Hollaback – An Analysis of CNN’s Featured Segment

My friend Kelsey tagged me in a video on Facebook tonight, a CNN segment about Hollaback’s viral catcalling video.  You can watch the segment and also see clips of the video at the segment’s start here.  But, to give you an idea, a neither heavy nor stick-thin nor at all scantily-clad young woman walked hours through New York City and caught endless clips of men cat-calling her as she ignored them.  Common and memorable calls were things like “Hey, beautiful”, “how you doin”, “damn”, “say thank you more often”, etc.  One man even walked beside her for several minutes; another called out “sexy – American Eagle”, reading the logo on her pants’ back pocket.

The video has gotten some criticism for two reasons: 1. It has been allegedly set up as part of Hollaback’s ad campaign to expose an issue and possible exaggerate it.  And, 2., all of the “white” people have allegedly been cut out of the film.  Hollaback later released an apologetic statement that the editing was not intentional to create an imbalance of profiles doing the catcalling.  Well, before I go into my feelings about the video, I would first like to analyze CNN’s segment:

CNN – Catcalling Viral Video Segment
CNN, led by Fredricka Whitfield, brought in NYC comedian Amanda Seales and also Steve Santagati, author of books such as Code of Honor and The MANual, books by a Santagati who wants to advise men in dating, understanding women, etc.  I have tried to honestly look at both sides of the story, although the summary still has me realizing that Santagati is a complete jackass and, that if he represents the male population to any extent (since he allegedly advises them with best-sellers), then there is no wonder catcalling is such a women’s issue.  In fact, this video had me so disturbed that I took four pages of notes on it and decided to write this analysis.  So let’s begin.

Before I break this down into the actual exchanges and subsequent hypocrisy of Santagati, I want to first give the two guests respect for the points they were trying to make (but also any flaws in their logic):

Amanda Seales
Amanda was invited to speak first.  (And, first of all, I’d like to give my catcall of the day by saying, Amanda, no matter what bizarre face my device froze on, you looked beautiful; also, no matter what bizarre clip my device froze on, you had your shit together and never strayed from the point.)  Amanda had a number of points that she made independently and also in response to Santagati.  These points are as follow:
1. I live this life every day in New York City.
2. Women don’t see catcalling as compliments; instead, women are being objectified.
3. Women are being objectified just by walking out of the house to do daily chores.
4. Women are expected, through this objectification, to be smiling and available for men on such chores.
5. Women are expected to find self-worth in compliments that are men suggesting they’d sleep with you, which is apparently the ultimate compliment.
6. Not saying “hello” can be rude, such as in Grenada where Amanda is from; but, in NYC, saying “hello” might be more of an invitation.
7. The video is a very accurate representation of men on the street, whether it was planted or not.
8. Women aren’t leaving the house for compliments; they are trying to live their daily lives.
9. NYC can be especially difficult where many women don’t have the luxury of hiding in cars.
10. Standing up to such catcalling could result in death, as demonstrated recently by a woman killed in Detroit.
11. Instead of being like Santagati and arguing that women should accept such compliments and be grateful, maybe these men should realize their “objective” of making women feel good is actually not working and should instead stop and help them by stopping others.
12. Communication should be the answer to stopping it, not violence (as Santagati actually suggests).
I think all of Amanda’s arguments are well-composed.  I don’t necessarily believe ALL women dislike catcalling; sadly, there are a few who probably encourage it.  But those few don’t stand for the large majority of women who crave the respect women deserve in this equal, working society.

Steve Santagati
I will give Steve as much respect as I can, but I was incredibly disappointed that he laughed through most of Seales’ comments and interrupted more than she did to his most absurd statements.  Regardless, without any bias, here are the points I believe he was honestly trying to make:
1. Women might not always realize a man’s motivation for shouting out at them; maybe they actually don’t mean any harm, but think that giving their approval will make her feel better.
2. Women gain confidence from compliments.
3. Women can avoid situations that make them uncomfortable.
4. Women should learn to defend themselves and stand up to themselves to stop the harassment.
5. Feminist campaigns might negatively stereotype all men and all actions, even when not ill-intentioned.
6. The kind of guys doing this are likely men who have not been parented well and who are uncultured and don’t know how to treat women because they don’t have better examples at home.
Steve’s points are not obvious and he says them in very cutting ways, but I don’t believe he was trying to be 100% horrible.  It’s hard to explain, but I’m going to try to break-down the conversation now:

The Conversation
The segment begins as such:

Amanda: “Oh, I live this life EVERY DAY, so…”
Steve: [laughs loudly] NICE!

Okay, Steve, remember we ARE doing a segment about men disrespecting women.  I can’t tell if you’re MOCKING her for her opinion or if you’re offering her a CATCALL, but, either way, you just MADE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION and it was one that classifies you with all the “uncultured” assholes in the Hollaback ad.

