#BBCTrending: Where are the white men?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionShoshana Roberts talked to the BBC about her experiment

The two-minute video of a woman being sexually harassed as she walked the streets of New York has become an internet sensation, garnering more than 31 million hits on YouTube in just five days. It has also sparked an online debate over what the video does - and doesn't - show.

Marianne Mollmann of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, says that the unspoken component is race and culture.

"Though the editorialising comments note that the actress was harassed by men of all ethnic or racial backgrounds, most of the men shown on the final video are black, some Latino and no one - as far as I can tell - white," she writes for the Huffington Post. "Intentional or not, the racial bias strips the video not only of authenticity and therefore authority, but also of effectiveness."

According to the video's producer, Rob Bliss, the lack of white male representation was, in part, a technical issue.

"We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera," he wrote in a Reddit thread. "We didn't always capture the audio or video well."

Chris Moore, writing for the website Mass Appeal, documents just how skewed the end result is. He finds that 59% of footage comes from Harlem, a minority-heavy neighbourhood, while only 12% comes from more affluent areas like Greenwich Village and Canal Street.

After watching the video author Joyce Carol Oates concludes that the level of street harassment in New York depends on the neighbourhood.

Image copyright Joyce Carol Oates

"Would be very surprised if women walking alone were harassed in affluent midtown NYC," she tweets.

Her comments prompted scores of responses on Twitter with examples of nice-neighbourhood harassment.

Lindy West, writing for the Daily Dot, accuses Ms Oates of racism - but says her reaction is the predictable result of the way the harassment video is constructed.

"By placing such manipulative, specific, politicised constraints on the issue of street harassment - that is, the subject is a 'nice' white or white-passing lady wearing the 'right' clothes, and the catcallers depicted as almost exclusively men of colour - it allows the bulk of the audience to divorce themselves from the problem," she writes.

University of North Carolina sociology Prof Zeynep Tufekci tells BBC Trending that because of the methodological flaws in the video, it's impossible to draw any concrete conclusions about race and harassment. If students had presented this research to her, she would have told them to gather more data.

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from the video, she says, but the explanation provided by Mr Bliss - that most remarks were off-camera or disrupted by sounds - is "indefensible, methodologically or substantively".

Image copyright Automnia

On Thursday Hollaback, the anti-harassment organisation that partnered with Mr Bliss to produce the video, issued an apology for "unintended racial bias in the editing of the video".

"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," they write.

According to Slate's Dee Lockett, that may be difficult, however, as the kind of harassment that white men undertake doesn't come in the form of catcalling on the streets.

"They do it in bars, at parties, on the frat row at your local college campus, in boardrooms, and other places men of colour are never privy to, at least not in positions of power," she writes.

Reporting by Anthony Zurcher

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending

All our stories are at bbc.com/trending

Related Topics