Most of you have probably seen a video that has gone viral in the past few days. Actress Shoshana Roberts, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, silently wanders around New York City for a day secretly creating a video showing how many times she gets catcalls and in a couple instances, followed.
To me, some people’s reaction to the video, from the comments on the video, to commentary in articles, blogs, and on social media, is what is truly shocking.
Comments range from those saying she’s attractive, so it’s only natural she would get male attention, to those saying her clothes were provocative so she was asking for it. Others say the men were only paying her compliments (“is it so wrong to give people a compliment these days?”). Most of the latter arguments point to the man who told her “God bless you,” a nice gesture, ironically ignoring that this same man proceeded to follow her for five minutes.
There is a problem with these types of reactions, especially those that point to her appearance. People are not acknowledging that catcalls are disrespectful and explaining that women may not want this attention, especially in a city like New York where people largely tend to keep to themselves. In a lot of discussions I’ve seen people say she shouldn’t wear tight jeans, she should’ve put on a baggy sweater that day, or (and I wish I were joking) that she should learn to put on makeup in a way that makes her look less attractive.
I have brought this up with several of my friends and we all shared stories that were not so different from Shoshana’s experience. My veiled friends, both those who wear traditional abayas and those who prefer to follow current trends, have received this sort of negative attention regardless of how conservatively they’re dressed. The attention is due to the fact that they’re female, and it almost wouldn’t matter what they were wearing.
Borders do not limit this issue. While I mainly focus on the Middle East, it is important to keep in mind that women face gender inequality all over the world. Whether they’re walking down the streets of Amman or Manhattan, women need to be treated with dignity and respect – no matter what she may be wearing or no matter her physical appearance.
Until next time…