The Girls Behind The Viral Drive-By Street Harassment Video Tell Us What They Learned

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In 2014 a viral video showing a woman walking through New York City for 10 hours set the internet on fire and became a topic of intense discussion about street harassment. It was a serious insight into what women face on a daily basis regardless of age, clothing, body language, but many didn’t necessarily agree with the video’s message.

According to Stop Street Harassment, 65% of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23%  had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual. Among men, 25% had been street harassed (a higher percentage of LGBT-identified men than heterosexual men reported this) and their most common form of harassment was homophobic or transphobic slurs (9%).

So we’ve seen the more serious video, and have read the statistics. But unfortunately sometimes these campaigns don’t drive the message home enough. That’s where entertainment and humor can play a role other mediums and industries cannot.

Just recently, two awesome women Ginny Leise and Soojeong Son who founded comedy troupe The Shame Game, created a viral video about street harassment but with a decidedly different perspective and outcome. Their video went viral with close to 2 million views (1.7+ at the time of writing this).

They wanted to shed light on the drive-by street harassment phenomenon where men walk up to women and throw a sexual phrase or two at them. They did this by having SJ walk up to random men around New York serving up one-liners such as “uh dat ass!” and “mmm that dick” and observing their reactions. It was NOT what you expected! So we chatted with the comedians to get the goss about this video and what they learned.

Tell us about the idea behind the viral video?

Ginny: It’s summer so street harassment is heating up again. It’s very seasonal, like tomatoes.

SJ: Getting harassed is the worst, just like a bad tomato, so one day we decided to see how dudes would react to getting harassed themselves. Obviously not all type of men do this type of harassment, but the point was to get all sort of men to understand what a woman goes through every day.

Did you expect it to get over 1.6million views (and counting!)?

G: We had no idea it would get this big. We had an inkling there might be interest because the Hollaback video last summer got so much attention, but we had no idea it would blow up like this.

SJ: Yeah. We were so psyched to have 140 views by the 2nd day. And we thought…we’ve made it.

Street harassment is something that pretty much every woman in her life has faced at some point, what are some of your personal experiences?

G: Ugh, comments and stares every time I leave my apartment. It sounds like an exaggeration, but I think that is most women’s experience.

SJ: You’d think that the konichiwa’s, ni-hao’s, and ching-chongs wouldn’t happen anymore. How old-fashioned! No, but seriously a group of white male 20-somethings in Williamsburg street harassed me that way a few weeks ago. And really I try not to give a shit cuz this stuff happens all the time, but it still sets me off sometimes.

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There have been a few viral videos made about street harassment, some awesome, and some not so great and a little too staged. Do you think videos like these are needed to create more discussion about the issue?

G: I think the Hollaback video last summer succeeded in bringing the issue into mainstream discussion. Women have been talking about this issue for decades so it was satisfying seeing it debated on the news even if the rebuttals were often infuriating.

SJ: Samesies.

What part do you think humor can aid to the discussion around street harassment?

G: Humor always helps elucidate an issue. Humor helps people see things from a new perspective. In our video, I think the humor allowed us to express the undeniable truth is that men do not and cannot understand why women feel so threatened and violated by street harassment. In our society, men’s and women’s experiences are radically different so when men hear women discuss how street harassment makes them feel, they have zero frame of reference from which to relate or emphasize. My hope is that our video brought to light that barrier in communication and understanding.

Although it wasn’t shown in the video, SJ did you get any really scary confronting reactions?

SJ: Not really. I went in expecting lewd comments at least and being physically harassed at worst, but nothing happened. It was sort of a miracle.

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We totally did not expect most of the guys to love your DSH comments, what message do you think this sends to guys?

G: I’m not sure. I spend very little time thinking about what messages I’m sending to guys and a lot of time thinking on my next comedy project.

SJ: TRUTH. This video was less of a message to guys, and more of a hilarious observational piece!

A quick scroll through the Youtube comments shows such a variety of reactions from “hahaha feminazi fail” to this gem “I’ll never harass another bitch ass ho on the street again”. What has been the biggest surprise in terms of reactions?

G: A women literally cannot do anything on the internet without being called a cunt so comments like that did not phase me. However, one person called us ‘anti-feminists’ which pierced me right through the heart.  Nope, nope, nope, opposite of that.

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SJ: There were a few people who thought we were sending a message to women, that they need to “relax” and “stop making a big deal of these things” and that made my brain explode into a sad, pathetic puddle of disappointment.

Videos like yours are disrupting the mainstream culture when it comes to tackling serious issues like harassment, and enabling people to see a humorous side. Will you be making more videos like this?

G: Thanks! I love that this very silly video has triggered so much serious conversation. SJ and I intend to make silly videos on the internet until the day we die so stay tuned!

After saying at the end that you “learned nothing” that in itself is a message. What do you want women to take away from watching this video?

G: I hope the takeaway was women getting to laugh at an issue that usually just bums us out. I think that last line embodies the frustration every woman feels when she tries to engage a man in a conversation in about this issue only to be dismissed or diminished.

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