By now, it’s safe to assume that pretty much everyone has seen the video from Hollaback that follows a woman for a day through the city as she is catcalled over 100 times. The video went viral with over 3 million views, and women were happy that people now could see that catcalling isn’t harmless or an exaggeration by women. All was good and well until we began to take a closer look at the video and began to realize that it was missing two very important things; white men and women of color. The video only followed a white woman and had somehow conveniently excluded any shots of white men in the video.
Once people began to comment on the video’s lack of inclusiveness Hollaback came out with a statement that essentially said they had very few shots of white men and that those they had, were in passing or were off camera. It was all very convenient, but ultimately their actions stunted the conversation on harassment and race. Nothing about harassment is simply black and white. No woman should ever assume that she is exempt from the possibility of harassment based on the color of her skin, her level of perceived attractiveness, or her size. What should be noted is that no man is exempt from being labeled as a harasser for their actions because of the same. Excluding white harassers from the video turns harassment into a racially specific issue, which it isn’t.
Jezebel came out with video and accompanying article in response to the exclusion of the feelings of women of color, and it says so much, while saying so little. This is the video that needs to go viral. In the article author Collier Meyerson, writes, “The Hollaback video’s omission of white men, and the omission of black and brown women, worked together in an sinister alchemy to reinforce centuries-old stereotypes about who needs to be saved and protected and who needs to be feared and controlled.” The Jezebel video features women of color, all women of color, discussing their experiences with street harassment and their feelings about being excluded from the video.
This insight into how women of color feel about street harassment certainly doesn’t level the playing field in terms of the damage done by the video but it does help to create visibility for this message. Harassment is a real thing, a way too commonplace thing, and a color blind thing. As the video will point out women of color and larger women are actually more susceptible to catcalling, but it does not exclude other women.
As a plus sized Black woman I can say first hand that I walk out of my door and expect to be catcalled. For some reason men seem to believe that they are doing some sort of favor by jeering and yelling out “compliments”. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told to smile, or asked if my breasts were real, or have had a man tell me how much he loves thick women. It’s unnerving, but I have to admit I’m pretty numb to it. White men love to comment on how much they love natural sisters, and I love to point out that I’m no sister of theirs. I’ve had white men who were attached to my hip at parties, whispering how much they love my hair or how cocoa butter my skin is. It’s not a compliment and it’s not a feel good moment. What it is, is skeevy, an invasion of personal space, and disrespectful. I don’t get dressed for men, I don’t do my hair for men, and I don’t need a man to re-affirm my belief that I’m attractive.
I wish I could embed the video straight into the post for all of you to see but it seems to be hosted on Jezebel’s site, so for now a link will have to do. Watch it, share it, talk about it, so that we can push for people to understand that harassment is never Black and White.