Yes, it's the women walking in New York video. You've probably seen in already. You've probably expressed outrage and annoyance and sadness and you might even have come across a few folks on the Twitters and the Facebooks making all sorts of, absolute bullshit, statements about compliments and 'how are women supposed to know men are interested if men can't talk to them?' - someone actually wrote that. Yes, I know.
This two minute video is the result of a collaboration between filmmaker Rob Bliss and the street harassment activist group Hollaback! Bliss' girlfriend Shoshana Roberts walked around New York for ten hours, with Bliss and a Go-Pro in front of her. What they recorded was a mix of annoying, aggressive, intimidating, creepy and downright scary behaviour.
The video begins with a man asking Shoshana, 'How you doing today?', when she doesn't respond he follows up with 'I guess not good'. The man beside him calls out 'smile', twice.
You know what is really annoying? Being told to smile, especially by a man. Because what is inherent in that simple word as request is that a woman should behave in a way that a man finds acceptable, and smiling is one of the things he finds acceptable. Particularly if that smile is aimed at him.
Harassment is defined as aggressive pressure or intimidation. When the men in this video call out 'damn' or 'nice' or walk silently beside Shoshana for five minutes that is aggressive and intimidating behaviour. That is harassment. And it's also, very often, terrifying.
The unwanted attention Shoshana received, like the unwanted attention women receive from men everywhere every day, is aggressive and intimidating and sexually charged. None of it is a compliment. And all of it elicits fear, fear that makes women scared of taking up space in the world.
Women have the right to walk down the street without being subjected to this type of harassment from strangers. Women have the right to feel safe. Women have the right to NOT smile. However, while women may have these rights, too many men don't believe they have to respect them. Too many men choose to not care or not understand how their behaviour impacts on the lived experience of women.
But the comment that illustrates most clearly the issue here is the man who tells Shoshana that she should thank the men who are 'acknowledging' her 'for being beautiful'. What the actual fuck.
What is explicit in the statement that man on the street made to Shoshana about being thankful for the unwanted attention is the message that men are entitled to interact with women in any way they desire. What is explicit in this notion of being thankful for a stranger calling out to you on the street is that women belong to men. And exist only for men.
And you know what, we fucking don't.