There has been some fuss about the most recent viral video today. A woman decided to walk around the streets of New York City for ten hours, videotaping the whole thing, and then upload the results (the actual video is only 2 minutes long). She encountered a couple of creepy guys, but I watched the video, and I don’t think she got enough evidence to support that street harassment is an epidemic. Granted, I’m not a woman, and I’ve never had to deal with people hitting on me, but from my perspective, there are several problems with her assertion.
First of all, I have to say again that I am so tired of seeing these viral videos attached to words like “Jaw-dropping,” “Shocking,” “Amazing,” or phrases like “will change your mind” “will blow your mind,” etc… Most of these videos are either cute, funny, or interesting, but nothing like they are described. Calling the mundane wonderful gets annoying after a while. It’s like you meet your friends for lunch, and they keep handing you store brand cookies and telling you they are “the absolute best cookies ever!!!” or eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger and being told the flavor combinations “will blow your mind!!!” Just stop.
Back to the video at hand. Not every person in the video could be described as displaying harassing behavior. Several people simply greeted her. It’s hard to accuse everybody in that video of lecherous behavior. That being said, some of them were definitely harassing her.
One observation I have to make: it’s New York City. I went there in 2006 and the only people who spoke to me were people to whom I gave money. Most people there are anti-social by nature. In other words, if you saw someone you were interested in getting to know, simply smiling at them is not going to be enough in NYC. They would continue to ignore you. In Iowa, if you don’t greet someone, you are looked on as rude. The opposite is true in NYC.
Finally, while a few guys in the video were creepy or pushy, some of them were just being friendly. We live in a world where the motivation of the man talking to a woman is determined by the woman receiving the message, NOT the man sending the message. In other words, if I say “hi” to a random woman, our society says it’s HER right to say if I am harassing her or just being nice.
The other thing that hasn’t been mentioned in relation to the fact that this was filmed in New York City was that this woman encountered FAR MORE people in her ten hours of walking than would be normal across the country. I’m guessing she probably went through the ten hours of video and included the worst offenders in her video. Even given the fact that that half of those people were just saying “hi”, I’d say that two minutes of examples out of ten hours of walking in NYC is pretty good. It has been estimated that about 7000 people per hour walk past certain spots in NYC. Given the fact that she was walking, we should be safe to cut that number in half, estimating that half of those people were walking the same direction she was. So that’s 3500 people per hour. In ten hours, that means she encountered approximately 35,000 people. Let’s assume for now that half of them were women, and let’s further assume the women were not interested in her. That means that in ten hours she encountered approximately 17,500 men. How many of them “sexually harassed” her? “more than 100 instances of verbal street harassment.” Let’s ignore the fact that several of these men were simply saying hello. Let’s go ahead and assume all 100 were lecherous individuals.
That means that 0.05% of the men she encountered (0.025% of the humans she encountered) were perceived by her to be sexually harassing her. That means that out of every 175 people she encountered, one was creepy or talked to her. I know some of you are visually oriented, so here’s a graph to display her experience.
Another thing, not one of these people touched her. I think that’s significant.
Des Moines has about 207,000 people, whereas New York has 8.4 million. That means that it would take 40 Des Moines cities to fill NYC. This means that if she had walked the streets of Des Moines for ten hours, she would have only had 2.5 of these interactions. Considering that half of the people in the video were simply saying hello, this means that if she had walked in Des Moines, ONE PERSON would have hit on her, statistically speaking. It would probably have been the guy walking next to her for five minutes. What a creeper.
Personally I believe her assertion that street harassment is a huge problem is overblown. Does it exist? Yes. Do we need to pass laws about it? I don’t think so.