“10 Hours in New York:” A Narrow Perspective
Two weeks ago, a video went viral on the internet. It was that of a woman walking around New York, mostly in areas in and around Manhattan for 10 hours and how she was being cat-called and harassed. In the beginning, the video described the attire she was wearing while walking around. She was wearing “jeans and a crew neck t-shirt.” The video shows the obscene comments men make about women. It also shows us how women can get harassed any where and anytime, irrespective of what she is wearing or how she is behaving.
The video aims to promote awareness how prevalent and common street harassment is and also how not enough action is being taken to stop it. At the end of the video, it says “If you want to help, please donate to Hollaback! a nonprofit dedicated to ending street harassment.”
Everyday millions of videos, articles and news get posted on the internet and we have discretion to decide what we read, watch or post. The internet is the fastest way to get a message across to the majority of the public and we do have the responsibility to consider what message we are sending across when we try and reach out to the public. With that being said, there are a few things that I would like to point out in this video.
Firstly, the video is that of a white woman walking the streets of Manhattan. This does not take into account other women, like women of color, transgender women etc. and shows us only one side or one perspective of the issue of street harassment.
Another point is that the men who are harassing and cat-calling are mostly Latino or Black men. This creates the impression that white men do not cat-call or harass women. When the people who made the video were asked questions about it, they admitted that White men also cat-called and harassed the woman in the video but they cut them out of the video because the audio wasn’t clear or because they were at a large distance and did not get covered in the camera. Maybe these reasons are true but that doesn’t justify the way this video is portrayed.
The fact that the video has been edited into two minutes overall should be taken into consideration. This allows the people doing the editing to, in a way, impose their views on us or rather give us part of the story rather than the whole. They are showing us only what they want us to see. Editing presents a clear bias as you are removing contextual information.
When appealing for a cause, to more than half the world’s population, there is a sense of responsibility placed on the person who chooses to post something on the internet. There are many questions to be taken into consideration like: If she were not white would the response from the men have been different? Would the response of the audience for this video have been different? Do women of color get treated differently? By asking these questions I am not saying that the harassment faced by white women is less important. I am saying that when making a video about street harassment, the makers should include all perspectives and not narrow it down to just one perspective. That, in a way, ignores the harassment faced by women of other races and identities.
Some stereotypes are so ingrained in our society and minds that at first glance no one realizes anything wrong with the video. When we watch a video or read an article on the internet, we are given a particular perspective and stance on the issue. Many of us don’t wait to think what implications it has on us or we don’t pause and think about the other perspectives and sides to the same story.
Issues like sexual harassment and street harassment are important. Not just to a particular race, class, gender, religion or culture. It is important to address all classes, races, genders and not just a particular one. This is a universal problem and not unique to any one particular kind of people. Yes, the video indeed sheds light on street harassment and has given us one perspective on the issue but it is up to us to think of the other perspectives that haven’t been touched upon in this video and to identify the root cause of the problem rather than curing the symptoms.
Next time, we can be more aware when we watch or read something on the internet or anywhere for that matter by thinking about how we feel about it and whether the story being portrayed is all inclusive or extremely narrow. This will help us avoid common stereotypes and also think critically about universal issues.
Janani Venkateswaran is a first-year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.