Editor’s Note: There has been a lot of conversation about the video released this week showing a woman being harassed in the street in New York City. One major (and valid) criticism is that the video shows mainly men of color harassing a white woman. Hollaback!, the anti-street harassment organization that collaborated on this video, has released a press release and I’ve decided to print it here in its entirety.
When the street harassment video was launched earlier this week, we hoped that it would make an impact but never imagined that it would be viewed more than 15,000,000 times in the first three days. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many women feel a little less alone and a little more validated in their experiences and we have heard support from our partners, new and old.
Rob Bliss Creative donated time and labor to create this video and support our work. We are grateful for his work and the wide reach that this video has achieved but we feel the need to directly address other responses to the video.
First, we regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over represents men of color. Although we appreciate Rob’s support, we are committed to showing the complete picture. It is our hope and intention that this video will be the start of a series to demonstrate that the type of harassment we’re concerned about is directed toward women of all races and ethnicities and conducted by an equally diverse population of men.
Hollaback! understands that harassment is a broad problem perpetuated by a diversity of individuals regardless of race. There is no one profile for a harasser and harassment comes in many different forms. Check out our Harassment Is: Identities and Street Harassment guide on how individuals experience harassment differently. This video should have done a better job of representing this knowledge.
There are many more voices to add to this conversation and Hollaback! is committed to continuing to make space for those voices by providing platforms and amplification of people sharing their stories and finding ways to push back.
Second, there has been another problem which deserves further attention: the onslaught of rape and death threats that have been directed at the Shoshana B. Roberts, the subject of the video, are unacceptable but sadly unsurprising. When women are visible in online or offline spaces, they experience harassment. When women demand change, they meet violent demands for their silence.
We understand that violence exists on a spectrum that is played out on the street and online. We understand that it needs to change. We hope that you will work with us to end street harassment and to fight harassment wherever it is found.
Third, the coverage that this video has received shows how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Many outlets have used the video to have conversations about street harassment that would never have happened even five years ago. For many, street harassment is a real problem to be reported as such.
Other coverage, however, shows that sexism still shapes culture in a way that harms women. When journalists on major news networks reinforce, support, and normalize street harassment they minimize the violence and fear that women experience on the street.
We want to thank everyone for participating in this vital dialogue — and we encourage continued conversation and debate.