October 29, 2014

News and Noteworthy: Cat-Calling Video

I found this video to be very interesting.  Over a period of ten hours, the video documents an observer's eye view of a type of street harassment towards women, notoriously known as "cat-calling" (not to be confused with mutual flirtation), with a young woman as the focal point.  What I found to be the most profound about this video is that the darkly pretty young woman named Shoshana B. Roberts, whose outfit and demeanor draw little attention to herself, is cat-called over 100 times in the course of ten hours by men on busy New York City streets.  Her outfit of choice is a rather conservative yet form-fitting t-shirt, skinny jeans, and colorfully laced tennis shoes--not the skintight dress, short skirt, or low-cut blouse with stilettos that seem synonymous with the onset of gender-based harassment.  In our society, the gendered cultural bias placates this typically unwanted attention (and yes, we can visibly see, thanks to the video, that the remarks made by men are disregarded by the young woman with an indirect look of contempt), normalizes the act of cat-calling as if it were a masculine rite of passage...that ripely continues into middle age.  But what if the tables were turned?  Would you want this done to your daughter, niece, wife, or granddaughter?

To put another spin on this, it seems that people who are called out to on the street are people who are different in terms of size or appearance, or women and girls based on perceived attractiveness.  The lumping of these two disparate groups of people--in addition to vocalizing your beliefs about a person's physical attributes--is intellectually absurd and juvenile, but we all continue to condone it.  To be the recipient of this gender-based-commentary-disguised-as-a-compliment on a daily basis has to wear you down over time, even if just a little bit.  Or make you a little wary about walking on bustling, urban city streets.

This is not to categorize all men as cat-callers, otherwise there would be far more than 100 documented instances in the linked video above.  This is also not to stereotype non-white men as cat-callers, as criticism of the video aptly state that white males are not present in the footage (in ten hours, they argue, the young woman must have walked through at least one white neighborhood).  There are so many complexities to this issue, as there are with a plenitude of others.  The bottom line is that cat-calling, whether you have experienced it or not, is a real phenomenon experienced by many, if not all, women.  It may take on the appearance of a compliment or a piqued hello, but at the end of the day leaves the recipient feeling less than normal.

And perhaps a little creeped out, too.

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