Sh*t Men Say To Men About Street Harassment

For too many womenas well as LGBTQ folks and men who don’t “blend in”crossing the street, riding a bus or running in the park involve the risk of catcalls, groping, leering or even violence.

Studies show that nearly 90 percent of women have been harassed in public by the age of 19. Not to mention, as anti-street harassment expert Holly Kearl points out, “Gender-based street harassment can intersect with racism, homophobia and transphobia, classism and ableism to create multi-layered harassment.” Since there are legal recourses for victims of school and workplace harassment, the streets remain one of the final unsafe frontiers for marginalized groups. Until we have the freedom to move through our everyday lives without fear, we will not have achieved basic civil rights.

Since men are almost entirely responsible for catcalls and groping, street harassment is clearly their issue. To solve the problem, we need men to be true allies to women, girls and the queer community. But how?

A group of New York City activists recently answered this question with their new video, “Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street.” The team that created the video believes that street harassment is flat-out wrong, and that guys have a role in ending it. With humor, the video directly addresses harassers:

Joe Samalin, an anti-violence activist who appears in the video (and who formerly worked with Men Can Stop Rape), explains:

Today men–straight, gay, young, old, of all races—are asking what we can do to change things. But knowing the right words means nothing without [recognizing] the violence all around us and the will to challenge and stop it consistently.

This powerful action is not about “brave knights” protecting vulnerable women, but about men holding themselves and other men accountable for both their violence and their silence. “That is our responsibility,” Samalin says.

We’re stoked about how viral the video is going, and … the online conversations that are springing up around it. There are all sorts of discussions happening among men about what actually constitutes street harassment, how men can support women who like or at least don’t mind different sorts of attention in public—and also, how men need to be accountable for the unfair ‘automatic rock star image’ we obtain by doing things like being in this video.

Why did this group of video-activists keep the message light when the issue is so heavy?As activists we often need humor to survive. We felt that in a short video, humor was an important entry point into a conversation,” says Bix Gabriel, a member of the film-making team.

Street harassment teaches victims to be silent for fear of escalating the situation. While that can be the safest path for individuals, it has collectively led us down a dangerous road. Ultimately, perpetrators realize they won’t be held accountable and will continue to harass. That’s why male allies are key.

“The video encourages men to nonviolently intervene when their friend, for example, is harassing women or others on the street,” says Fivel Rothberg, who shot, co-directed, and edited the project. After watching the film, Ohio University graduate student Anna Wiederhold noted: “If I speak out against street harassment, I’m a bitchy feminist. If my brother, boyfriend, father, or male friend speaks out, he just might make a difference.”

This video is an example of male bystanders refusing to be silent–a welcome improvement. Speaking out against street harassment chips away at a culture of silence that enables anti-woman and anti-queer violence. Together, we have the power to end street harassment.

Click here to send the video viral. Tell your neighbors about it. Talk about it at a party. Talk about it with a friend.

Photo from Flickr user Matteo Staltari via Creative Commons 3.0.

Comments

  1. Great example of not hating the media but becoming the media! I only wish the men who most need this will see it. Doing my part to make it viral now. Thank you for bring this video to light.

  2. TheStrawMan says:

    Said it before and will say it again.
    You women have the power, but you won’t use it.

    If women refused to sleep with, date, or marry guys who are @$$holes, then men’s behavior would change, because it would be in their self-interest to do so.

    However, that will not happen, and therefore men’s behavior will not change

    • The implication that the only thing that motivates men to change their behaviour is being refused dates or sex by women is deeply insulting to men. In my experience, one thing that greatly influences male behaviour is other men – hence this video. Being judged and held to account by one’s peer group can be extremely powerful, and since street harassment often occurs when men are in groups (the ‘playing to the crowd’ factor), men challenging harrassers makes them see that this is not the way to impress one’s friends.

      The implication that women are responsible for re-educating men is not only a cop-out – why should men bother to change their behaviour, it’s up to women seems to be your message – but bizarre and illogical. Is it up to black people to end racist behaviour? Up to gay people to stop homophobia? Your comments sound dangerously close to the victim-blaming that is heaped upon rape victims, domestic violence victims, and the victims of racist violence e.g. Trayvon Martin. Your sentence might as well read ‘If black people stop having anything to do with white people who are racist a$$holes, then racists’ behaviour would change.’

      Those who are oppressed can certainly stand up and name the source of their oppression, but nothing will change until the oppressors are challenged by everyone. This means MEN getting involved in the fight against sexism, rather than standing back and saying ‘Your fault ladies, you sort it out’. A street harasser shouting abuse at a woman is not likely to change his ways if the very person he clearly has no respect for confronts him, but if one of his ‘buddies’ calls him out, he may just stop and think.

    • TheStrawMan? Ah. I see what you did there, person behind troll account.

  3. Laura Webb says:

    Extraordinary article and movement! Thank you!

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