By now you’ve likely seen the PSA from non-profit anti-street harassment initiative Hollaback! wherein a woman winds her way through the streets of Manhattan for 10 hours and is subjected to more than 100 instances of verbal harassment. And because people on the Internet are the worst, actress Shoshanna B. Roberts who walked for the video is now receiving rape threats. That has me over here scratching my head about the type of person who watches a PSA about gender oppressive behaviors and thinks, What this here really needs is a good ol’ peppering of misogyny and hateful vitriol.
The video, which has been viewed more than 17,693,236 times, has seen its fair share of asinine commentary, all of which further evidences the very aims of the initiative. Let me assure you that reading the comments thread of the video will, scout’s honor, devastate your remaining faith in humanity.
Highly unexpected results here? Sadly, no. Women with a web presence face much higher rates of stalking and violent harassment than men. However, engaging any sort of meaningful dialogue with someone whose knee jerk response to an ad about verbal harassment is threatening to rape them is like attempting to reason with an ornery child. For many, these notions of righteousness are so deeply and systemically rooted that it’s near impossible to even suggest that they may, in fact, have some archaic ideas about the interpersonal exchanges between men and women. Machismo is being exorcised by typing hateful, beligerent, and violent messages to a person in order to make her feel smaller and therefore inferior. This is the very problem with existing sexism at its core.
But being a big man doesn't mean cowering behind a computer screen while you fill the empty space on your screen with unspeakable commentary about how you would like to physically harm another human being, particularly one who has done nothing to slight you. Consider your mother, your wife, your daughter, and how you would feel if these experiences were inflicted upon them. Because I have a difficult time believing that a subset of people of this volume are inherently evil. What I think is that in some bizarre stunt to assert dominance or power (lol we're on the Internet, relax bro), people say some incredibly stupid and selfish things. Will they change? Maybe, with the right approach. A good start is to educate your friends and family about these types of oppressive behavior, why they're hurtful, and how they're harmful, and there's an excellent piece about how to initiate that conversation here.
In the meantime, trolls gonna troll, and they can go to hell.
Images: Street HarassmentVideo