Amanda begins tackling the video by relating to it, saying that the video is an accurate depiction of what she might very well experience in a daily walk in NYC (or anywhere, really).  She immediately states that THESE ARE NOT COMPLIMENTS to women (generalization or not).  She asks why the ultimate compliment is that a woman looks attractive to a man, that he might sleep with her, that she should be available and smiling for him the minute she walks out of the door to do her daily chores?  Why do women need to feel like they are on display for men’s physical attraction and subsequent approval, like it’s some mating ritual?

The entire time Amanda starts, Steve is laughing in response to her comments.

Amanda makes the point that it’s sometimes rude to not say Hello to a person on the street who greets you first, especially in places like Grenada where she grew up.  To this, Steve loudly retorts “Oh, c’mon!”  She says saying hello back in these instances could mean you’ve just accepted an invitation for more harassment.  Steve now shakes his head and, when Amanda calls him out for not being an expert on the matter because he is not a woman walking the street, he clearly replies (2 minutes, 18 seconds): “I’m MORE of an expert than you.  I’m a GUY, I know how WE THINK.”

To be fair, Steve is trying to say, “I know what men are thinking more than you know what men are thinking because I see women and I know what men think because I am a man.”  He just is a jackass in expressing it, but then continues to become more of a jackass in his argument.

“I can’t get in a women’s head anymore than just thinking about it,” he says, but then he claims to know WHY guys catcall, since he’s a guy.  Okay, that’s fair.  Because Amanda uses the same argument for why women dislike catcalling, being that she is a woman who gets catcalled.  (So Steve is a man who catcalls?)

NOW THE KICKER: Steve tells us women don’t care if the man complimenting them is hot or not or whatever, she just likes having her ego bolstered.  In fact, he says that there is “nothing more a woman wants to hear than how PRETTY she is”.

I’ll express my thoughts on that later.

To be fair, Steve thinks the ad was planted because all of the guys represented lack class.  And that’s true to this point: We only saw the men catcalling.  That was the point of the video.  We didn’t see how many countless men probably did NOT catcall the woman as she walked those ten-odd hours.

Well, now Amanda retorts by saying, planted or not, the video still accurately depicts how much harassment a woman faces on the street just by walking out of her house.  Steve says he AGREES, because he’s lived in NYC for 15 years in the past and he has apparently witnessed it as well.  But then Amanda burns him, saying he wanted to reply with a comment about how men think, but turned it into a comment about how women think.  On point.

Yet, let’s be fair: Amanda says women don’t like catcalling because they don’t see it as a compliment (source: she’s a woman), and men catcall because they are showing they approve in a malicious way (source: her opinion).  Steve says men aren’t catcalling to be malicious (source: he’s a man), but that women love compliments about their looks more than anything (source: his opinion).  They’re both to blame here, to be honest.  Even though I still think Steve’s a jackass at this point.

My favorite part:
Steve: STOP ME IF I’M WRONG.
Amanda: I AM STOPPING YOU.  YOU’RE WRONG.

Amanda stopes Steve because he’s saying men are feeding women the compliments they want.  I agree that he should be stopped.  I also wonder if he’s one of the guys out there whistling, etc., and his arguments don’t immediately suggest otherwise.  In fact, he starts bashing feminism in the typical bra-burning sense of the word and blames them for eliciting a respond.  Okay, to be fair, THAT interpretation of feminism DOES have a bad history.  But I would consider this segment EXPOSURE, not a HYPERBOLE of one woman’s pseudo-life.

“You’re telling me if I compliment you on the street, it’s abuse.”

The point Steve is trying to make is DOUBLE STANDARD.  And I agree that men are subjected to too much of that in a woman’s struggle for independence.  Neither gender is designed to be completely independent, so that leaves for a lot of challenges in the middle.  But a woman thinking a man is abusive if he IGNORES her?  That’s just ridiculous, don’t you think?  (Personally, a man minding his own business as he passes me may ONLY offend me if I think he maybe should have nodded or said Good Day – and ONLY if it’s because we are the only two on the street and it’s awkward not to.  But shy guys are totally respectable.  So screw you, Steve.)

Then Steve’s possibly-serious-possibly-sarcastic comment of ridiculousness pops in: “If YOU don’t compliment ME, that’s abuse.  I want to start a COALITION AGAINST WOMEN WHO DON’T COMPLIMENT MEN.”

Umm……WHAT?

