#YesAllWomen: NYC actress walks 10 hrs to study street harassment, gets over 100 catcalls

#YesAllWomen: NYC actress walks 10 hrs to study street harassment, gets over 100 catcalls
A young woman silently walked around New York City for 10 hours, secretly videoing the catcalls, street harassment and creepy men she encountered. She experienced an instance of verbal harassment at least once every six minutes for nearly half the day.

Shoshana B. Roberts, a New York City-based actress and the “silent woman” in the video, was called at over 100 times in 10 hours ‒ and that doesn’t include any of the winks and whistles she received during that time.

The startling clip was produced by Hollaback, an organization that is seeking to stamp out street harassment and intimidation. In August, Roberts walked through Manhattan without speaking or responding to anyone who tried to engage her – including the man who followed her for five minutes.

The persistent passer-by, who was captured on tape but had his face hidden, was not the only one to join Roberts on her walk.

The footage was captured by Rob Bliss, of Rob Bliss Creative, via a hidden video camera in his backpack as he walked in front of the woman. Roberts held two microphones to capture what men said to her.

The comments recorded on the video ranged from what Slate’s Amanda Hess deemed “ostensibly friendly greetings” – such as “Have a nice evening!” – to inappropriate comments about the woman’s body, from demeaning commands of “Smile!” to “pure expressions of entitlement.”

“Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more!” one man berated Roberts.

The Bliss video shows “what it’s like to walk down the street alone as a woman: totally exhausting, reliably demeaning, and occasionally, terrifying,” Hess noted. “The ceaseless chatter (plus some light stalking!) adds up to a constant reminder that, just for walking from point A to point B, some men believe that women’s bodies and minds should be made accessible to them on command.“

Following the release of the video, Roberts started receiving rape threats online, Hollaback said.

The clip went viral, triggering a mixed reaction on YouTube and Twitter, as well as prompting female users to share their experience of what they said was misogyny and harassment.

Unlike the heroine of the Hollaback PSA, Santa Clara-based freelance writer Jody Amable did answer back, and recounted her experience on Ravishly.com, an alternative news and culture website for women. Amable wrote that she and her boyfriend were at a music venue. When her boyfriend left for the bathroom, a man sitting at the bar began insistently saying hi to her. When she refused to engage, he and his friend unleashed “a torrent of verbal abuse.”

“Oh, come on, what the hell? What the f*ck, I was just trying to be nice. I wasn’t trying to hit on you! God, why do women always think we're flirting with them?” he turned to his friend, but was shouting loud enough so that I could hear. “Women are always like that. Always assume we’re flirting.”

Amable said she felt a surge of adrenaline, then asked, “Then what were you trying to do?”

There was silence from the men, then an awkward response from the friend. The first man then insisted he wasn’t flirting.

Amable says she then replayed the incident over and over in her head.

“In the hours after, all I could think about was how I had brought it upon myself. I mean, he was right – all he was doing was trying to say hi. He didn't spike my drink. He didn't even touch me,”
she wrote. “But for some reason, this messed with my head just as much, if not more, than other, more dire incidents of harassment that I have been involved in.”

She then tried to reevaluate her “entire stance on male attention,” noting that the unpleasant attempt to chat stopped short of any sort of sexual harassment – but saying that it showed a bigger problem.

“This wasn't rape, but this is where it starts. It starts in a culture where I am alarmed, but not at all surprised that this man's immediate reaction to not even rejection, but mild interest, was to boil over with rage,” Amable said. “Rage that wasn't even directed at just me, but at every woman on the planet. The fact that I did not instantly acquiesce my attention the moment I met him made him not just angry, but screamingly furious.”

While some people see comments like “Hello,” or “Have a nice day,” as innocuous, it can turn sinister when a woman doesn’t know the intention behind it or how the man might react if she does ‒ or doesn’t ‒ respond. “[W]hen a male stranger shouts it, it’s just another unearned claim for a woman’s attention—one that could escalate should the woman so much as bat an eyelash. Roberts didn’t - she still got harassed at every turn,” Hess wrote.

She passed the video on to her male colleagues to gauge their reactions.

“I knew this stuff happened—I see and hear it every once in a while—but the frequency of the remarks was astounding,” one told her.

The video is a “great reminder of how even the most ‘innocuous’-seeming comments pile up over the course of an hour, day, and life to feel oppressive and awful,” another said.