I can understand why people get uncomfortable discussing inequality. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and see a bigot, and acknowledging that maybe— just maybe— the playing field isn’t a perfectly level surface could lead to some uneasy self-reflection. Nobody wants to stick their foot in their mouth or look ill-informed on a subject, either, and there’s no risk of saying something foolish if you avoid a discussion entirely.
What I can’t understand is the knee-jerk reaction so many people have had in response to “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.” Apologists have come out of the woodwork to desperately invalidate a two minute video of a woman being catcalled while walking down the street. The vast majority are men who, while never personally experiencing street harassment, still feel the need to give their expertise on the issue.
The aggressive behavior of the men in this video is frequently excused as simply being “friendly.” You know, like how it’s just friendly for a stranger to closely follow you for several blocks after you don’t acknowledge their greeting. Or repeatedly ask you to smile for them because they were kind enough to comment on your appearance.
We’re all perfectly capable of interpreting subtext. It’s clear that Shoshana is extremely uncomfortable in parts of this video. It’s also clear the men who continue to engage her when she doesn’t respond aren’t looking for a friend. We’re all adults here. This is obvious.
People are entitled to their own opinions, but people also have a responsibility to be decent to one another. If you have a strong argument for why this behavior is acceptable, then by all means, let’s hear it. If your argument is that yelling at a woman from a passing car is a compliment, then please don’t put your foot in your mouth.