This catcalling video, of the woman, Shoshana Roberts, in New York City that walked around for 10 hours recording men “catcalling” her has gone viral, with millions of views and national news shows features.
Frankly, I think the video and what happens in it is being overblown. Now, I am not saying that catcalling is okay or that women should have to put up with it. I am simply saying what passes for catcalling these days has stretched the limits of language.
I have several huge problems with Ms. Roberts’ video. First is the fact that the video shows what happened when she walked around certain areas of NYC for 10 hours and then condenses that into a four minute or so video. Condensing a day into a few minutes and picking out the worst parts to show is not at all a true indicator of what she experienced. Again, this is not to say that even one incident isn't wrong and women shouldn’t have to endure it at all. But let’s not make a four minute condensed video proof that the problem is completely out of hand.
My other problem with the video is that it is New York City, which by no means represents how men or people behave everywhere. I say that as someone who loves NYC and who lived there for many years. New York is an environment unlike any other and street talk and hanging out on corners is part of New York’s culture to a degree. Again, I am not excusing the behavior. I am just noting that how men behave on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, or some small midwestern town does not compare to how men in crowded, boisterous, in-your-face, New York City act. Of course Roberts has a right to be able to walk down the streets of New York without being harassed. But she should also know that street culture in New York does not reflect male culture everywhere. You may have also seen the video of the woman in New Zealand doing the same, walking around a big city there. Not one cat call. Men simply act differently in different cities.
And then there is the bigger issue to me. As others have noted, even The New York Times, in Roberts’ four minute video 99% of the men who she seemingly considered to be harassing her, were black or Hispanic men. Based on the video, it sure looks like the point is you can’t walk the streets of New York without black and Hispanic men saying something to you. Some have humorously pointed out online that perhaps the legal question this video brings up is, “Should Black And Hispanic Men Be Banned From Chatting Up White Feminist Women?”
I think maybe the issue in most instances is not that men are saying things to Roberts or other women that complain about this issue, but rather it is who is saying it to them. I can’t help but believe a rich, white, Wall Street broker, saying “How you doing” to Ms. Roberts would not be seen as much as an intrusion as those common black and Hispanic guys. I saw a prank video not long ago where a guy was sitting on the hood of a Bugutti, an extremely expensive sports car, talking to women passing by. He was a stranger to them and yet when he offered to take them for a ride in his car to a restaurant, the women in the video quickly said yes. So a strange guy seemingly with money got women to get in his expensive car, but your average Joe on the street saying hello is "offensive."
Quite the double standard there. Now, catcalling and lewd comments should not have to be tolerated by women. But let’s not blow this out of proportion because of Ms. Roberts’ video. After all, her video exposed more issues than she wants us to focus on.