In a two-minute video that went viral on Tuesday, aspiring actress Shoshana B. Roberts is relentlessly catcalled—more than 100 times, the video claims—in a ten-hour walk through New York City, from SoHo to Harlem. Men greet her in passing (“How you doing today?”); make unsolicited, boorish comments about her looks (“Sexy! Damn!”); and shout after her when she doesn’t engage (“Someone’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more!”).
The PSA for anti-harassment organization Hollaback provoked outrage and panic in the mainstream media: hundreds of stories, globally, with aghast headlines about a woman enduring constant unwanted attention and glaring misogyny, ensuring that the video racked up over a million views in one day alone. The Los Angeles Times lamented “the everyday sexism of American streets,” Business Insider stressed the “prevalence of street harassment” illustrated in this “disturbing video,” and Buzzfeed deemed it “upsetting.” Across the pond, The Daily Mirror called it “worrying,” and BBC News linked to “the video that shows what street harassment is like.”
Hollaback worked with Rob Bliss, creative director of a viral video marketing agency, to film Roberts walking around in jeans and a t-shirt, holding two microphones to pick up the ambient harassment from bystanders. Bliss walked in front of Roberts with a tiny GoPro camera hidden in the back of his shirt. “I didn’t have any contact with any of these guys,” he told Time. “The whole idea was to be a stone wall and just let everyone else bounce off us.”
Indeed the video is discomfiting; ten hours distilled into two minutes, in which men intrude upon her walk with flattery, ugly comments, and aggressive advances. In a press release accompanying the video, Roberts said that such behavior is commonplace on New York streets—and in her own life. “I’m harassed when I smile and when I don’t. I’m harassed by white men, black men, latino men. Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this.”
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