can’t imagine an organization like Hollaback taking any advice from a guy like me, but just in case, I’ll throw it out there: “Know your fucking market.” If you really hope to put an end to this kind of behavior (as your website naively states), you need to target the guys who are doing it and maybe do a little research on ways to reach them. So far, it doesn’t look like you’ve spent much time, effort or the money you’ve been shamelessly asking for on that.

So I’m left wondering: What’s the point of the video? It’s not original, entertaining or informative, and it only strives to reach the people who are already on the same side of the issue. Well, I’m gonna go ahead and call it out for being opportunistic. Street harassment is a hot talking point right now, and this organization wanted to cash in with a little pandering. And it’s working. The video has received a helluva lot of hits and I bet a lot of idiots out there have “donated” money to the cause. Suckers.

Anyway, for all of you readers who are red-faced and furious with me right now, settle the fuck down. I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not defending actual harassment; I’m just rejecting Hollaback’s definition of it. And sure, I’m questioning their intentions a little. But the cold, hard truth is that we live in a society of free speech, and with that freedom comes the burden of having to hear a lot of shit we don’t like. Shit that’s inappropriate. Shit that makes us uncomfortable. Life is full of compromises.

So in the spirit of compromise, I’ll make a little deal with you. The next time I hear a guy say something sexually suggestive or intimidating to a woman on the street, I’ll tell him to shut the fuck up. In return, the next time you pass a pretty girl, tell her I said “Hi.”