Shoshana B Roberts spent 10 hours walking the streets of New York with a hidden camera crew, documenting over 100 catcalls (plus countless less-visible forms of harassment), as part of a campaign from Hollaback, who work to fight street harassment of women.
Within a day, she had over a million views — and a totally predictable passel of rape-threats from creeps.
Roberts's video is so offensive because it's so familiar. Any woman who has ever walked anywhere, especially in New York, knows the constant, terrifying din of catcalls following behind her. It's a way men make women feel unsafe walking the streets of their own neighborhoods — and then, when challenged on it, profess innocence: "what, you can't take a compliment?" Women quickly learn that as awful as catcalling is, they can't respond to it. To respond is to risk being harassed more, or followed, or worse. To respond is to risk making the man who is shouting at you on the street, after dark, actually angry.
Similarly, the response to Roberts's video is so offensive because it is, again, so familiar. Rape and death threats have become a standard response to any woman who dares to speak out on the internet about, well, anything. Look at #Gamergate. Look at Emma Watson. And there, too, to respond is to risk making it worse. When geek hero Felicia Day lamented the harassment of women in #Gamergate, her home address and other personal information was posted online. To respond is to risk making the men who are digging through your personal information and threatening to rape or kill you actually angry.
The woman who made a video about catcalling is already getting rape threats [Kelsey McKinney/Vox]