Last week, the anti-street harassment organization Hollaback released a video showing a woman being catcalled more than 100 times in a ten-hour period as she walked through the streets of New York City. Since then, the video has gone viral, receiving over 30 million views and sparking important conversations on feminism and racism.
By Lauren Beccue
The video’s director, Rob Bliss, says he came up with the idea after watching his girlfriend experience catcalling. He wanted to intimately capture street harassment on camera to show what it is really like for women. Bliss then teamed up with Hollaback to film actress Shoshana Roberts walking silently through the streets of New York for 10 hours. She is catcalled a total of 108 times, followed by one man for several minutes and berated by several others for not smiling or responding to their “compliments.” The video received significant media attention and praise for showing the harassment women suffer on a daily basis.
Despite all of the praise, the video has been subject to backlash from those who claim the actress wasn’t truly harassed. In a CNN debate, author Steve Santagati claimed that the catcalling depicted in the video was not a form of harassment because “a woman loves to hear how pretty she is.”
The video also sparked racial controversy, as it features harassment from mostly black and Latino men. As Jezebel writer Collier Meyerson argued, the video frames women as victims while portraying minority men as “loathsome predators.”
In a statement explaining the absence of white men in the video, Bliss said: “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera.” Hollaback openly apologized on their website, saying: “We regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over represents men of color… We agree wholeheartedly that the video should have done a better job of representing our understanding of street harassment, and we take full responsibility for that.” In response to the racial bias of the Hollaback video, Jezebel released a video featuring women of color discussing their own experiences with street harassment.