By Sarah Burstein, Staff Writer
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been consciously avoiding the internet, television and radio news for the past week, you’re probably aware of a video titled, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” uploaded by Hollaback, an organization dedicated to raising public awareness of catcalling and street harrassment.
When I first thought of writing about this, I thought I’d end up giving a quick summary of the video and why it’s important, maybe add some statistics about street harassment. When I started to scour Google for information and reactions, I would find some unfavorable opinions. After all, the actress in the video, Shoshanna Roberts, had already received 10 rape or death threats to her personal email account by last Wednesday, a day after the video was uploaded (I think it’s a safe bet to assume that the number has increased over the past week). What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how angry I would feel after reading some of the legitimate “criticisms” of the video.
Whether it’s YouTube comments such as, “I don’t understand why we have to make this a women’s issue,” or the viral screencap of a CNN panel discussing street harassment (the only man on the panel implied that women should hold guns if they don’t want to be harassed), it’s never been more clear to me how much people are missing the point.
The point of the video is not to force viewers into thinking that men are immune to street harassment, because they’re not. However, I find it somewhat disturbing that when a video goes viral about what a woman endures on a daily basis, an initial reaction is to immediately attack women for wanting attention, almost like we’re in denial that as a society, we’re still fairly misogynistic.
What people don’t understand is that when we tell girls to walk with their keys between their knuckles or to avoid smiling or making eye contact with guys on the street, we’re making them responsible for their own harassment. We’re continuing to strengthen the idea that males are raging hormonal animals that simply can’t help themselves when they’re in close proximity with the opposite sex. It makes me sick that I’ve had to grow up hearing how I have to proactively fear for my safety, but that I’ve never heard my parents tell my brother that street harassment is something he shouldn’t do.
In 2014, 65% of women reported being harassed on the street. Maybe we should stop complaining about how women are making a big deal out of nothing, and instead start complaining about how in today’s world, feeling unsafe is normalized.