Okay, so now women must: 1. Invite, respect, be grateful for, etc. any derogatory or non-derogatory, welcome or unwelcome compliments, including the ones that are especially creepy and given as you struggle with a basket of laundry to the corner laundromat and no one helps you along the way (just catcalls).  And 2. Women are abusive for not giving men compliments, like about their exceptionally firm asses, Calvin Klein abs that protrude through their V-neck tees, and their perky breasts I mean…wait, WHAT?

Now it’s Amanda’s turn to laugh.  I probably would too, if I weren’t vomiting.

Amanda returns to the point: Women don’t leave the house for compliments.  (Steve cuts in: You’d rather have WOMEN compliment you, yeah.)  Hooooookay, Amanda totally blows off this comment but REALLY?  Is this some kind of LESBIAN jab?  I thought lesbians were in every male fantasy anyway.  Keep it in your pants, Santagati.

Amanda now makes the point that many women in NYC are subjected to passing men on the street because cars are not a commodity in such an asphalt jungle (ick – okay, let’s be honest, NYC is my least favorite place in this entire planet – and I’ve seen A LOT OF IT.  I would actually prefer godawful Cleveland to it any day).  Well, the educated, respectable man of this segment representing how men should behave to be honorable now interjects WHAT’S YOUR POINT, and argues to Amanda that “No one’s holding a gun to your head and telling you you have to live in NYC.”

Fast-forward to 2020 when every woman has listened to Steve Santagati and NYC is an asphalt jungle full of nothing but men.

Yeah, not happening.  Because it shouldn’t need to.  You F***ING JACKASS.

Amanda now tells Steve what his “problem” is, and he mocks her as she says.  She tells him that his problem is he’s not embracing how women don’t like what he claims men are trying to do for them, that a man of “honor” (as he books claims) should recognize this fault and respond positively (through this communication) to the issue.  She’s basically saying, Steve, you’re telling us you men want to compliment us and make us feel good.  I’m telling you it’s not working.  As the respectable man you claim to be, you’ll address this by defending my and our cause and not treat us in this way since it is not serving its purpose.

Suddenly, it’s not about him anymore – it’s about the guys in the (planted?) video.  Oh, it’s their CULTURE, how they were BROUGHT UP.

Ohhhhh everyone loses it here.  Whitfield quickly defends Hollaback, saying it was not an intentional move to make everyone of a certain profile.

Let me stop it right there.

First of all, I agree with Steve.  The men represented in the video are, in theory, men who have not been raised properly to respect women.  They are random people off of the street who may in fact live lives that are not up to the average person’s standard in terms of education and respect.  There is nothing wrong with that assumption.

Now, I would like to point out my problem with the issue about race in the video.  I, personally, never even paid attention to the race of the people making comments.  I paid no attention to them more than I paid attention to the people NOT making comments.  In fact, you can’t even see the faces of some voices.  Does that mean people are stereotyping those voices to a race, then blaming Hollaback for stereotyping?  Seriously?  In this case, I can side with Steve, believing that some people are really out there to pinpoint one detail and make a case out of it.  But I still think Steve is a jackass.

And Steve is definitely a jackass because, as I’m ready to defend his case about his comment being more about bringing-up rather than a “racially crafted” video, he throws in a comment about how “we ALL look”, and that Hollaback’s “unintentional racial bias” was a “JOKE”.

Let’s break that down:
1. The type of guys in the video weren’t raised right because of culture.  (My interpretation: Bad upbringing, just coincidence, it’s random street folk after all.)
2. Hollaback’s defense is a joke that they didn’t specifically choose these races of people.  (Scratch previous comment; Steve seriously does associate the way people are brought up with their race, ACCORDING TO HIS COMMENTS.)

I tried, Steve.  I tried.

In the grand finale, Steve tells Amanda she should stand up for herself.  She says she does.  He says, No, you should tell the guys to shut up.  Amanda says doing that could get her killed.  She says a woman recently stood up and was shot and killed in Detroit.  Steve says, “SO CARRY A GUN.”

Oh.  My.  God.  Right, because this is Babylonia and we totally take eyes for eyes here.

Amanda shakes this off and says, Hello, better communication.  That’s all I’ve been saying.  Like, I’m literally telling you right now stop, that’s my communication, and you’re not listening, you’re just telling me to fight people.

So Steve throws a loop and says PARENTING!  THAT’S THE PROBLEM!  IT’S UPBRINGING!

Is that some indirect way to say mothers are creating the problem?  Who knows.  I mean, yes, upbringing is definitely part of it, but, Steve, you’re a jackass.

MY OPINIONS
Well, you can definitely tell my opinions by how I commented on the segment progression above.  But, what about my opinions on catcalling and some of the points addressed in this segment?

