This week Buzzfeed released what is probably one of the funniest and most accurate videos about street harassment to ever hit the Internet. Titled “What Men Are Really Saying When Catcalling Women,” the 1-minute and 50-second clip replaces the usual, “Hey baby” and “Can I walk with you?” lines and with things like “Society makes me feel like I have to objectify you to feel manly,” “I noticed your confidence so I’m cutting you down to feel powerful,” and my personal favorite, “This has never, ever, worked,” which the actor delivers while thrusting his crotch at a visibly disgusted woman.
Not only is it funny, but it places a special focus on how men are socialized to believe that harassing women, particularly catcalling, is:
• Something that is expected of them in order to prove their manliness.
• Harmless fun that entertains or impresses their friends.
• The way to actually approach a woman.
• Their personal duty to put women in their “place.”
For example, one of the Facebook comments on the video says “Not accurate lol…sometimes its [sic] just funny to [tick] cocky girls off.” What makes a harasser assume that a woman they do not know is cocky? Her gait? Her appearance? Her posture? Why would it be this man’s responsibility to bring her down a peg? If that Facebook user wrote that after watching the video, it’s further proof that, to some, harassing women is an integral part of what it means to be a man. And that is one of the many ways that patriarchy hurts men, too.
Basically, “We should all be feminists.” Cue the “***Flawless” beat.
One gripe about the clip: the tone that all of the men use in the video is extremely stereotypical. Granted, some harassers do use a “bro-y” or “smooth guy” routine when they harass women, but one of the biggest problems with street harassment is how pervasive it is. There are harassers in every racial, economic and social group, which Buzzfeed seemed to try to highlight by having a racially diverse group of male actors play harassers. However, some of the lines are delivered in such a specific tone — for example, “Deep down I know you’re never jumping in this Ford Escape, girl”) — that you cannot imagine a man you actually know behaving this way. And that’s part of the problem: harassers hear horror stories about harassment and think “They can’t be talking about a guy like me.”
Despite those concerns, the message is a strong one. Street harassment hurts everybody. It doesn’t make the harasser manlier and it’s definitely not an effective way to express romantic interest in a woman. At the least, most harassers become the subject of an annoyed Twitter rant and at the worst, they can truly make a harassed person feel unsafe.