This morning Hollaback released a statement regarding the street harassment video they commissioned, which was released two days ago and has already been viewed 15 million times. The two-minute video is edited down from 10 hours of footage, showing actor Shoshana Roberts walking through NYC and getting catcalled—in those 10 hours they believe there were about 100 street harassment incidents. The video has started many conversations—some important, some cringe-worthy—and one has been about race, which Hollaback responded to in their statement:
"Rob Bliss Creative donated time and labor to create this video and support our work. We are grateful for his work and the wide reach that this video has achieved but we feel the need to directly address other responses to the video.We regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over represents men of color. Although we appreciate Rob's support, we are committed to showing the complete picture. It is our hope and intention that this video will be the start of a series to demonstrate that the type of harassment we’re concerned about is directed toward women of all races and ethnicities and conducted by an equally diverse population of men."
Bliss told us this afternoon that "demographics of NYC have to be considered." Pointing to Wikipedia's numbers, he told us, "A video where whites are in the minority, and blacks/hispanics make up the majority isn't even that strange from a statistical demographic standpoint. That 33% to 40% is pretty close to the numbers here too, 44% white. It's just [that] those two guys literally account for 50% of this video, and massively swing the runtime in that direction." He also answered, via email, some of our questions regarding the making and editing of the video.
What neighborhoods were included in the walk? Just about every neighborhood in Manhattan was walked, from Lower Manhattan to Harlem. I found that Midtown was the biggest hot spot for street harassment.
Was the walk a straight 10 hours? It was 2 to 3 hours of filming split across several days, totaling up to 10 hours.
Was any street harassment footage cut out of the edit? So in total, we had by my estimates 108 street harassments that took place during the shoot. Of that, we got both the quality audio and video we needed to have a scene, for roughly 30 to 40 scenes. The drop off came mostly through the difficulty of this shoot. Not only did we need quality in both pieces, but we frequently missed a shot because of noise, people standing in front of the camera, technical issues (batteries dying, for example), rain/wind, etc.
Since this video was also meant to serve as a viral video, it needed to be short due to internet audience attention spans. So we whittled away at this until we had the video just a tick under two minutes. This left us with just 20 scenes total, 18 of which have someone visible on camera.
Will a fuller edit be released? Since we had ten hours of footage shot at 2.7k, I was dealing with over 200GB of footage, which I quickly got rid of to allow for easier editing weeks ago, so I no longer have access to that footage.
Do you have a response to the race comments/criticisms? I think the biggest misconception here is not understanding how inaccurate a sample size of 18 people is going to be, out of the tens of thousands of cat calls that happen. For example, the two dudes that stalk her, they alone account for 50% of the video, wildly swinging the scales with just two guys. What if they were Italian, or Russian? Does that mean that we're saying or implying that 50% of Italians are responsible for cat calling?
The biggest problem is people are acting like this is a survey, and there's no way anyone would trust such a survey of 18 people, especially with two people making up half the vote. There's no way that's going to be accurate. Like, there's no Asian men in this video either, are we saying that Asians don't catcall? People are drawing way too broad of conclusions. We filmed for a short period of time, we captured a few dozen interactions, and since we knew that they wouldn't necessarily represent the full demographics, we talk at the end of the video about how people from all backgrounds catcalled during our shoot.
Also I can even walk you through it, but there were 6 or 7 white guys in this video that catcalled, that's 33% to 40% percent. It's tricky picking everyone out because all their faces are blurred, which has only lead to more confusion. Additionally, their scenes were short, where those two guys who were non-white, they alone ate up half the video. So the run times yes, heavily portray blacks/Latinos, but the actual number count is much closer. And that's the problem with a 18 person sample size, inaccurate results, which is why this video shouldn't be treated like a survey.