Director Rob Bliss says the men in the video were just a small sample
He denies any intent to show one race over another
The video features mostly black and Latino men
Women in video says "men of all colors" have harassed her
The director of a video showing a woman being catcalled on the streets of New York has weighed in on the seeming racial disparity of the men featured.
Rob Bliss, who posted the video on behalf of the anti-street-harassment group Hollaback!, told CNN that those shown were just a small sample.
“Looking at this as being some type of sample that is completely balanced, I think, is never going to be accurate,” he said. “To do that, we would have had to shoot for days and days, and we didn’t set out to make a long video.”
Bliss, who was inspired by the experiences of his girlfriend, tracked volunteer Shoshana Roberts as she walked through the city over the course of 10 hours. The video shows her being greeted by mostly black and Latino men with calls like “Hey, baby,” “Damn!” and “What’s up, beautiful?” Some of the men even follow her.
In a Slate article headlined “The Problem With That Catcalling Video,” writer Hanna Rosin notes that “The one dude who turns around and says, ‘Nice,’ is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things – like the one who harangues her, ‘Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,’ or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes – are not.”
Bliss said that during the 10 hours captured on video, there were 108 instances of street harassment, of which he had 30 to 40 scenes with good enough quality for him to consider. He whittled that down to 20 scenes in the one minute and 57 second video. It’s difficult to distinguish that about six of the men were white because the faces were blurred, Bliss said.
“We have 18 scenes where someone is visible and on camera, and two of the scenes ate up half of the run time” of the video, he said. “And yes, those two men were not white.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be an accurate representation,” Bliss added. “For example, there are no Asian men, but that doesn’t mean that Asian men don’t do this, too.”
Critics questioned the disparity on social media. One tweeted, “To demonize men of color as the only perpetrators of aggression towards women is patently false and irresponsible. #Catcalling.”
Another person tweeted, “I just got an attitude from an older white male ,I didn’t say good morning. #Catcalling since everyone wants to make this a race issue.”
Rosin points out that Bliss, who heads the marketing company Rob Bliss Creative and told New Republic “I make viral videos for a living,” has been accused of not being inclusive before.
In 2011, a blogger wrote about the Grand Rapids Lip Dub video project, which Bliss hosted. Directed on the streets of the Michigan city, it featured participants lip-syncing the words to Don McLean’s “American Pie” and according to the Grand Rapids Press was one of several community events Bliss organized.
But a blogger identified as “kswheeler” wrote that the result didn’t exactly reflect the racial makeup of Grand Rapids at the time: 57% white, 18.9% black, 13% Latino and 1.62% Asian-American.
“Otherwise, Grand Rapids looks like Oz,” the blogger wrote. “And the people look like they’ve been reincarnated from those peppy family-style 1970s musical acts from Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm.”
Bliss, 26, said the Grand Rapids video had an open call for participation.
As for his latest project, he said the focus on the race of the men has been a distraction and “very frustrating.” In no way was he trying to portray one race as being more apt to harass women in the streets, he said.
“I simply wanted to capture street harassment in a very intimate, close-up way in the real world and have people talk about it,” Bliss said. “I just wanted to lay it all bare.”
Thursday morning on CNN’s “New Day,” Roberts discussed her experience with the catcalls, noting that because she was carrying two microphones while Bliss walked ahead of her with a backpack camera, “We had great audio.”
As for the racial makeup of the men who attempt to interact with her, she said they were “men of all colors – in my experience every day, men of all colors. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, color.”
CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this story.