Last August, Shoshana B. Roberts went for a walk in Manhattan. What she heard over the course the day is not remotely unusual: "Smile!" "Damn!" "What's up, beautiful?"
Women are typically so inured to catcalling that sometimes it barely even registers. But, watching this video, filmed by Rob Bliss' hidden camera, you'll be overwhelmed by the sample of 108 instances of catcalling that happened to Roberts over the course of 10 hours. Bliss set out to direct this PSA months ago, in cooperation with Hollaback!, an organization working to end street harassment — because that's what catcalling is. You can call it an irritant or a harmless fact of city life, but street harassment is nothing but an unfortunately tolerated form of misogyny we experience every day.
Along with the dozens of "Damn, girls," there are two exceptionally creepy encounters when men walk alongside the silent Roberts for several minutes at a time, demanding her attention or simply staring at her. The catcalls were not limited to a particular neighborhood, race, or age. The only thing her harassers had in common was their script: "Hey, sexy. What, you don't wanna talk to me?"
The video, as well as some outlets who have posted it, noted that Roberts was wearing jeans and a crewneck T-shirt, as if to assure viewers that she wasn't "asking for it." And yet, the response from certain commenters is as maddening as the clip. "Some of them were not 'harassing.' They were just paying a respectful compliment to someone they found pretty." Right.
"I’m harassed when I smile and I’m harassed when I don’t," says Roberts. "Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this."
This issue has gotten a fair amount of press lately, but, apparently, some people still don't get it. To be clear: Catcalling is never a compliment. No woman or man asks for or deserves it, no matter where they are, what they look like, or what they're wearing. Period.