More than 10 hours walking the streets of Manhattan: Lower East Side, Soho, West Village, Midtown, Upper West side, Williamsburg. Uptown, downtown, on foot, on the subway, on bikes. When I hung out on the streets of New York a couple of weeks ago, I got a total of (I can count them on no hands) Zero cat calls. I can assure you, the number was Zero. Because while my mind and body may be slipping a bit, I can still count to zero.
Shoshana Robert’s eye-opening video, “10 hours of Walking in NYC as A Woman,” has attracted more than 27 million views (see video below), got us all talking about street harassment, even sparked conversations about race—all great things…but, inadvertently, has she made millions of Boomer women feel like shit?
Because, after watching this video and reflecting on my own recent visit to New York, I can deduce either: 1. I am no longer a woman; b. I have become invisible; or c. I am officially too old to be a sex object. And, no matter what the answer, that’s a Bummer.
I know I’m not supposed to want strange men to make comments about my body. I know that these comments are offensive and objectify women. I know they are often extremely inappropriate and even dangerous. I know it is SO not PC to be insulted. But I am offended anyway.
“Mom, are you actually telling me you want to be treated like a sex object?” my daughter reprimanded me last night when I summarized the piece for her.
“Of course, honey. But just a little.” I replied, “You’ll understand some day…”
Because while I know for sure that it is not only annoying, but frightening, to be constantly harassed as you walk down the street (the video shows Shoshana getting 100 comments about her body in 10 hours) I have to tell you, it doesn’t feel so good when no one objectively admires you either.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about this video quite a bit. I tried very hard not to be jealous. I tried hard to see my daughter’s point of view.
But I kept coming back to this one thought: If I were to create a video of my experience walking the streets of Manhattan, it would have to be titled,
“Becoming Invisible: 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Boomer Woman”.
It would star me (of course).
The camera would be there while I prepared. I would cover the wrinkles and zits (the dynamic duo) with heavy foundation. I would hide gray roots under a funky hat. I would struggle to get my tight black jeans over my hips, as the camera zoomed in on the brand name– “Not Your Mom’s Jeans”.
I’d put on a tight T-shirt, then a black sweater to cover my jiggly underarms and bra bulge. I’d tie a black scarf around my neck. If you are 50-something, you know why.
My mission for this video would be to walk as far as I needed to in order to get one cat call:
Just one, “What’s Up Beautiful?”
Or one, “Hey, What’s Up Girl?”
Or one, long, lascivious leer at my ass, followed by a “God bless you, honey.”
To which I would reply…”No, god bless YOU.”
I would start walking the streets of the lower east side, stopping to get a loaded bagel, lox and cream cheese sandwich at Russ & Daughters (no need to do this video hungry). All of a sudden, people would stop and notice me. The harassment would begin:
“Great looking sandwich!”; “Wow, that’s a lot of lox!”; “Lady, I think a little chive cheese dropped on your sweater.”
But once the sandwich was gone, no matter where I went, people wouldn’t even give me a second look. They’d avert their eyes. They’d bump into me on the street. Excuse me. Pardon me. Hey, watch where you’re going!
On the subway, a young man would ask, “Ma’am, would you like my seat?”
“Don’t call me ma’am,” I’d reply…and then I’d sit.
As evening fell, the camera would follow me as I walked down crowded St. Marks Place. Surely, on a block where you can get tattoos, piercings, a bong and some awesome falafel for $4.99, there would be a creep willing to comment on my appearance. Nada.
Dejected, I would stop on the way home to a put dollar in a homeless man’s tin can.
“God bless you, honey,” the homeless man would say admiringly as I walked away…and in my mind… I’d simply pretend he was talking about how great my butt looked in my Mom jeans.
And I’d look back at the man, smile, then look straight into the camera and say: “No, sir, God bless YOU.”