Street Harassment… Don’t even say “Good Morning” to a woman!

By today, you should have seen or heard about the Hollaback video in which a white actress walk for 10 hours through Manhattan streets getting (allegedly) more than a hundred samples of “street harassment” from guys. I watched the video and have a few things to say…

First of all, I am a Latino man in his 40’s, born and raised in Puerto Rico. At different times in my life I had visited or lived short periods in other Latin American cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun, and Puebla (Mexico), Caracas (Venezuela), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and Bogotá and Manizales in Colombia. I currently live in New York City, most specifically, in a rough neighborhood in The Bronx.

Do I check women’s bodies when walking on the streets? ABSOLUTELY. I was taught to do it. Do I stare at them like a hungry dog looks to meat? ABSOLUTELY NOT – I was taught to look but not to stare in a disrespectful manner. Do I “catcall” women on the streets? Again NOT – I was taught to approach women in a respectful manner.

That said, I am not going to bash the actress on the video or the organization behind the video. I don’t know them, I did not know they existed before this video went viral, neither I care about their agenda. But the video DOES BOTHER me as a man… and more specifically as a Latino man.

If you watch the video, you will notice the following:

Because we all know Whites CANNOT be creepy!
  • The actress on the video, Soshana Roberts, is HOT. She is a beautiful woman with a great body, using clothes that accentuate her curves. Honestly, she has a body type that will get men’s attention regardless of the clothing she wears. She could wear a freaking armor plate suit and still she will get looks and catcalls! 
  • Apparently, she walked through an alternate Manhattan where NO WHITE MEN or NO EDUCATED COLOR MEN exist. The only guys shown in the video are colored men (Blacks and Latinos) that are on the lowest socio-economic levels (read “poor street motherfuckas”). You don’t see any guy wearing a suit, or a shirt with tie – most of the guys are wearing athletic clothing. When this fact was called out by a FEMALE writer, the organization behind the video responded that the remarks made by white guys were edited out because they were “unusable” because they were said at the passing camera, or were drowned by ambient noises such as sirens or airplanes. What a coincidence! To that, I say BULLSHIT!
  • Most of the catcalls were inoffensive. During the video, she is “targeted” 37 times (yes I counted them), and 26 of them were a simple “Good Morning” or “How you doing?” (a common NYC catcall used by both men and women). The other 11 comments could be considered offensive (3), creepy (4), and straight harassment (4). By the way, the only real harassment happens twice – the black guy walking silently next to her and the other young guy (Latino?) who keeps asking her if he is ugly. It can be annoying, but most of these interactions meant she got the attention of the guys – again most of them of low social and economic level.
  • The loose definition of harassment used by the Hollaback organization. According to Stop Street Harassment (another organization dealing with this issue), street harassment is “unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public places which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way.” Now, as said above, only 11 of the comments on the video (5 made by the same guy) fall under this definition. The other comments could be unwanted, but are not creepy, disrespectful, or threatening. Hollaback simply put any comment made to the actress as an example of harassment – which is totally wrong.
Those are the things I noticed on the video, but there are a few things I can say from my experience – both as a Latino man and a NYC resident: 
  • EVERYONE gets harassed in the streets of NYC. I am a fat, ugly Latino in his 40’s – and I get harassed EVERY FUCKING DAY in the streets of NYC. The five guys asking me for a dollar in the two blocks I walk from my apartment to the bus stop. The crack whore who had stopped me more than 10 times in the last month inviting me to have sex with her. The teenage schoolgirls offering blowjobs in exchange of money for weed or for hookah tobacco nearby the bodegas. The “performers” in each one of the subway lines almost demanding money after interrupting my commute. The aspiring rappers shoving their demos into my bag, then demanding $5 in return. The Jehova Witnesses shoving their publications on my face on two of every three street corners. The gay guy checking my junk when I use an urinal in a public restroom. The fake cartoon characters in Times Square. The list goes on forever. All those interactions are unwelcome, some are offensive, and a handful are totally scary as fuck. … And this coming from a guy who had been in some shitty, scary places!
  • Catcalling is a cultural thing. Like it or not, what Americans call “catcalling” is socially acceptable in Latin America. In fact it is a social norm. Most women in Latin America expect to receive comments from guys on the streets about how beautiful they look. This started to change in the past ten years, not because the Latinas are getting into the “feminist movement”, but because the language of these comments had turned offensive. We had gone from a “Excuse me, but I had to tell you you look beautiful” to “Mami, you have a sexy ass!” which even I find offensive.
  • I do not condone “catcalling”. Personally, I look at women on the streets, I check their breasts and assess. I admit it… in my culture, I’m expected to do it – and women dress to make you look at them. Still, in the rare occasions I approach an unknown woman on the street I approach them with a real compliment about their shoes, hair, or nails… NEVER on their assess or other body parts. I believe telling a complete stranger she has a nice ass is not a compliment – is an insult!

Want real changes in society?

  • Stop criticizing and start educating. Educate your boys to approach a girl the right way. Teach your girls to accept compliments and to be a real banshee bitch to those who disrespect them. I had seen countless cases of girls smiling and accepting “compliments” like “Hey, baby, I love your tits!” and demeaning guys who really are trying to give a compliment by calling them “corny” or “gay”.
  • Stop selling (and purchasing) sex. We live in a hyper-sexual society. Mature women like J-Lo (40 something) has to wear a thong and shake her ass covered in oil to sell records. Madonna in her 50’s still needs to wear leather and latex to sell. Lady Gaga has to be naked to call attention. Hugh Jackman and Channin Tatum have to rip their shirts and show perfect abs to sell movies. If you want to reduce or stop harassment, stop sexualizing every single aspect of our lives so we can concentrate on the relationship parts. The more you feed the human animal senses, the less human we become…
  • To feminists: STOP THE BULLSHIT! Some ultra-feminist leaders had lost the real concept of feminism: Being treated equal, being treated with respect. I agree with those. But every right has a duty. If you want to be treated equally, you need to stop asking for preferred status on public spaces. If you want to be treated with respect, you need to respect others. Generalizing and saying “all men are potential rapists” is not asking for equality or respect – it is asking for a reaction. You want me to respect you? Stop mocking me when I am a gentleman. Stop calling me creepy or pervert when you see my Fleshlight – because I don’t call you a freak or a slut when I see the 18 inches Rambone dildo under your bed.

Comments are welcomed…