Real or Not Real
I can promise you that the video clips you saw is something I experience on a regular basis.  I was in no way surprised when I saw the original catcalling video on TV.  In fact, I was in downtown Cleveland last week for perhaps the first time all year that I wasn’t in a car.  I walked 2 blocks and was catcalled by 80% of the people I passed.  And 80% of them were male.  I don’t pay attention to race or anything because that doesn’t matter; I felt insecure.  In fact, growing up in the country, I never knew catcalling until I was 13 and walking in Greensburg with a friend.  Some drunk guys were calling after us, so we crossed the street.  I remember them saying, “Aw, you running?  You ain’t scared, izya?”  So we took off running.  Now that I have moved to Ohio, and live in a city, I am insecure on a regular basis.  For an example, here are some changes I have made to my life because of how men make me feel:
1. I don’t wear yoga pants or really tight jeans in public, except on rare occasions.
2. I don’t wear spandex or tight shorts in public, also except on rare occasions.
3. I only wear conservative tops if I’m out with a large group of friends.
4. I don’t lift weights after 6:30am in the gym.
5. I don’t run in daylight anymore.
6. I stopped taking public transportation and try to drive my car if I have to go downtown.
7. I walk as fast as I can when I’m in public and try to wear headphones so I don’t have to hear people.
8. I wear hoodies and jackets when I go to public places alone, and I try not to wear any makeup.
9. If I go to a bar or restaurant alone, I wear a ring on my lefthand to deter men from talking to me.
10. I read a book when I’m alone at a restaurant and act like a complete dick to anyone who talks to me.
I don’t want to do any of those things, but living alone as a woman in Cleveland has made me realize I can’t live the way I used to back in the good ole farm land.  Here, I feel like I’m constantly on display.  Here, I get compliments so often that I begin thinking something’s WRONG with me if I DON’T get them.

What a Woman Wants to Hear
I won’t speak for all women, but as the woman I am, what I want to hear is not catcalls on the street.  Men shouting things at me make me feel terrible.  Men telling me to smile make me grimace.  I’ve quite frankly told them “I don’t WANT to smile, I’m not happy”, and that never seems to fly because they just want to tell me how white me teeth are or how pretty my face is.  And I didn’t ask them.  However, I have had complete strangers – even homeless people – tell me an outfit was particularly becoming, that I had a nice smile, or that I was soft on the eyes.  I didn’t ask for these things, but Steve is right in that it makes me feel good to hear positive things and not the words I grew up with in Middle School like “you’re fat”, “your hair looks stupid”, etc.  I guess it’s all about how much RESPECT you show when you give the compliment.  Or if you know me or not.  Because if you know me, and you say something, I already respect you as a friend and I appreciate you noticing me.  If you don’t know me, I’m too suspicious of your motives and want to know why you don’t just ask how my day is going.  And, if you’re my boyfriend, well I’m just glad you noticed.

What got me pretty upset about Steve’s comments is that he insists women care more about how they look than ANYTHING.  Than A-NY-THING.

If you want to compliment ME, it’s not going to be on how I look.  It’s going to be on how hard I work.  It’s going to be about how I’ve managed to do the things I’ve done, been the person I am, and still look the way I do – and also about the attitude I have, that I don’t HAVE TO IMPRESS.  But “complimenting” randoms on the street a.k.a. catcalling?  98% of the time, that is going to HURT my self-esteem.  I’m an incredibly insecure person.  Telling me you have acklowedlged how I look, that your grimy eyes have crawled up and down my body without my knowledge or approval – I’m just going to be scared to walk out of my house the next time, to take the RTA bus, to pass by a group of men.  I’m scared all the time.  And I’m a hockey player.  Yeah, me acting more like a man, like a brute who doesn’t care,.. that’s the only way I can get through magnified problems such as playing in a men’s league without worrying about the comments I get coming in through the rink doors.  (And, for a reference point, my nickname at the Cleveland Heights rink used to be “shorty short-shorts”.  Now they know me by name.  Because I’ll score on their asses.)

But why do I have to try so hard to fit into a man’s world?  I completely sympathize with decent men who are distraught over how to properly respect women in general, but I am also beside myself with how to handle the men who don’t get the general picture.  And I am no woman flying some feminist banner.  I understand that feminism isn’t bra-burning, but I also believe that I am not a feminist because that word SHOULD NOT EXIST.  I believe that I am a HUMAN, and as a human I recognize my role as a woman being biologically different than that as a man, but no more.  I don’t see race, I see background, upbringing, and ignorance.  I try to respect people despite their ignorance and feel cheated when I get played as much as the next person.

Sigh, sigh, lesigh.  I guess my point in this whole thing is… Catcalling IS most certainly an issue.  Women really ARE too often objectified.  But generalizations also abound too greatly on both sides.

Also, I love this song, because, if you like country as I do (and are a woman), this is amusing as hell.

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