This controversial public service announcement video created by Hollaback, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment is intended to be a social experiment highlighting the routine sexual harassment females deal with daily. It features a young woman walking around New York City for 10 hours and the unwanted attention she gets despite not being dressed provocatively or engaging with the men she encounters on the street in any way.
I first saw the video posted by my fellow AMR contributor Pedro on the About Men Radio Facebook newsfeed. Shortly thereafter it had gone, as the hip kids say these days, viral.
Quite frankly I was disgusted more by the YouTube commenters than by the extra creepy guy in the video that follows the girl uncomfortably close and silently for 5 minutes. A typical New Yorker walks a block in a minute so unless my math is off here…this guy shadowed her for 5 blocks!
I am a fiercely proud Argentine and spent my late teens and early twenties in Buenos Aires. Argentine men (just like Italians, which is also in my blood) are piroperos fond of throwing out piropos, a catcall, to passing women.
In its most traditional sense el piropo is supposed to be a very complimentary, flattering and non-rude line. Sort of like a well crafted pickup. When employed correctly it should be almost poetic. The intended effect is to bring a smile to a woman’s lips. Sadly, most modern piropos are lacking in poetry and too many piroperos in Argentina are just plain rude and harassing.
I recall hanging out with friends in Buenos Aires and some of them throwing out the occasional piropo. I refused to. One day I spoke up against someone in my group who let fly with an especially rude piropo that visibly upset the recipient but titillated the rest of the guys I was with.
I was verbally pounced on after suggesting to the graceless piropero in my group that they should have some respect. Things escalated with harsh words and threats hurled my way by several of the others. Before things became physical I countered (in Spanish), “How would you fu@#ing feel if that was your girlfriend or your mother?”
That certainly defused the situation but I never really hung out with some of those guys again.
I’m not suggesting I wouldn’t take an admiring glance and quietly comment to myself or a buddy on a fine figure walking by. I would. I just never felt that urge to piropear and I most certainly wouldn’t be pressured into it by some clueless lunkheads.
Some commenters on YouTube felt the woman in the Hollaback video should have felt flattered by the attention and just let it be. Really?!?! Let who be?!?! The creep walking with her for 5 minutes. Or the other guy continually asking her why she didn’t want to be friends? Or any of the other creeps who kept hurling UNSOLICITED comments her way?
It’s all unwelcome and it is most definitely harassment.
But don’t take my word for it, ask your sister. Ask your wife. Ask your mom…
Photo: American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin