Drawing The Line: When Is Harassment Actually Harassment?

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I’m sure many of you have seen this interesting video, as it has generated over five million YouTube views in a single day and is climbing fast.

Before I get into the topic at hand, I have made it very clear in past aticles that I am against street harassment and men really need to pull back on the reins when it comes to making women uncomfortable in public. Thankfully, awareness of street harassment has spiked drastically due to quite a few viral YouTube videos showing women wearing hidden cameras while walking around a city (usually New York City) and documenting their experiences.

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The reason I bring this up now though, is the most recent video, published just yesterday (10/28/14) has received a lot of scrutiny. Not just from men – but also from women.

While there are quite a few men who cross the line in this video – like the man who walks silently beside this woman for over 5 minutes without saying anything (Which would even make me wonder what the hell he was doing), or another who walks beside her and talks to her without her responding at all…there are also quite a few men who tell her to have a good day and keep moving along about their business.

To keep things in perspective, this footage is taken from over ten hours of walking through the streets. They have edited it down to under two minutes. Two minutes, much of which we can all agree is harassment. But some of it, we are not so sure.

While we need to work to eliminate all forms of street harassment, we also have to make sure our efforts are put in the right places. If we continue to vilify all social interaction with a stranger and classify it as being harassed, nobody will ever make eye contact, approach someone new they are attracted to, or be willing to make new friends.

Some say the line is drawn when someone is made to feel uncomfortable. The issue there, though, lies in different levels of tolerance for everyone. For people who have pure intentions of simply delivering a compliment to an attractive stranger – how will they ever know what kind of response they will be met with? This will easily lead to people simply keeping to themselves.

Take a look at the short two minute video here and leave your thoughts in the comment below. When is harassment actually harassment?

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10 Comments

  1. Michelle O. on October 29, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I honestly feel this “end street harassment” is a waste of time. I get the fact that people don’t want to be bothered by walking down the street. I’ve been catcalled at myself and it can make you feel uncomfortable. But is this truly something that can be stopped? I do think the guy walking beside her for over 5 minutes is aggressive and, honestly, scary and the guy who kept asking about his phone number and if he’s too ugly is truly harassment. Walking for 10 hours in any city, is not realistic. I guess I’m asking how do we truly combat this issue? Someone saying “hi how are you?” versus a man who just won’t get the hint are two different things. I would be curious to know what would’ve happened if she would have told the gentlemen she wasn’t interested in a polite way or if she would have just said “I’m fine, thank you” and kept it moving. Just my thoughts.

  2. Chris on October 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I think you bring up a valid point: drawing the line between what is harassment (clearly the men following after her for an extended period of time) and just being nice (plenty of examples of men just saying hello or wishing her well). Also, the fact that she remains silent throughout the video hindering the possibly of finding out what would happen after acknowledging advances. Do I think street harassment will ever stop? Not really, it’s human nature to comment on life around you, however, with more videos like this, I believe people will start to recognize what is acceptable and what is plainly uncomfortable.

  3. David on October 29, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Simply being courteous OR being openly flirtatious is two entirely different things.

    If you take offense to someone just being courteous, the problem is yours. …get over it! Generally speaking, even the most brief eye contact deserves a simple “hello” or nod of recognition in return.

    But, if a person is just being courteous, they also shouldn’t be playing favorites either…they should be responsive to everyone equally–man or woman, short or tall, fat or skinny, black or white…beautiful or not so beautiful.

    Being openly flirtatious, however, especially as an “opener” (hopefully) to further conversation, is never appropriate in my mind. …people deserve more respect than that.

    Wait for the “invite,” however subtle that may be.

    If you can’t recognize an invite when you see one, L E A R N!

    Start with courtesy and go from there. …if it’s meant to be, it will be.

    As a man having a daughter, seeing and hearing how people respond to her tends to put your own actions in perspective pretty quick!

  4. Rod on October 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    I can certainly understand the premise of street harassment. It’s degrading, if nothing else.
    However, not once did she smile, or even acknowledge the existence of those trying to be polite to her.

