Friday, April 04, 2014

Contrast And Compare: Street Harassment Videos

When I read the comments to this UK Guardian street harassment video, which turns the tables, I remembered the Snickers bar video from Australia (more on that in an earlier post).

The Guardian video shows a woman approaching men in inappropriate ways (such as asking for a woman to serve her in a store because a woman would know more, natch, and by sexually harassing them).  The point of the video is an obvious one, to turn the tables on street harassment, to show how it might feel if the shoe is on the other foot.

But that cannot be done, actually, because the effect of street harassment is largely because of its drip-drip nature, because it happens over years and even over decades, even when you are coming back from your grandmother's funeral.  As several people in the comments pointed out, the reversal might feel like a joke or a compliment or something odd and potentially a little embarrassing.  But it will not give the actual flavor of real street harassment.

A large percentage of the comments to the video are about the unfairness of targeting men the way the video did, because the men targeted have not in any way been selected as men who practice harassment themselves.  Some ironically suggested that the next video should be about women beating up perfectly nice husbands, to turn the tables on wife-beating.

This is fascinating, especially because the women in the Snickers bar ad seem not to have been actors who knew what was happening*, except afterwards.  Yet when I read the comments to the YouTube video (some time ago) not a single person there worried about the treatment of those women in the video.  Rather, a lot of the expressed worry was about how the ad portrayed working-class men.

Now, all that doesn't mean anything much, except in the subtle sense of what we see in these types of cases and what registers to us, including to me.  And those who point out that turning the tables in the Guardian video just hurts innocent people and accuses all men of genetic guilt when it comes to street harassment obviously have that point (though not if they also argue that it was just a good laugh for the approached men, because that's not showing hurting).  Still, there's the reverse point that street harassment hurts innocent women and those women are not picked for it on any other ground but for the genetic guilt of being women.

*This is based on both how those women look when they are addressed,  this article, especially the first comment in it:
It seems the women were not actors, if this comment is to be believed:
"So I know one of the women involved. She gets shouted at by the actors, can’t quite hear what’s said, and then gets stopped by another random to sign a release form for the use of her likeness in the ad.
and this article:

Snickers is continuing with its ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign, recruiting a group of actors posing as construction workers to stage a candid camera-style experiment to demonstrate the slogan. 
The group heckled passers by from a building site in central Melbourne but instead of the usual stereotypical comments, they shouted out empowering compliments including: “You want to hear a dirty word? Gender bias”.