There is a video doing the internet rounds this morning. It features a girl walking down the street in New York, being victim to ‘everyday’ sexism – men wolf-whistling, saying good morning, expressing an interest in her etc. She secretly recorded her experiences to demonstrate how women are still victim of everyday sexism. Adding that, when moving into her flat recently, she was asked out by no less than three men, called round to fix/install various white goods.
As a consequence plenty of women (and a few men) are up in arms, waving the feminist banner with all their might and agreeing that yes, indeed, women are still brutally exposed to daylight sexual harassment on a mass scale.
Whilst I don’t doubt that for some, advances, often fairly sexually explicit ones, are unwelcome, I can’t help but think that campaigns like this are at risk of becoming a man witch-hunt. And, given the highly edited style of the piece, suggest that all men are predators and all women, victims – thus fanning the fires of the man v woman war even more. Isn’t it equality we want, not women campaigning for men to be labelled as sexual predator when he compliments a girl, says ‘Good morning’ to her in the street, or God forbid, asks her out for a drink?
Of course woman are within their rights to express upset if they feel they are victims of genuine sexism, but let’s be careful not to create a society where people are scared to make eye contact for fear of ending up in court on a sexual intimidation charge.
The video is heavily edited, making it look like the girl in question spends the vast majority of her day fending off unwanted advances. It distorts the perspective, fuels the feminist anger and, to my mind, only goes to increase contempt on either side – ever-deepening the divide between men and women, and bypassing the goal of equality all together.
I live in the middle of London, like any woman I’ve been ‘wolf-whistled’ at on numerous occasions, sometimes I smile back, sometimes I totally ignore it and sometimes, I pre-empt it and cross the street before I get to the proverbial building site because I can’t be bothered to either entertain or dismiss. Does crossing the street in avoidance affect my life? No, not really, no more than crossing the street to avoid an old colleague I can’t be bothered to talk to would.
Do I feel like a victim? No, not in the slightest. I think it is banter, and it doesn’t offend me at all.
I am more offended by women campaigning for equality then bitching and moaning about men – condemning them for ever look, compliment, word and action. It is little wonder that feminism gets such a bad press when features like this exaggerate the chasm so dramatically between men and women.
I won’t deny that ‘everyday sexism’ can exist. But let’s keep it in perspective – being asked out by a plumber is not sexist and a man saying good morning is not harassment.
I consider myself a feminist but have absolutely no issue with being acknowledged in the street by a man. (and yes, it’s regularly … I’m not that old) I ignore it or respond to it … what I don’t do is victimize myself for the ‘greater good’ of womankind and put together disproportionate recordings encouraging women to be wary, intimidated and guarded of men.