Woman from Street Harassment Video Receives Rape Threats, No One is Surprised

30 Oct

Over the past few days a video documenting the degree to which women experience street harassment in New York City has been making the rounds on the internet. As of this moment, 11:49am on Thursday, October 30, 2014, the video has been viewed 15,831,699 times and that is only the official link from Hollaback!. The Hollaback! video was a small excerpt from a 10 hour long silent walk that Shoshana B. Roberts did, all the while being videotaped by Rob Bliss who walked in front of her, a camera hidden in his backpack. If you haven’t watched it, you should. This will either bring back memories of your own experience of street harassment, or give you a little taste of what it is like to be a woman walking the streets of New York, and, really, any other city.

Watch it. Because while there are some problems – as pointed out in this Slate article although the video claims that she was harassed by people of every background, the vast majority of the men featured in this video are either black or Latino – it makes a really great point of what it means to be female in public. Just yesterday, for example, on my walk home from the super market, a man in a truck honked at me, and then proceeded to park in the crosswalk I was about to enter in order to comment on my outfit and my legs. The only response when you’re on a relatively desolate street right near Hamilton Avenue? Keep your eyes straight ahead and walk on lest you are dealing with a person with anger management problems. And the thing about it, the thing that is so incredibly fucked up, is that that shit didn’t even phase me. I had already experienced 3 other men commenting on my legs, been “god blessed” about half a dozen times, been leered at, honked at, had cars slow down as they passed me, been wished a good day, and had someone tip his fucking hat at me. And it was only 4:30 pm. I had left the house at 1. This shit is so goddamn normal that I completely forgot about it until I came across an incredibly upsetting article.

Since the release of the video, Shoshana B. Roberts has been receiving rape threats on the internet. I would love to say that I am shocked by this but the reality? Not so much. This is completely and totally unsurprising. And I am not the only one to feel this way. Kelsey McKinney over at vox put it really well in her article on the subject, emphasis mine:

“Let’s lay this out in plain terms. Women are forced to feel uncomfortable and scared for walking down the damn street. Then, when one woman takes the time to show just how uncomfortable those interactions are, people threaten to physically assault her. If the video reminded us that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they leave the house, the response is a reminder that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they simply turn on their computer.”

And it is so true. I don’t know if you guys remember a few months back when I decided to poke the bear that is the Men’s Rights Movement. I wrote three different articles on the subject and I have to say I don’t think I have ever received so many comments, all of them negative. None of the comments were scary or violent in nature. They were just, well, stupid. They were written by angry people who have created for themselves some incredibly bizarre alternate reality within which they, American white men and their brain-washed white female supporters, are somehow the oppressed class. There is no reasoning with them. They live in a land where logic simply does not exist and all events can somehow be changed and manipulated in order to feed into their myth of the misandry of American culture spear-headed, of course, by the “feminist agenda.” They have been in the mix of people claiming that if Roberts were to have worn something less revealing then maybe she wouldn’t have been harassed so much. As David Futrelle from We Hunted the Mammoth said,

“Today I learned that wearing clothes that cover up most of your body is the same as going outside practically naked.”

Sadly I am reminded of this fact daily, whether I am wearing running clothes, a dress or a puffy fucking winter jacket. Back to the point. So after Day 3 of me fucking with a bunch of MRAs, my dad called me up and said, and I am paraphrasing here,

“I know this is going to make you mad but hear me out. I need you to lay off this stuff you’ve been writing about.”

And you know what? It did make me mad. Because I should be able to say whatever the fuck I want. I mean, everyone else does, right? I should be able to call people on their bullshit and tell people that there is nothing complimentary about having a man whisper in your ear as you walk down the street on your way to mail your cable bill, or have some assholes in a pick up truck comment on your clothing while they drive past, only to then run into them 20 minutes later in the super market. But my dad also had a point. The reality of the situation is that while the internet appears to be a safe place for the anonymous rape and death threats that men seem to feel entitled to hurl at women who speak their minds, the internet is very much not a safe place for those of us doing the speaking. Under our real names. Because we are responsible people who stand by our beliefs. I didn’t really see it at the time, probably because I am stubborn as shit and don’t like to be told what I should and should not discuss on my own personal website. And I also believe that I have a responsibility to myself, and to women in general, to say these things. We should be able to speak our minds, to design video games, to call out bullshit, to believe that we are deserving of respect and safety. And you know what? We shouldn’t have to fear our information being made public. We shouldn’t be bombarded with threats of violence. We shouldn’t be going into hiding. This is fucking ridiculous.

And the thing that makes it even more ridiculous is that all this shit does is prove the point that women, and our allies, are trying to make. That we are not safe. Anywhere. That we are not valued. That our opinions don’t matter. But guess what? We aren’t going anywhere. So bring it, mother fuckers.

Also, that video has now been viewed 16,451,646 times and counting. Let’s keep the conversation going and let Shoshana and the Hollaback! team know that they are supported and, hopefully, safe..

2 Responses to “Woman from Street Harassment Video Receives Rape Threats, No One is Surprised”

  1. Debbie Hangemanole November 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    The best is when men (and it’s always men) try to tell me that I should take that kind of attention as a compliment. “Wouldn’t it feel worse if people DIDN’T think you were attractive?!” Uh, nope. Because my self esteem is not dependent on what random men on the street think of me. I also used to LOVE Michael Che on Daily Show and SNL but have lost respect for him since reading his tweets on this video. When this kind of harassment happens, we are not overreacting. I know the difference between someone genuinely smiling and wishing me a nice day and someone being slimy and inappropriate, thankyouverymuch.

    • FranklyRebekah November 1, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. We are smart, independent, awesome women and we do not need the random approval of dudes on the street who’ve we’ve never seen before and likely will never see again.

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