In a video that will be a surprise to exactly zero women, a woman videotaped herself walking around Manhattan for a day and received over 100 catcalls.
And the outfit she wore that helped solicit all those comments? A pair of black jeans and a simple crewneck T-shirt.
“Hey beautiful.” “Smile!” “Damn!” An assortment of random guys yelled as she passed. One guy even walked side-by-side with her for five minutes without saying a word.
Some got agitated when she wouldn’t respond. “Someone’s acknowledging you for being beautiful!” one guy yelled. “You should say thank you more!”
Non-profit Hollaback created the video with aspiring actress Shoshana B. Roberts to show exactly what women everywhere go through on a daily basis, no matter if they live in Manhattan or Manhattan, Kansas.
“I’m harassed when I smile and I’m harassed when I don’t,” Roberts said in a press release. “I’m harassed by white men, black men, Latino men. Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this.”
I showed this video to a couple of male friends and they admitted that they were clueless as to why it was inappropriate to ask a woman to smile. “They’re just trying to make small talk,” one said. “Most of the guys aren’t harassing her about it.”
But that’s exactly the problem. Unwanted comments are harassment — and plenty of catcalling does devolve into crude sexual comments, or worse.
“So,” my other guy acquaintance asked, “how am I supposed to know when a woman wants to be approached? It’s like we can’t win no matter what.”
Here’s a pro-tip, males of the world: Open your eyes. If she’s walking down the street, don’t talk to her. If she looks like she doesn’t want to be approached, don’t approach her. If she’s with other people, don’t approach her. If she’s with her family, don’t approach her. If she’s talking on the phone, don’t approach her.
But, if she’s making solid eye contact with you in line at Starbucks, smiling and generally looks like she’s open to communication with you, then consider it. Just don’t open with some awful line — or worse, some sexual innuendo.
As for how the internet is reacting to Hollaback’s video? Not so great, in typical interwebs fashion.
“The subject of our PSA is starting to get rape threats on the comments. Can you help by reporting them?” the non-profit tweeted on Tuesday.
“The rape threats indicate that we are hitting a nerve,” Hollaback director Emily May told Newsday. “We want to do more than just hit a nerve though; we want New Yorkers to realize — once and for all — that street harassment isn’t OK, and that as a city we refuse to tolerate it,” she said.