The Problem with the Catcalling Video: I’m Not A Douchebag

You’ve probably seen the video of over 100 men catcalling one woman as she walked around NYC for ten hours?

This video does a great job of showing how creepy men can be. The message is clear: Men harass women. And it needs to stop. Catcalling? Whistling? Following a girl as she walks? Harassing? Fuck no. Not cool.

But there’s one problem: Talking to girls on the street is not always creepy.

Yet lately it sort of feels that way. And ever since the release of the Catcalling video I’ve found myself deliberately avoiding eye contact with women on the streets of New York. Out of respect. Out of empathy. And out of confusion about how to communicate properly about this issue.

People In New York City Could Smile More

I miss people smiling. I was in Berlin recently where people are less afraid of eye-contact. Since coming back it bothers me that people avert their eyes as soon as they make eye contact on the street. To me there’s something wrong with that.

Dating in New York City has also left the streets. It’s more Tinder and OkCupid than chance meetings. Ostensibly there isn’t anything wrong with dating apps. And I can empathize that it FEELS much safer meeting someone at a distance of a few miles away and two iPhone screens. But at a cultural level it feels more acceptable than ever to sit at home on the couch and meet women. I see more dating apps instead of being social and striking up a conversation with actual people in real life (at cafes, school, and yes, quite possibly on the street).

The failure of men practicing the art of opening a conversation is a slippery slope. You can imagine a future New York City with even more men who are out of practice with their social skills. In this scenario men become catcalling douchebags because they’ve forgotten how to keep a civil tongue in their damned heads.

Guys, Just Don’t Be Douches

How are we left to understand the distinction between harassing and approaching?

My hope is to see guys evolve into a more balanced role in our culture:

Less like a King Kong bully (like some of the guys in the video), but not so wimpy that they can’t occasionally smile at a stranger.

I imagine a New York that falls between to two extremes: as a place where we can figure out how to get rid of harassment, but keep the actual compliments coming. Oh, and more smiling.