A few days ago, Slate posted a video of a young woman who chronicled the challenges that many women in Manhattan face, and presumably many other places, of negotiating catcalling, unwanted attention from men. My understanding is that the purpose of the video was to raise awareness around this issue with the goal of educating men to make better decisions and foster a more inclusive environment for women. So far, I'm onboard.
Before you continue reading, you should watch the video:
Upon clicking the video, however, I was APPALLED. Mind you, I am a feminist and have dedicated my career to fostering a more inclusive environment for all people. I am ally. I opened the video with the hopes of deepening my understanding in the ways that this dynamic manifests. Best of all cases, I could even incorporate the video into my practice and workshops around gender equality.
Unfortunately, the video drowns in clear positionality bias. The original article suggests that from amongst at least 600 minutes of footage and potentially thousands of interactions between and among this young lady and catcallers, the producers of the video selected 3 minutes that are meant to capture her Manhattan experience (looks like Soho, Harlem and Times Square). This footage evidences overwhelming representation of black and Latino men.
Tag: implicit bias, danger of single story, pathologization of black and Latino men.
And because as a society we are largely composed of uncritical consumers of internet "journalism" and mainstream "research" (yet often espousing largely uninformed opinions) the link has gone viral. And so has the visual blueprint and priming of the nature of catcalling--how it manifests, what it looks like, WHO initiates and who is the victim. Above and beyond the lack of this critical cultural piece is the unfortunate residual outcome of this video, which parenthetically occurs far too often in these situations: a deflection from the intended issue. To be sure, catcalling and unwanted advances from men warrants increased awareness and corresponding actions. It's unfortunate, however, that this video misses the mark in some fairly significant ways.
For another analysis, you might enjoy these articles: