If you want to know why liberals such as myself are feeling less at home on the Left these days, some of the reaction to this viral video about street harassment with a woman named Shoshana Roberts is a good place to start. Unlike some men, I'm not the least bit surprised at the amount of harassment she was subjected to while walking around New York City. I've seen it firsthand many times, and have had plenty of women tell me about the "creepy guy" on the street or the subway that they just had to put up with. It's downright infuriating to think about, let alone witness. If you're a guy who's ever catcalled a woman, fuck you.
Unfortunately, some liberals simply couldn't let the video stand as a testament to the bullshit that women go through. Why? Because most of the harassers in the video are nonwhite, which for some people constitutes an unacceptable narrative, even if that narrative is comprised entirely of subtext. Case in point, Hanna Rosin of Slate finds the video problematic because:
"[The] harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break. As Roxane Gay tweeted, 'The racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?'"
If SoHo and Greenwich Village -- two of the neighborhoods in the video -- aren't "white neighborhoods" for New York City, I don't know what is. Roberts can also be seen near the Port Authority, which is neither a black nor a white neighborhood. It's just a hellhole. Rosin further says that the maker of the video -- Rob Bliss Creative -- responded to allegations that the video is racist by saying that there were some white guys who harassed Roberts, but weren't in the video because "a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera.” In other words, those instances were too few and too subtle to have been captured by the camera after 10 hours of filming.
Regardless, the implication of Rosin's article is clear enough: The mere idea that a disproportionate percentage of street harassers (in New York City) might be -- and let's emphasize might be -- nonwhite is simply not allowed. Indeed, to even ask the question would be considered racist.
But Rosin's article is nothing compared to this piece in Brooklyn Magazine by Kristin Iversen, who I can only presume lives in a faraway galaxy ruled by Gender Studies academics:
"The fact that the video chooses to showcase the experience of a white woman experiencing harassment almost exclusively at the hands of black and Latino men is a pretty clear indication of who the audience for this video is supposed to be, namely, those who seek to protect and defend innocent white women, aka the already existing societal power structure. It’s no coincidence that Roberts is presented in the video as being explicitly not responsible for the attacks on her because she’s not wearing “provocative” clothes and she doesn’t respond to any of the verbal assaults thrown at her. The clear implication here is that Roberts is just an innocent woman who doesn’t deserve these catcalls, thus suggesting that there are some women who, because of the way they dress or because of the way they respond, could be thought to be asking for it."
Jesus Christ. A woman shot a video while wearing a shirt and jeans -- standard clothing for much of the human race -- and somehow Iversen's subtextual gymnastics arrive at the conclusion that the video is implicitly condoning harassment of women who dress differently. Beam me up.
As one commenter said,
"I find it counterproductive to try and make this an issue of the 'innocent white woman'. Shoshana Roberts does not look like a typical white woman and I completely commend the concept that she is silent and not provocative because it shows how uncalled for this treatment is. She is a curvy, beautiful woman wearing a normal outfit down NYC streets. Further, if the author claims we should be showing 'typical street harassment' this is definitely it!! The majority of the men making these comments are men of color in real life. I know because I am a woman of color and I had the same experience in DC."
I tell you, this woman of color is so racist against people of color.
Speaking of "asking for it," Emily Gould at Salon does in fact entertain the idea (albeit tacitly) that street harassment might be engaged in at a higher rate by nonwhites, but seemingly for the purpose of excusing it:
"Part of being honest about street harassment and creating awareness of it has to be an honest assessment of the ways this kind of harassment can be a way marginalized groups talk back to the white gentrifiers taking over their neighborhoods."
Putting aside the fact that being a white person walking through a black neighborhood doesn't automatically make one a gentrifier, and putting aside the fact that Gould's apologia explains neither gentrifier-on-gentrifer harassment nor gentrified-on-gentrified harassment, her implication is patently fucked: The gentrifier was asking for it. One could conceivably make a similar excuse for other offenses. How much longer before Gould or some other enterprising writer explains say, rape in socioeconomic terms of gentrifier vs. gentrified? Would this be an acceptable extension of the "marginalized groups" argument? And if not, on what grounds is the argument circumscribed?
I'm not going to sit here and tell you I know whether there's one demographic group whose members are more likely to engage in street harassment than others because I don't. Frankly, it's immaterial. But to criticize this video because it may have captured an uncomfortable reality is to entirely miss the point, which is that street harassment is a problem no matter who's engaging in it.
RELATED: Here's a writer for Slate trying in vain to show that Sam Harris is a "mansplainer."Slate isn't to be confused with Salon, which sucks the vast majority of the time.