By now, major news outlets and just about everyone and their cousin have discussed Hollaback’s anti-street harassment video that shows a woman being catcalled as she walks the streets of New York City for 10 hours. But what many have yet to see is Jezebel’s “A Hollaback Response Video: Women of Color on Street Harassment,” written and produced by Collier Meyerson, a web producer for MSNBC (click here to watch it). You see, while many are excited that the viral success of Hollaback’s video has sparked a national discussion, some are critical of the video’s racial dynamics, including a perceived lack of representation of women of color, fat women, trans women, etc. who also experience street harassment.
Jezebel’s video offers a great counterpoint by interviewing multiple women of color and a trans woman of color on how street harassment affects them. “Patriarchy is not just a woman on the street walking and men catcalling her. Patriarchy exists in office spaces, in the corporate world,” a woman named Thanu says in the video. She describes a time when she was stopped and harassed by two white cops about her skirt while biking. The other women interviewed talk about how they have been fetishized as “exotic” and, contrary to Hollaback’s depiction of men, that white men did harass them, they just usually did it in places like bars.
And surprise surprise, while Zoila, one of the women in the video, talked on camera, a white man walked up, stood right next to her unsolicited and said that he “wanted to have a kiss.” Yikes.
We love this video because it provides nuance to the street harassment discussion and broadens it without attacking Hollaback’s video in its response. It offers the perspectives of women who have experienced different kinds of street harassment. And before anyone says anything, no, this is not about Oppression Olympics, but about expanding on the conversation of street harassment to include women whose voices often come second, third or sometimes not at all when we talk about issues that affect women as a whole. While anyone can experience street harassment, certain groups, such as trans women, queer women and women of color, statistically face higher rates of violent harassment. It’s important to address intersecting issues at once, which Jezebel‘s video does. As Collier said,
The point here isn’t to devalue or minimize the experience of women who strongly identified with [the Hollaback] video, but it’s to open the conversation, to make it broader, to talk about different types of harassments, to talk about how I feel when I’m in a bar full of white men telling me that my hair is really beautiful and sticking their hands deep into my hair. My voice could be and should be included in this conversation.
The original Hollaback video was an eye-opener to many people, particularly men who haven’t experienced or witnessed street harassment. This is important, because every word and action against street harassment makes it less socially acceptable. While a number of dudes have downplayed what the woman in the video experienced, the link between “harmless” comments on the street and outright violence is undeniable.
And what we should all keep in mind is that the conversation on street harassment and violence against women reaches far beyond these two videos. A number of other notable commentaries have been made, including on the blog When Women Refuse, a Slate article on how men of different races and classes harass women and, of course, Jessica Williams’ brilliant Feminized Atmosphere segment on The Daily Show, which came out just a few weeks before Hollaback’s video and included a large and diverse group of women.
While Hollaback’s video wasn’t perfect, it still has contributed greatly to the national discussion on street harassment and Hollaback’s legacy of anti-street harassment work speaks for itself. Hopefully more intersectional commentaries like Jezebel‘s response video will gain popularity as well. Let’s keep the conversation moving forward.
Screenshot from Jezebel’s catcalling response video.