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America’s new pyscho-politico-sexual crisis: Catcalls

America’s new pyscho-politico-sexual crisis: Catcalls

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An enormously popular viral video was created by an attractive young woman who spent ten hours walking the streets of New York City behind a guy lugging a hidden camera in his backpack, to record the various catcalls, wolf whistles, and aggressive greetings thrown her way:

As the end of the video makes clear, this was done to “raise awareness” about the menace of “street harassment,” which you can fight by donating to a non-profit called “Hollaback!”  I thought that was just a word Gwen Stefani made up for an alternately catchy and annoying song a few years ago.  Also, judging by both the lyrics and the video, I thought the song was about two high school girls getting into a fight over gossip.  It didn’t seem like it was meant to be a battle cry against the menace of men trying to get the attention of attractive women.

Assuming this non-profit organization gets all the donations it wants, what precisely would they do to ban “street harassment?”  Is this going to be another one of those crusades where we have to modify the First Amendment, another psycho-politico-sexual spasm that ends with men terrified they’ll get randomly sued at the whim of offended women?  Or is the whole thing nothing but a little fuel for the perpetual feminist fire, an opportunity to grumble that men are pigs before resuming our regularly-scheduled dreary sexual politics?  I can’t help thinking the primary effect of this video’s popularity would be increased nervousness among single women.  No prizes for guessing who finds that politically useful.

The (probably unexpected) blowback to the video came when people started noticing that the vast majority of the misbehaving men are either black or Hispanic.  CNN says the filmmaker claims to have cut most of the white guy segments from the video because “they were too short, or there were problems with the audio and/or video quality.”  I find it remarkable they didn’t realize they would face criticism for an end result that seems so racially tilted.

Editing is what a project like this is all about.  The title is “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” which implies it was ten hours of unrelenting misery, but the video is just under two minutes long, including a lengthy pause for the political message at the end.  “100+ instances of verbal street harassment took place within 10 hours, involving people of all backgrounds,” that ending title card declares.  “This doesn’t include the countless winks, whistles, etc.”

Is less than two minutes of exhibition-worthy boorish behavior after ten hours of walking the streets of Noo Yawk really a crisis-level example of male savagery?  Some of the depicted encounters were only slightly impolite greetings; one of them is a guy who seems like he might be a street barker trying to get the woman to pay attention to the store he’s standing in front of.  I’m not at all in favor of excusing rude behavior – on the contrary, I’ve written at length on the importance of manners and mutual respect to society, and the respect men show toward women is one of the most important social assets of them all.  

But I can’t say I’m entirely surprised to discover that the streets of the Big Apple are lined with boors.  If you asked me how many incidents of rude behavior a buxom young woman might expect to encounter during ten hours of prowling the concrete jungle with a grim expression on her face, refusing to acknowledge anyone she passes with so much as a smile or nod of the head, I think I’d have guessed higher than one hundred.  Would the tally have been higher or lower ten years ago?  20?  Shall we repeat this experiment in various settings, including the southern locals blue-state liberals love to look down their noses at?  

The really attention-grabbing segments of this video involve a couple of profoundly creepy characters, including one guy who wordlessly follows the actress around for five solid minutes.  I don’t think that’s the sort of thing one addresses through non-profits to raise awareness about “street harassment.”  Tell me, ladies of The Conversation and female readers: if you watched the video before you read this, did you find yourself thinking about the importance of concealed-carry laws while watching the Five Minute Stalker?


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