Regarding the Shoshana Roberts catcalling video. To review:
But what I want to do here is try to get at those elements that made Shoshana’s performance so successful at getting the desired reactions. Yeah, yeah, I know we’re supposed to believe that “all women suffer this treatment,” but I don’t think anyone actually believes this. Women who look, dress, and act like Shoshana get this treatment disproportionately, environmental conditions being equal.
But what are those factors?
Let me throw out some suggestions to get the discussion going.
- Ethnic ambiguity. Shoshana apparently identifies as white, or in any case has been taken as white in all the commentary that analyzes the racial angle of the video. But she could pass as a mix of a number or races. In close-ups, she looks vaguely Hispanic, perhaps Puerto Rican. Very little black admixture, but opinions may differ. But I suspect that a lot of the people . . . reacting to her on the video considered her one of their own, and thus more accessible.
- Clothing. Shoshana has stuffed her ample body into a tight-fitting black tee and jeans. Shot directly from the front as in the video, this conceals most of her curves from the viewers; in profile, and the close-up of real life, it’s going to attract that kind of attention.
- Body language. Her posture is kind of slouched. She doesn’t carry herself in a confident purposeful way. In point of fact, she looks kind of like prey, and together with the factors mentioned above, she looks native to the, um, vibrant neighborhoods where she received the bulk of the attention, not just in class, but in that kind of going-nowhere-in-life demeanor of her surroundings.
- Facial expression. I’ll say it again. It’s rude to walk by people under circumstances where eye-contact and a nod of greeting would be appropriate and not give it. When women I see every day do this at work, I grumble about it in blog posts. New York proles are apparently prepared to be more direct in their chastisement.
There may be other factors I’m not getting. Any ideas?