Last fall, the anti-street-harassment nonprofit Hollaback posted a video montage of actress Shoshana Roberts walking around NYC for ten hours in a black t-shirt and jeans, enduring about 100 incidents of street harassment—everything from "Smile!" to "Somebody's acknowledging you for being beautiful—you should say thank you!"
The video received 15 million views in two days, but some questioned whether one heavily edited video could present an accurate representation of a global phenomenon—specifically whether the video had been edited to disproportionately feature catcalls from black males. In an interview with Gothamist two days after the video's release, filmmaker Rob Bliss urged viewers not to think of Roberts's experience as a scientifically representative survey:
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.
Street Harassment: The Largest International Cross-Cultural Study, which Hollaback released yesterday in conjunction with Cornell University, attempts to be that survey. Findings are based off of 16,607 respondents under the age of 40 across 22 countries, including South Korea, Poland, India, South Africa, and Canada. (4,872 of the respondents were in the United States.)
Administered between October and December of last year, the study found that 84% of women surveyed experienced street harassment before the age of 17, and that 50% have been fondled or groped. Of transgender women surveyed, 82% reported harassment because of their gender identity.
The survey also details specific types of street harassment, and how women respond to it. For example, 72% of US women said that they've chosen to take different modes of transportation in response to an instance of harassment, while 80% of Indian women surveyed said that they didn't feel comfortable going out at night. In South Africa, street harassment compelled 80% of women to change their clothing, while 63% of Canadian women reported feeling "distracted at school or work."
Results are broken down for each of the 22 participating countries here.