A Toronto Transformation

10 hours of Street Harrassment is Sadly, Not Surprising

This condensed video of a woman walking around a city for ten hours in jeans and a t-shirt was originally posted on Hollaback’s website under the headline “You won’t believe how many times this woman gets harassed in 10 hours.”

I beg to differ. As a woman who does a lot of solo walking around the city, there is nothing shocking about this to me. I absolutely do believe it.

I love this video though, because I know a lot of people do not view street harassment as a serious issue. Even those of us who experience it on a regular basis become so conditioned to unwanted commentary on our bodies that it starts to seem like it hardly matters.

It matters.

Because even the strongest among us can have our confidence eroded over time, chipped away every time someone asserts his perceived right to tell us what he thinks of our bodies, what we should do with our bodies, and what he’d like to do to our bodies.

Facing this kind of objectification again and again is so discouraging and demoralizing, not to mention terrifying, depending on the context.

I know that I’m more than my body. I am a bright, compassionate, funny and strange whole entire complex human being. But it can be hard to keep that in perspective when strangers insist on reducing me to it.

Here’s hoping this video reaches some of the men who perpetuate this boorish behaviour and that they start to understand that, as I’ve said before, catcalls are not compliments.

Did you guys find this video surprising? How do you deal with street harrassment? I’d love to chat about it in the comments!

5 Responses to 10 hours of Street Harrassment is Sadly, Not Surprising

  • Shannon says:

    It definitely matters, and it’s been interesting to see the response to this video. Lots of people (men and women) point out that some of the men don’t say anything overtly sexual so it isn’t a big deal. But it IS, especially when you see how continuous it is. Getting constantly approached and forced into conversations you don’t want to have sucks to the point that the “god bless you’s” are just as annoying as the “damn baby’s”. There was a month in my life where I was harassed on the street every.single.day and it was SO demoralizing and downright terrifying. It got to the point where I was afraid to leave my house.

    The only issue I have with this video is that the NYC chapter of Hollaback! supported the (problematic and racist) stop and frisk policy in NYC. It’s not fair to say that women have a right to walk down the street without getting harassed but then publicly support a policy that disproportionately targeted black men (and women) with street harassment. And then the video also mostly features black men. It sucks that the very popular, viral representations of feminism often seem to only be concerned with the issues of white women.

    • metamorphocity says:

      I hadn’t heard about the NYC chapter’s affilliation with Christine Quinn or her support of stop and frisk. I’m primarily familiar with the Toronto chapter. That’s really disappointing.

      That’s a good point too about the video showing a larger number of men of colour. I thought iHollaback did a good job of addressing the question of whether street harrassment is a cultural issue in the text they ran with the video: “Like all forms of gender-based violence, street harassers fall evenly across lines of race and class. It is a longstanding myth that street harassment is a “cultural” thing, perpetrated mostly by men of color. We believe that street harassment is a “cultural” thing in the sense that it emerges from a culture of sexism — and unfortunately — that is everyone’s culture.”, but it would have been great if the guy who made the video had found a way to reflect that a little more in it. It would also be cool to see a series of these featuring women from a variety of races, perhaps in different cities.

  • Kate says:

    I’ve seen another video that targets this but I can’t find it now to share the link. Basically, it’s a woman who records the men calling out to her and then she proceeds to question them about why they think it’s acceptable. A few are embarrassed and apologise but there are also a few who seem to think we should be grateful for it?! It’s ridiculous.

    • metamorphocity says:

      I remember seeing that too! The ones who seriously don’t understand why women wouldn’t be grateful for a stranger’s comments on her body just kill me!

  • This video is completely unsurprising, but still jarring to see it all put together like that.

    For me, the worst part about street harassment is that you have no way to know what will happen next. Sometimes ignoring it makes it worse. Sometimes acknowledging it makes it worse. It’s that unknown moment I hate.

    And of course it’s the cumulative affect. Some of the comments in the video aren’t that bad in and of themselves, but it happens ALL THE TIME, it only happens to women, and holy shit sometimes you just want to walk down the street without being interrupted by some guy who thinks you owe him a smile (or….a bj I guess? What IS the end game for these dudes anyway?) just because you exist.

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