Catcalls Video Shows Males' Ugly Side

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 31, 2014 | Go to article overview

Catcalls Video Shows Males' Ugly Side


Sometimes the difference between knowing something intellectually and understanding it can be measured in the impact of a YouTube video gone viral.

Of course I "knew" that a lot of women had to run a gantlet of catcalls, leers and uninvited comments from strangers as they passed construction sites or simply walked down the street. I'm not ashamed to admit that I didn't truly "understand" the sheer boorishness of the problem until I saw a video documenting what happened to former Pittsburgher and CAPA graduate Shoshana B. Roberts as she walked the streets of New York.

Striding purposefully through all parts of Manhattan while an accomplice with a hidden camera walked a few paces ahead of her, Ms. Roberts, 24, wore her best "No Means No" face as she endured a litany of comments and solicitations used daily to compliment, demean, embarrass, humiliate, intimidate and woo women.

The 10 hours that Ms. Roberts spent being hooted at, objectified, propositioned and briefly stalked by two creepy guys who walked alongside her uninvited has been condensed into a two-minute YouTube video that quickly garnered more than 15 million views.

The video is the brainchild of Hollaback, a New York-based nonprofit that highlights street harassment and the culture of oppression it engenders. Ms. Roberts, an aspiring actress, answered a casting call to star in the video. She has been perfectly cast as the confident-yet-wary protagonist who must pass through a scrum of insensitive men with pixilated faces while maintaining her dignity.

It is a provocative video that forces us to recognize some very uncomfortable truths about ourselves. Men who would never dream of shouting racial epithets or disparaging someone's religion feel that propositioning a woman should be considered a compliment until proven otherwise.

They believe that it is understood that it is every heterosexual male's duty to spread his seed among as many grateful wombs as possible. That way the culture will always have a steady supply of misogynists, misanthropes, losers and scoundrels to keep things interesting.

The video has already generated detractors at both political extremes. Some on the left object to what they consider selective editing on the part of the filmmaker, so that the majority of the harassers portrayed are men of color instead of the full range of harassers available in New York. …

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