The “cat-calling” video of the woman harassed while walking the New York City streets is receiving backlash for the representation of African American men.
The video- created by Hollaback!, an activist organization against street harassment- first garnered sympathy for the woman getting verbal abuse. The public’s interest sparked after viewers became empathetic toward what women have to endure on a day-to-day basis with street harassers, otherwise known as “cat-callers.”
Then the public criticized the video for having only African American men spewing comments. The video hardly showed any Caucasian men.
Florida A&M University Sociology Professor Brenda Hughes said from the beginning there was never a positive representation of African American men.
“We haven’t seen a lot of change from the early days of African American men being hyper sexualized in the mass media,” Hughes said.
At the end of the video, there is a disclaimer that read, 100+ instances of verbal harassment took place within 10 hours, involving people of all backgrounds.
There were not men of all backgrounds shown in the video; all of the “cat-callers” were either African American or Hispanic.
Jeffrey Harris, a Florida State University creative writing student, said the stereotype of black men and over sexualization has been perpetuated by the media for years.
“We’ve been dogged in the media sexually for so many years. It’s not even funny anymore,” Harris said. “It’s terrible because not all of us are like that. They try to perpetuate a stereotype that’s not accurate, men in general cat-call.”
Instead of attention on the issue of street harassment, the video perpetuated the negative stereotype of the sexualization of African American men.
Bradford Laing, a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering student, felt rap artists that have put women in their videos are doing so because it is what sells.
“In music videos, they [rappers] go off what sells their music, so of course you’re going to have women in the videos half naked,” Laing said. “If there’s a man in a video reading a book, no one’s going to want to watch that.”
After the public backlash of the limited representation of races in the cat-calling video, director Rob Bliss released a statement via CNN.
“Looking at this as being some type of sample that is completely balanced, I think, is never going to be accurate,” Bliss said. “We knew this wasn't going to be an accurate representation…for example, there are no Asian men, but that doesn't mean that Asian men don't do this, too."
To learn more about Hollback!, visit their website.