Can I Walk in Peace?

By Ariel Bowen

If you’re like me, you probably don’t use Facebook much at all. When I do, I’m usually just catching up with family or old classmates. Sometimes I may share a video or article I find interesting and maybe receive a few likes in return, but that’s about as far as my interactions on Facebook go.

But when I shared this video created by Robert Bliss Creative, I got a little more than what I expected in response.

The video is exactly as titled: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” though it is compiled into two minutes of selected footage. It was created for Hollaback!, a movement started to help shed light on the issue of street harassment and ultimately, end it. This video was made to provide visual proof of how women are treated on the streets which is seemingly becoming a more prevalent issue in today’s society.

It follows actress Shoshana Roberts through a hidden camera as she silently walks the streets of Manhattan. Within the collected footage, there are many instances of strangers trying to engage her. The interactions range from some men simply saying hello to some actually following her.

With over 40 million views to date, this video has gained a lot of attention. While a large number of the responses showed distaste for the men’s behavior, there were also many others who saw little to no problem with what they had just seen.

I refused to believe that so many people saw nothing wrong with this, so I just summed it up to be acts of trolling. I decided to share the video on my own page to confirm that myself.

To my surprise, I found myself going back and forth with someone who insisted that the catcalls were mostly flattering. Realizing that people actually did feel this way, I questioned whether or not this was as big of a deal as I thought. That being said, I had to look into it myself.

According to a national survey done by nonprofit Stop Street Harassment, 65% of women had experienced sexual harassment and 25% of men (mostly those who identify with LGBT) had also reported being harassed in public. Data retrieved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences” are the most common form of sexual violence for both men and women nationwide.

Alright, so a lot of people have this problem, but the question still remains: is it something we should even be worried about?

Personally, I’d be worried that a “harmless” demand to smile could lead to something worse, but maybe I just watch too many SVU marathons.

Well, according to Stop Street Harassment’s survey, most people harassed (68% of women and 49% of men) were at least somewhat concerned that the incident would escalate. Most people that reported being harassed had changed their lives as a result. Most commonly, they continuously assess their surroundings whenever out in public and some even report quitting their jobs or moving to new neighborhoods.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d consider that to be a pretty big deal.

After what I’ve learned, I definitely take it more seriously than I already did. I think that with this, much like many other social issues, it’s important that we continue to educate one another so that we can all walk in peace.

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