Last year, the video 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, was released by the non-profit, anti-street harassment group Hollaback, to make a statement on street harassment. Since then, various other videos have been produced to show the presence of street harassment, otherwise known as cat- calling, in our society. Cat-calling is understood to be noises, gestures, and sexual comments made towards women passing by. With these videos, there have been an array of responses; some people have stated that cat-calling is nothing more than harmless “compliments”, while others have blamed women for taking these statements “too seriously” and that if women wore less revealing clothes then they would not be cat-called. Regardless of these frustrating responses, these videos have also had very positive responses and have reached a large audience; they have also worked to shed light on the issue and express the detrimental, and sometimes dangerous, realities of cat-calling.
In the wake of these super progressive videos, however, there are some that don’t quite hit the mark. One is the Cosmopolitan.com video Men React to Their Girlfriends Getting Catcalled. In this video, a couple of guys watch clips of their girlfriends walking the streets of New York alone. In the clips, we observe the women constantly avoiding unwanted gestures and comments made by men as they pass them on the street. While watching these clips, we see the boyfriends becoming angrier and angrier about the harassment their girlfriend’s are experiencing, with one of the men actually stating, “okay, now I’m getting pissed off.” While the video reaches its goal by having the men come to the conclusion that street harassment is real, rampant, and wrong, it also leaves a weird taste in my mouth.
The issue that comes with this video is that these men, and probably the majority of men out there, do not seem to care about street harassment until it is affecting someone that they have a personal, possessive relationship with. If the women in the video were just randomly chosen by the video creators, do you think that these men would have cared even slightly about the situation? Probably not. Now, I realize that it is obvious that we care more about things when we have some kind of personal connection to them, but don’t you think, as human beings, we should have empathy for an issue that affects over half of our population? Also, it seems interesting that these men didn’t seem to realize the impact cat-calling was having on these women, until they felt personally threatened by it. In the video, we see Olivia explaining to Seth the topic of the video and mentioning the men she “was telling [him] about”. This assumes that Olivia had already mentioned the harassment to Seth; however, he didn’t seem to be even slightly affected by it, until he saw the harassment happen himself. This shows that Seth probably didn’t take Olivia’s concerns very seriously, as most men often don’t when women express concern about how they are being treated. Also, we can see how, until Seth visually observed a threat to something he possesses (Olivia), he didn’t seem to realize or accept the harassment. Once he saw “his” girlfriend being harassed by other men, that could possibly take away his “possession”, then he became upset. How messed up is that?
Now that we have seen how Cat-calling is only taken seriously when it is visually seen by those who have a personal connection to the victim, think about all of the other crimes against women that are going largely unseen by men. Sexual abuse, rape, stalking, violence, and various other issues could be ended if only our entire population was able to see it. What will it take to make men see?