On Tuesday, a video was posted to YouTube of a woman getting catcalled over 100 times as she walked through NYC for 10 hours. The video was posted by Hollaback!, a nonprofit initiative to end street harassment, and has since gone viral with more than 15 million views. Most people — at least the sensible ones — were horrified by the frequency and indecency of these catcalls, which came from men of all ages and backgrounds, as the woman, who was wearing a plain black shirt and jeans, walked in silence through the streets. However, there are inevitably people who just don't get it — why it's not "just saying hi" — and their responses to the catcalling video expose the depth of their cluelessness.
Even more frightening, some of the responses to the video actually threaten violence. As we've seen with GamerGate, there are men out there who respond to women who defy sexism by lashing out in the most violent and misogynistic ways imaginable. Internet culture has created and fortified these anonymous cowards who hide behind their usernames and lurk on comment threads eager to attack women by threatening rape and sometimes murder.
Mere hours after the catcalling video was posted, those threats started rolling in in the comments section on YouTube and Hollaback tweeted asking the public to help report these countless instances.
But perhaps what's even worse than these spineless, hateful commenters who remain, for the most part, nameless and faceless, are the public figures who undermine or even criticize the video's intent, therefore validating and bolstering the misogynistic sentiment. While some of these people include the usual suspects (we're looking at you, Fox News), others heretofore had our respect, but we're not so sure now.
Fox News Offers a Completely Unsurprising Response
When Fox News' The Five aired a clip of the video, all five hosts (both male and female) proved just how little they understand about sexual harassment. Co-hosts Eric Bolling immediately opens up the discussion by saying, "There was nothing disrespectful there," illustrating an almost impressive lack of insight. Greg Gutfeld offers his theory that for these men, the sidewalk is their bar and that's where they do their picking up — um, that doesn't make it OK, Gutfeld. What if I wanted to turn the sidewalk into my own personal American Idol audition and started belting out songs into the ears of every passerby? Nobody, including my own mother, would appreciate that, just like women don't appreciate being subjected to these "compliments" involuntarily. And Dana Perino offers her take by comparing the catcalls in the video to that time a homeless man said her coat was pretty.
But here's the clincher. Co-host Bob Beckel, who has a reputation for slut-shaming, crossed so far over the line that his response to the video is exponentially more offensive than the content of the video itself. He outright mocked it by saying:
She got 100 catcalls, let me add 101. Damn, baby, you're a piece of woman.
Michael Che Digs Himself Deeper... and Deeper
Then there's comedian and newly added SNL "Weekend Update" co-host Michael Che, who once made us laugh and fawn over his permanently sleepy expression. Those were the good old days. That was before Che responded to the video in the most boneheaded way possible. On Wednesday, Che posted a comment on his Instagram that also essentially mocked the video by comparing female objectification with celebrity fandom.
And then when he received backlash for this post, he became indignant but masked it behind sarcasm and humor — the overall effect was just kind of an ugly mess.
Sigh... it feels like we lost one of the good ones to the dark side.
Everyday People Are Just as Clueless
And it's not just public figures who are reinforcing the extreme sexism found in the comments section. While both public figures and career Internet trolls are niche groups who either represent radical, skewed views or whose views get skewed because of their prominent status, what about the average Americans on Twitter who are echoing the same sexist sentiments? It's these people, who represent the mentality of the mass majority, who cause the most alarm. Because they prove just how pervasive misogyny is in our society.
Images: Street HarassmentVideo/YouTube, Getty Images (3)