#CheckYourPrivilege satire: White man walks NYC streets for 10 hrs, gets job offers
After a video went viral on Tuesday portraying a young woman silently walking around New York City for 10 hours, secretly videoing the catcalls, street harassment and creepy men she encountered, Funny or Die decided to take a look at the flip side.
In the parody, a white male silently walks around the streets of New York City, just as Shosana B. Roberts did in the video produced by anti-street harassment organization Hollaback. But instead of hearing 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,” the protagonist gets job offers, high fives and Starbucks gift cards.
"Yeah you like that,” the man leaning against a building says as he hands the card to Funny or Die’s guy. “You could buy a latte. Buy a latte with that gift card.”
“Pumpkin spice season son!” the harasser finally calls out.
“The video serves as a reminder that the flip side of sexism is privilege, and as the video’s ample footballs and high-fives suggest, a very bro-tastic kind of privilege, indeed,” Time wrote.
There are certainly problems with the Hollaback video. As many critics pointed out, there is only one white male catcalling in the video. Roberts reportedly faced more than 100 instances of street harassment in 10 hours of walking silently through Manhattan ‒ and that doesn’t include any of the winks and whistles she received during that time.
As Slate’s Hanna Rosin pointed out, “[It’s] a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours. The one dude who turns around and says, ‘Nice,’ is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, ‘Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,’ or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not."
Kristin Iversen went even further in a Brooklyn Magazine article.
“The fact that the video chooses to showcase the experience of a white woman experiencing harassment almost exclusively at the hands of black and Latino men is a pretty clear indication of who the audience for this video is supposed to be, namely, those who seek to protect and defend innocent white women, aka the already existing societal power structure,” she wrote. “Why? Well, maybe—just maybe—this has to do with the fact that, through this video, Hollaback is soliciting viewers for donations, and is thus counting on the outrage of people with money, i.e. people who have disposable income and a certain place in the pre-existing power structure which has no problem with the ongoing propagation of the myth of the white woman as the ur-victim.”
“The problem with this video is that even though it claims to speak for the experience of all women, the women who are disproportionately affected by street harassment are nowhere to be seen. If this video had featured a woman of color, one who belonged to the LGBTQ community, there would have been a better representation of what the most common victims of harassment actually face,” Iversen continued. “But who knows if a video like that would have garnered as much sympathy, or as many donations?”
Rob Bliss, of Rob Bliss Creative, who captured the footage and edited the video, responded to the complaints in a Reddit post.
“Two guys, the ones that follow her and by chance were black, make up nearly half the video. So two guys represent literally half the video,” he wrote. “What if they were Russian? Does that mean we're saying Russians make up half of cat callers?”
“This is a very, very small sample size. It's just 18 scenes. The fact that two guys alone can represent half the video only furthers that. People are acting like we took a survey, and there's no way a survey of 18 is going to mean anything,” Bliss continued. “That's why we put at the end that people of all backgrounds catcalled, because that's the truth, and we knew that just 90 seconds wasn't going to be able to be a perfect cross section of who cat calls.”
After the Hollaback video went viral, Roberts faced rape and death threats. Funny or Die took a serious issue ‒ as the comedy channel is wont to do ‒ and asked in a tongue-in-cheek manner why men don’t see street harassment ‒ or consider it a problem.
“While the parody will ring true to any white man who’s fully aware of the privilege his sex and race afford him, it’s important to remember that not everyone’s in on the joke,” Time noted. “Following the virality of Hollaback’s video, the woman in the video received rape threats, which serve only as further proof that efforts like Hollaback’s are sorely needed.”
Funny or Die isn’t the only comedy site to poke fun at the serious subject. The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams took a gander at street harassment at the beginning of October.