Cosmo’s Video of Men Reacting to Street Harassment of Their Girlfriends

There’s a video making the rounds that makes us cringe. It shows women sitting with their boyfriends as they watch footage of the women being harassed in the street.

This video, unsurprisingly, is being lauded and shared widely. It’s not surprising because the world is still looking at street harassment – and pretty much every other issue of gender – in a patriarchal way.

Here are questions we can’t help but ask about this video:

  • Why is the focus on the men and their reactions?
  • Is street harassment of a woman only reprehensible when people can make a connection between a woman and her father/husband/brother?
  • Is it not already too much that street harassment exists as a result of patriarchal attitudes? Must it be compounded by presenting patriarchal attitudes in a video that addresses the issue?
  • Is this video meant to be entertaining, enlightening, or educational?

While we’re sure this video will reach some people and, hopefully, make them think twice before harassing someone, it – and it’s underlying message – is problematic. We believe in meeting people where they are, but we also believe the anti-street harassment movement should have integrity and authenticity, and should not eschew feminist principles in its process, product, or solution. We want to end street harassment, but we don’t want to perpetuate the idea that women are property, and only deserve respect, safety, and freedom on the basis of their relationships with men.

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