The women behind a controversial viral video that raised questions about the difference between compliments and catcalls are speaking out about why they made the anti-harassment PSA, which has been viewed more than 22 million times since its release just days ago.
"I'm telling you my story so somebody can understand and walk in my shoes for two minutes,” explained Shoshana Roberts, the actress at the center of the viral video.
The clip captures Roberts walking through through New York City streets, drawing more than 100 comments. It also shows one man who followed her for five minutes without saying a word.
Roberts said she’s received mainly positive feedback, although she has faced some threats.
Emily May, executive director of Hollaback!, the group behind the video, said the PSA was intended to raise awareness. "The reaction we've heard the loudest and the clearest has been thank you for telling this story,” she said.
The video has elicited strong responses from the public:
- The popularity has inspired spoof videos: One parody by “Funny or Die” shows a man in the same outfit worn by Roberts, also walking around New York but provoking tremendously different responses.
- Advocates say the video demonstrates the concern many women experience when they are verbally harassed: "It can make them fearful, because they never know what the intention is behind men who may be saying things to them," said Holly Kearl, founder of Stop Street Harassment. "Are they going to escalate their attention? Are they going to follow them, grab them or assault them?"
- The video hit close to home for many who have watched it: "Everybody has a story that has happened to them or to someone they know. Your wives. Your sisters. Your nieces. Your aunts. Your daughters," Roberts said.
The video has drawn criticism from people who claim that all the white people were edited out of the clip. Hollaback! responded by saying the two-minute video shows only the most egregious examples of harassment.
"My dream of all dreams is that street harassers see this in mass and realize, God, I had no idea the impact this has on women when they walk down the street," May said.