P sent me this video with a simple ‘what do you think?’ posed under in a text message. Before I even watched it, the title instantly brought my mind back to New York City in the hot summer months. The streets teaming with people and smells; a thick heavy heat blanketing the island of Manhattan. Whether you’re there for a minute or months you instantly acknowledge the soundtrack of the city; the honks, the yells, the music, all fighting to eke out their own space in this overly populated mecca.
The title put me there. My mind submerged in a feeling I’ve only ever felt in New York. I began to remember times walking to school during a short stint at NYU and the hellos I would get on the way there. The head nods, the whistles and one particular homeless man who rated my outfit everyday – feeling particularly accomplished when he gave me an 11 out of 10….
So before I watched this video I, ashamedly, could only come up with not so negative memories. Sure there were times when I would have rather have not said hello (sleepy) or that I felt a little frightened – walking alone late at night. But for the most part I couldn’t remember much that was particularly negative.
And then I watched it.
I started to remember instances that I didn’t feel safe. Times when I felt agitated, invaded and annoyed. Though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone saying ‘hello’ to you (I think humans don’t communicate in real life enough anymore) I do think there’s something wrong with women having to deal with constantly being objectified.
And then I remembered one particular exchange that made me wobble on my feelings again.
Man: “hey sexy”
Me: no response
Man: “HEY, I’m talking to you!”
Me: continue walking, but faster
Man: “Fuck you, bitch. Didn’t want to talk to you anyway. Fat ass.”
So here we are, smack dab in the grey area. Though I think the forthrightness, the openness, the perceived freedom drawn out by New Yorkers in a city like New York is what makes it tick. What makes it special. What makes it New York. I don’t think that women should have to ever be made to feel uncomfortable walking in their city, New York or otherwise. Plus this isn’t a phenomenon unique to New York, but rather most noted in over populated cities. Except, I would venture to say ,(because of personal experience) Tokyo. Trying to even make eye contact with a stranger in Tokyo is a toughie….
So what’s the answer or how do properly address this and the overarching issue of harassment? I think the first step is with videos like this. Because if the video did nothing but open up the conversation about the topic of sexual harassment, then it’s more than done it’s job.
What are your thoughts on this video and/or the subject of street harassment in general?
See more from the organization, hollaback, who put out this video HERE.