Ever have a moment when you're rooting for something that seems so positive to hit a touchdown -- but then suddenly spirals downward?
That's what it felt like recently when I recently watched that viral Cosmopolitian.com video Men React to Their Girlfriends Getting Catcalled.
The premise is simple: a couple of guys watch in horror as their girlfriends are being street harassed my random men in the city. In the scenario, the women are walking alone and dodge unwanted advancements from creepy men while their boyfriends watch later in remote location with them afterwards.
All the boyfriends take jabs at the men's comments and downright thirstiness. At one point, one of the boyfriends suggest that this behavior is wrong because it could one of their sisters or close family members.
And that's when I began to realize that what once appeared to be a very creative and unique project suddenly reinforced the very problem with why men across the world have yet to care about combating street harassment as a whole.
Answer: the women aren't necessarily of personal interest to them.
So perhaps those women in the video were not their girlfriends, would they have been as protective or invested in their safety? Based on the justifications aired in the clips, their reactions were solely regarding the personal connection they felt with the women being catcalled.
And this is what makes dialogue and viewpoints like this inherently sexist -- is because it reminds us that men can only concern or bother themselves with women who they feel are their property of some kind. If it is not their sister, their mother, their homegirl or their girlfriend -- we have yet to really unpack what their true concerns would be if it weren't what they perceived to be their problem.
And that is a shame because we live in a society where women make personal sacrifices everyday for men that aren't their own personal relation. When you think about the three queer women of color who started #BlackLivesMatter, they were speaking up for predominately heterosexual men who most likely wouldn't be as open to fighting for them with the same rigor given that we now have the injection of #SayHerName.
What this viral video infers is that in order to get men to actually consider seeing what's wrong with catcalling is to what they subconsciously believe is their possession at threat. Why girlfriends? Why not just let them see a woman they don't know? Because I personally believe the response would not have been as reactionary or sympathetic.
Think about rape culture in our country. Time and time again, men will go to the ends of the earth to deny possible sexual misconduct or harassment when done to women they don't know. Let's not forget how many women and press it took before the rest of the male population began to come to grips that Bill Cosby might not be the beloved Dr. Huxtable we all grew up watching in real life.
When it comes to sports players like Floyd Mayweather and Ray Rice, men have always tried to find fault in the women who were victimized. Yet, only until there is an undisputed sense of proof via video or confession will such support or understanding takes place.
That's unfair because we automatically put women in a dishonest and unwarranted framework. When we suggest from the jump that women have to prove themselves to the highest level of the sexual abuse and disregard they feel -- we are ultimately saying they are liars and inherently cynical.
The mere fact that these men can only feel a sense of empathy of their girlfriend's daily struggles with being catcalled only further highlights the sexist culture we still reside in.
Because you know, a woman can't simply state she feels uncomfortable without a camera literally tapping it.
That's unfortunate and such a false attempt of trying to mirror this sense of sudden understanding and support from these men were as generic as possible.
Cospolitatian.com, which sells itself on being a publication for women, basically inferred to young women that the best way to get men to understand the daily harassment they encounter is by having it visibly documented in the worst way possible.
As a culture, it's quite disgusting that social such social media projects that are aimed at bringing awareness is actually exploiting the trauma of such hardships as a wall to seek approval or validation from a male gaze.
That's progress? A man watching finally thinking they know what it feels like? No, that's sexism served on a pseudo progressive plate.
Cosmo, Buzzfeed, and many others: enough with the generic "seeing is believing" social issues fodder. Not everyone's experience will be filmed or should be -- how about we just start explaining with facts rather than with corny vapid stunts?
The fact is that 65 percent of all women have experienced street harassment. And of all women, 23 percent have been sexually touched, 20 percent stalked, and 9 percent forced to do something sexual. If such numbers alone can't compel you to give a damn about this issue without having to watch your girlfriend or female relative go through this harsh reality -- then you're apart of the problem.
I will no longer act as though men that I work with aren't guilty of such inappropriate behavior and neither should you. Want to be a gentleman that actually cares? Stop interrogating women who actually experience catcalling and start correcting men in your social circles who actually do it.
I don't have a sister, a daughter or a niece that propels me to feel this way. I don't even date women. I have a boyfriend who I love enough to not want to see experience such taunting as any other person who deserves proper courtesy.
Public decency and respect shouldn't be a male privilege, but a human right. Let's stop acting like there is only one gender living on this planet.