There are a lot of things to be said about the catcalling video that demolished your Facebook feed last week. It generated a loud, thorny discussion about harassment, sexism, race, and stereotypes. If anything, we can be grateful the video brought such attention to that conversation.
But, of course, it's not the first or last of hidden-camera films made to catch the experience of catcalling. Women created similar videos in Minneapolis, Brussels, New York, and Rome both before and after Hollaback commissioned the now viral video from Rob Bliss and Shoshana Roberts. The results were similar, no matter where.
The camera caught a handful of men turning back to look at her, and one guy did approach approach her briefly, asking if she was Italian. True, this man was probably not genuinely interested in a conversation about ancestry, but after Simpson apparently said no, he apologized and walked away. That's it.
The point is obvious: This is not an issue in every city, so the whole "boys will be boys" argument is out the window. Men of many races show up in the video, all equally capable of walking on the same sidewalk as a woman without harassing her. Catcalling, it seems, is not a biological imperative, after all. And, while it happens in most cities, clearly it's not — as many viewers argued last week — a necessary fact of urban life.
The Herald's video inadvertently addresses one of the most divisive topics raised by Hollaback's: what constitutes harassment. Many argued that calling out "have a nice day" or "God bless," at a stranger simply cannot be "harassment," while others recognized this as clearly unsolicited attention.
At one point in the video, a man with a map asks Nicola for directions. She points him toward the street he's looking for and explains how to get there. Yes, he's approaching and speaking to a stranger, but he's clearly just lost and looking for help, not a cheap thrill. What's made clear here is that harassment isn't usually about the words used, but the context and intent. The difference is obvious. You can catcall an entirely neutral phrase and it would still be catcalling.
This new video neither definitively proves that #notallcities have a catcalling problem, nor that Auckland is Utopia. But, it does show that people are capable of behaving respectfully towards one another in public. If a day like this is even possible, there's no reason we shouldn't strive to make it the norm. Maybe this will be the week politeness goes viral. (Fingers crossed.)