Is this harassment?

This video was intended to demonstrate the harassment a woman endures while walking in Manhattan. In this example, a woman walked around Manhattan for 10 hours, following a friend who was carrying the camera in his backpack. As planned, she spoke to no one and avoided eye contact.

The video, posted just yesterday, has already drawn more than 10 million hits and 3,000 comments. The comments make interesting reading and they run the gamut from support to ridicule and all points in between. A video intended to combat harassment of women has instead become a platform for social awareness about how men and women relate — or don’t relate — to one another, and opinions vary widely: Men will be men. She’s asking for it. What can you expect from low class men? She’s such a snob, not smiling or speaking to anyone. If she speaks to anyone, she’ll just be encouraging him. How are you ever supposed to meet anyone if not by saying “Hi”?

Certainly it got me thinking. Some of what I saw did not strike me as harassment at all. It seemed more like casual acknowledgments or pleasantries. (Granted, I’ve been called a naive, small-town girl.) Some of it was the sort of catcalling I’ve grown to expect from men who have nothing better to do but sit along the sidewalk eyeing women. Obnoxious, but relatively harmless as long as it’s daylight and there are a lot of people around. But the two men who walked along beside her were just plain scary.

You may see it differently. I suspect it depends a lot on your gender, your upbringing, your personal experience, and where you live. But if the video’s purpose is to bring attention to “street harassment” and raise funds to combat it, it fails — if only because there’s so much disagreement about what constitutes harassment.



Categories: sexism, Society, video content

17 replies

  1. I think when strange or unknown men call to you in order to gain your attention/affection, it’s inappropriate because it makes you (or at least me) feel like an object. They are clearly not responding to her brains or personality.

    • Nope, no brains or personality to be seen. And presumably the same comments would not be directed at male passersby. Do they intend to make the woman feel like an object? Do they think they’re complimenting her? Do they think at all? I’m inclined to think it’s the latter. But if they don’t think about it, then this is not likely to raise their awareness.

      At the very least, the attention would embarrass me. At worst it would frighten me. And neither of those is a pleasant feeling.

  2. I don’t believe it was anywhee near 100% harassment, there was obviously quite a lot but from what I saw there was just as much genuine good natured greeting which unfortunately seems to get lost amongst the crass!

    • What was the one comment … Have a nice day? Or something like that. Hardly harassment. Perhaps not in Manhattan, but in my part of the world people usually acknowledge one another as they pass, if only with a polite nod. Maybe what I’ve heard about NYC is true: It’s crowded and dangerous, so you keep to yourself and don’t speak to anyone.

  3. I think the men feel entitled to say what they want. I know not all men are this way. Of course a man isn’t going to think this is threatening. But when you’re a woman, and you are physically less stronger, it is intimidating. I don’t like strangers reaching out to me in this way and telling me I’m nothing more than a piece of meat.

  4. I haven’t seen the video, but have read your piece and the comments here and I have a request: re-watch the video and imagine the woman is a man. Would a man get the same comments? Would he get any? Or would he be allowed to just get on with his day?

  5. This one got me thinking too. Human beings are not so far removed from our animal origins and the woman’s physiology is designed by nature to ring the man’s bell. Muslims solve this problem by hiding her shape and face, a sad solution in my opinion, but one that recognizes reality. And some women are more attractive than others, as is this one. Do women not understand this effect? I submit they do, if not consciously, then subconsciously. In my opinion, nobody was assaulted here, it’s just human nature on display. But at the same time, I agree that a couple of the men crossed the line into harassment.

    I couldn’t help but recall:

    Written by Robert Palmer for Harry Belafonte:

    “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)”

    I say let us put man and a woman together
    To find out which one is smarter
    Some say man but I say no
    The woman got the man de day should know

    And not me but the people they say
    That de man are leading de women astray
    But I say, that the women of today
    Smarter than the man in every way
    That’s right de woman is uh smarter
    That’s right de woman is uh smarter
    That’s right de woman is uh smarter, that’s right, that’s right

    Ever since the world began
    Woman was always teaching man
    And I you listen to my bid attentively
    I goin’ tell you how she smarter than me

    Samson was the strongest man long ago
    No one could a beat him, as we all know
    Until he clash with Deliah on top of the bed
    She told them all the strength was in the hair of his head

    You meet a girl at a pretty dance
    Thinking that you would stand a chance
    Take her home, thinking she’s alone
    Open de door you find her husband home

    I was treating a girl independently
    She was making baby for me
    When de baby born and I went to see
    Eyes was blue it was not by me

    Garden of Eden was very nice
    Adam never work in Paradise
    Eve meet snake, Paradise gone
    She make Adam work from that day on

    Methusaleh spent all his life in tears
    Lived without a woman for 900 years
    One day he decided to have some fun
    The poor man never lived to see 900 and one

    • I’m sure most women (and men) realize that there’s a natural attraction at work here. But men with any manners or breeding don’t take that as permission to leer and comment. Guys hanging out on the street generally don’t fall into that category. On the other hand, this woman seems determined to get attention. She’s wearing tight jeans and a close fitting shirt; the impression is almost of a black body suit. To me she gives off a bit of a haughty air, making herself conspicuous. It shouldn’t matter, of course. But it does.

      Haven’t heard this song in decades. Loved Belafonte calypso beats. Maybe women are smarter, like the song says. But it still doesn’t excuse boorish behavior in men. Nor attention-getting behavior in women who claim they don’t want attention.

  6. Having copied those lyrics, I realized the musical version was superior:

    • “The proof is irrefutable.” But I’m sure you wouldn’t say that to her on the street. I saw some comments saying she was overweight, fat, etc. (Missing the point, weren’t they?) She strikes me as a very physically fit woman. And isn’t she carrying hand weights? I didn’t notice those the first time I watched this.

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." ~ Plato

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