There’s a viral video by Hollaback about male street harassment of women making the rounds. A woman recorded 10 hours of walking in NYC. Watch it first.
Hollaback describes street harassment:
The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. To make its target scared or uncomfortable, and to make the harasser feel powerful.
I’ve been street harassed many, many times. When I first started experiencing men harassing me in public it frightened me. It made me want to become small, invisible. I remember wishing I was taller so my walking strides would be larger and I could move away faster. When men would order me to smile I sometimes did it, all to avoid male violence. It was just like wearing a metaphorical burqa where men controlled my movement in public space, everything from what I wore to how I walked to where I’d go.
I think that street harassment is the epitome of male entitlement. The threat of male violence is why women don’t holla back. We don’t want to be called ‘cunts’ and ‘bitches’ for not responding to a male who thinks he’s entitled to our time. We don’t want to be violated any further.
As a woman you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Many men are reacting to the video with mansplanations about women ‘loving the attention.’ This is how males justify their entitlement. It’s a strawwoman.
MRA’s particularly are condemning the video. I’ve always maintained that if women want a good look at how regular men think then look no further than to MRA’s because they’re just more open about male privilege and entitlement.
MRA’s would have you believe that male street harassment of women is just men being human. In this video by Red Pill Philosophy he explains that it’s just about saying ‘hello.’
If you listen carefully he disproves his own assertion. He only says ‘hi’ to women he finds attractive. I suppose women he doesn’t find attractive just aren’t human deserving of a hello? He also uses the excuse that women are begging for it if they dress a certain way.
Men who street harass are predators. Also, if it was just about being ‘nice’ then men wouldn’t verbally/sexually degrade women for not answering back. It’s a trap.
If a woman does answer she’s immediately considered a slut and if she doesn’t she’s a bitch. Either way she’s put into a mental burqa that’s meant to control her.
Christopher Cantwell from the misogynist hate site AVFM explains:
What this is about, just like most feminist garbage being peddled, is giving women the power to have men arrested for anything without any evidence at all. That they’re mere discomfort is a criminal offense that should justify the kidnapping of men doing exactly what men are supposed to do: pursue women.
He admits this harms women and makes us uncomfortable. Men know it and do it anyway because it’s yet another way to control women, to force us to attend to them like they’re children.
In patriarchy women cannot be allowed to go about their day without random men controlling their behaviour. That’s why women don’t go out when they don’t have to. The public space is still not safe for women.
Cantwell stresses that women should get revenge.
next time you see me walking down the street: Ask me for my phone number. Offer me sex. Tell me I have nice mantits. Verbally express your admiration for my distended belly. Ask me to show you my package. I’m not saying I’ll do it, but I’m not going to call the police, lobby Congress to have you imprisoned, or advocate violence against you in any way.
I don’t think this is revenge. Revenge would be scratching your eyes out of your sockets and kicking you so hard in the balls that you can’t ever have children. In fact, since you don’t ‘get’ this how ’bout I make it easy? Say women carry around .38’s and if a man hollers at them we kill them. That’s revenge.
When men complain that women see all men as potential predators why don’t they see street harassment as a cause? Quite frankly, I don’t think men care. I’ve never experienced a man admonishing another for screaming at me on the street. Never.
There was a great story done by one of the major networks about male street harassers.They filmed men who regularly engaged in street harassment of women and wondered if the men got any dates from doing this. They didn’t, which gives us another clue as to the motivations of men.
Cantwell also gave us a clue. He said it’s about pursuit but that’s just another word for hunting, for predation. While this predation yields no results men still engage in it. Why?
Hollaback says that street harassment is very costly to women.
The long-term impacts include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a reduced sense of safety that can limit earnings, decrease mobility, and interrupt their ability to fully engage with civic life.
The research paper Hollaback presents explains that men don’t understand what sexual harassment is because they’re the dominant group with privilege. This privilege makes them blissfully ignorant. What’s interesting is that men do express worry over how their words and actions might be viewed by women but because of male privilege they label their harassment as normal.
The paper agrees with me that this is about control and power. It also points out that men typically use violence in relationships because of their tendency to hierarchical organization where they place women below them.
By sharing power with women, men believe that they are giving women the power to control them.
That one quote provides a clear picture of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and explains why men form backlash male supremacists groups like the MRM. Ultimately, men need to be re-socialized out of seeing relationships as hierarchies and their need to exert power over others.
The more control you exert over others, the more of a man you are according to traditional masculinity.
So what can we do about it?
Hollaback’s first attempts at getting women to holla back at the men were found to be ineffective. Now they work on educating young men to encourage a cultural shift in how men view women. To me this is really about ending patriarchal domination of women.
We have a lot of work to do.
Currently, in our liberal feminist culture everything becomes an individual effort. Hollaback states that each woman must choose how she’s going to deal with street harassment. While I think there’s immense value in making individual choices we must understand that we live in a collective where male violence affects all women.
The problem with seeing this as an individual choice is that it masks the harms that are done to women as a class. It means any choice is the right one. If a woman wants to sell her body in prostitution we accept it instead of analyze the societal structures that surround that ‘choice.’ We fail to name problems holistically and accurately. That’s why we’ve failed to enact the kind of change we want.
Things like pornography, with its inherent male violence against women, suddenly become what individuals do instead of what males do to women as a whole. In essence we ultimately say it’s ok for women to wear metaphorical burqas because it’s a sacred choice without understanding why women are doing this and how men are forcing it.
We make excuses for individuals is ultimately what it comes down to. One person’s behaviour doesn’t represent anything because it’s never seen in its wider context. Men who street harass are simply individuals with individual problems and not part of the wider culture of male entitlement that encourages and reinforces male violence against women.
Street harassment signifies the larger cultural problem of patriarchy where women are subjugated and controlled by men as a class, not as individuals. The bigger solution involves recognizing the male hierarchy of capitalism, the need to enact power over others, the construction of masculinity.
We need to teach boys a new ‘normal’ that doesn’t involve the need to control others.
Systemic oppression needs to be named and not hidden by simply calling it a ‘choice’ that some men make.