Interesting points, Tricia.
First of all, I think the “fact” that Ryanne is white (she looks white, so I’ll assume she’s white) is less important here than you make it out to be. “Jim Crow” is about “you are black, so don’t interact with white chicks”. IMO, this situation would have gone the exact same way if the construction workers had all been white. I have no reason to assume that Ryanne would have let white guys slide, so there’s the immediate difference between “Jim Crow” and this situation.
I also have no reason to believe that she KNOWS anything about “black culture” in order to “ignore” it, as you called it. Ignoring it implies an understanding of the differences and then not applying that understanding to your judgement. Having said that, you’re absolutely right that there’s a different dynamic in minority neighborhoods where chicks are “holla’ed at” all day, every day, going to and from work, the store, the gym, wherever. I’m not saying this is a good thing. I agree with you that whatever was being said was probably in some form of social jest, whether positive or negative. As someone pointed out in the comments on the original post, we don’t get to hear what was actually said. We hear Ryanne’s account of what she heard, which was “woof woof” and “hey slim”. Depending on the context, those remarks could be an indication that they thought she was attractive or that they thought she was unattractive. Either way, she felt disrespected, and it’s clear on the tape that she’s affected and upset. I’m sure there are quite a few minority women that get game kicked to them all day, every day that are more sick of it than she is, and would like to do the same thing, if they thought it would do them any good.
The signal of future punishment was clear. Again, I think the construction guys being black isn’t as important as you make it out to be. If she had taped Italians in Bensonhurst, you wouldn’t have written this article at all.
As far as web 2.0 vigilantes, you bring up some good points. I hadn’t heard of gaettongnyeo before today. I think that’s a fine example of retribution getting out of hand. Did the girl deserve to be shamed? Of course. She let the dog “make a mess” on the subway, and then refused to clean it up as if it wasn’t her fault. According to reports, there were “elders” around, who told her to clean it up, and she STILL didn’t (major error #2). So they took her picture and she got embarrassed. That’s good for her. She won’t be pulling stunts like that in the future. 🙂 However… There are at least two problems with the HollaBack technique… well… three, if you count the one you bring up at the end of your post.
Problem #1 is for the harasser, or in this case, the harassers. In the cases where guys do egregious stuff like they outline on the HollaBack sites, they’re getting what they deserve. I think there should definitely be some way that women can make themselves feel more safe or make habitual harassers known to others in the neighborhood so they can be aware. There are other situations where women didn’t like being called “baby” or being looked at from across he boulevard. I’m not sure that all the offenses warrant the same treatment/cagegorization. By posting these guys’ (I can say guys, because I didn’t see any pictures of lesbian harassers on those sites) faces to the net, they’re being seen as ‘guilty’ merely on the say-so of the poster. What happens now if someone’s boss’ wife goes on the site… or if their boss happens to be a woman and goes on the site herself and sees him and the description of whatever it is he’s supposed to have done? What if he gets fired because he tried to meet a chick he thought was attractive in the street, and thought he was kicking it to her in the expected fashion by calling her beautiful or asking if he can walk with her? What happens if this guy’s married and his wife sees what was posted about him and his relationship gets messed up? What happens in a group situation like in Ryanne’s video? What if one or more of the guys in the shot didn’t have jack to do with the harassment, but there they are on tape with everyone else? What happens if the boss sees this and decides to sanction everyone there, since there’s no telling who said what? You might be saying “So what? If extra stuff happens to them, that’s what they get for harassing!”… Well… “So what?” is Problem #2.
Problem #2 is for the woman taking the picture. What if the guy you take a picture of is on parole and wasn’t supposed to leave VA, but you take a picture of him in NYC? What if the guy doesn’t want his wife to see him on the net… or his boss to see him on the net? What if the guy just plain doesn’t like the fact that you took a picture of him and decides to do something about it?
Problem #3 is what Tricia states towards the end:
Sites like hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/ are passive in the documentation and function to empower the woman who posts a picture of her cat caller. The cat caller is never truly confronted for his behavior, therefore it’s not really effective in preventing harassment as there is no true confrontation.
This is true. The cat caller isn’t confronted at all. From the women’s own reports, most of the time there’s some yelling, or maybe someone gives someone the finger. Other than that, nothing happens. Sometimes, they say to the harasser that they’re going to put him on the net. Some of the pictures are from very far away or the back of some guy’s head or a picture of his car that’s parked somewhere… The sites are more for venting than anything else, and that’s very useful for women who don’t want to feel like they’re the only ones stuff like this happens to. The reason this is a problem is that the end may not justify the means if the taking of the picture makes a bad situation much worse than it originally was for the picture-taker. It certainly doesn’t justify the means if the camera’s confiscated by the harasser.
Anyway… Everybody knows women are going to be shouted at as they’re passing construction sites. It’s a pastime as much as having a beer or watching sports. That doesn’t mean Ryanne has to accept that for herself. The guys in the video, black, white, whatever, are not hanging out on crates in front of a closed storefront. They are working. This means they have a supervisor, and that supervisor has a supervisor and that supervisor has a supervisor. Somewhere along the line, there’s someone with the ability to impose sanctions on those guys for “misrepresenting” the construction company… even if the owner is the most sexist guy out of all of them. 🙂 I think the workers have more of a responsibility to know that they could get in trouble for yelling either compliments or insults at a woman walking by the site more than Ryanne has a responsibility to understand minorities’ different style of being friendly or socializing.