  5. EmilyRachelle on October 29, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I’d say only about half of this was harassment. I mean, obviously the men who kept walking with her were creepy, and those commenting on/staring at her jeans were crude. And people who call out and then get mad when there’s no response are clearly looking for more than just to compliment or say hello. (If you’re one of the nice ones, just shrug it off if there’s no reply!) But there were at least a couple of guys who just seemed nice. I’m on Pinterest a lot, and girls are always saying that a guy who thinks a girl is beautiful should say so — not just as a pick-up or to get something in return but simply to say it — and it would make her day. Tons of people re-pin that, but when a guy in real life does exactly what we say online, it’s harassment? I don’t think so.

  6. mjmsprt40 on October 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Hmmm…. I’ve issued a catcall once, some time back. It was favorably received too, if I’m any judge of kitty behavior. I meowed, the cat meowed back– and from there a friendship was formed for several months. That kitty greeted me every time I came home. Meowing at stray cats— sometimes I do that.

  7. […] of actually approaching women and paying them a genuine compliment. Guys yell out of car windows, cat-call women on the street (and insult them when they don’t answer), and leave ridiculous comments on Facebook […]

  8. thesteadfastsoldier on October 31, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you, James. You said what I wanted to say, yet didn’t quite know how to say it without sounding like I was ranting. I was also uncertain with how to approach it delicately since it’s a thick topic. I totally agree that street harassment needs to end. I didn’t like how all polite social interaction was umbrellaed alongside harassment. I’ve talked with some of my lady friends and they’ve mentioned to me that, while they have boyfriends, it is sometimes nice to receive some extra attention from another guy.
    Things like this concern me somewhat. I’m in a wheelchair, and am very social…I would hope that my interaction wouldn’t have been considered ‘harassment’ if I were included in this video.
    Some guys did cross the line, that’s very clear, but others were polite. They saw someone and said hello…some may have been attracted to her, and others may not have been. There isn’t anything wrong with that.

    …it did turn into a rant. My apologies.

  9. meganitbig on November 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I think is completely inappropriate for men to make remarks at women who they do not know on the street. I have been cat-called multiple times, and it always makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Men should avoid all forms of cat-calling to avoid making women feel uncomfortable.

  10. Daisy on February 4, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I am a female and I can care less that some stranger “thinks I look nice”. I think they should just keep it to themselves, I am not happy when I get this daily. I get uncomfortable, “will I be raped or will he shoot me if I walk away” comes to mind. I walk faster, sometimes even run. I don’t care if you like my butt, I don’t care what you strangers think, I also don’t care about you. Of course every gender likes attention, but I rather get a compliment from someone I know. “Nice dress” rather then a potential rapist yelling at me like I was a porn star crafted for his amusement. The thing is when male gives a compliment, 99.9% of the time he is going to try to get your number to hook up. My 11 year old sister has not even hit puberty yet was catcalled at by grown men. My other sister, younger than I is escorted around her college campus at night, her friends carry pepper spray or sharp items. I myself carry protection that can be used to hurt someone if they ever got to rowdy. This is very common, females carry sprays or sharp items in case they are attacked. Cat calling or speaking to strange women on the sidewalk is never comfortable. Or the men who are dumb enough to ask “do you need a ride?”. What idiot what utter such a statement? I don’t want to end up topless in a gutter at your house. Yes when men approach random strangers she thinks of death or rape. Or both.

    Apparently most men can’t get through a day without thinking of hook ups during the day, maybe they watch too much porn and use to every girl saying yes. This lacks reality. Sadly when you ignore them because you are frightened and irritable, 99% of these men will call you an ugly smelly bitch or follow you. Some may grab you. Only the lowest of the low approach woman on the sidewalk versus parks, work and libraries.

    I hate hook up culture, my grandfather said hook up culture made women more protective of themselves and can see why. If I see an attractive man and I knee I was physically threatening and there was a stigma. I darn sure wouldn’t try to yell at him or follow him. I don’t scream when I see random men and blame it on “how I was wired”. I am glad I have a respectful fiance that didn’t shout at me like I was cattle for his amusement. “But how do I hook up” some men will scream, do it through your circle or online. You are not entitled to force frightened people to give you their number.

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