'Hey, Baby': What It's Like to Walk on the Street While Being Female

A video brings the logic of "ask me anything" to the experience of women's commutes.

If you type the phrase "what's it like to be" into Google, the search engine's autocomplete feature will provide you with a helpful insight into humanity's most burning questions about the experience of being someone else. The most popular wonderings, it seems, currently wonder what it's like to be "rich." And also "dead." And also "famous" and "pregnant" and "a nurse."

Google's hivemind seems to be less curious about what it's like to be female, presumably because that is an experience enjoyed by approximately one half of the population. For the other half, though, there's the video above. It's produced by the people from Hollaback, a campaign dedicated to ending street harassment, and it gives a sense of what it's like when the "what it's like" question is followed by "to be a woman."

The video is a distillation of what happened when a young woman, clad in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, walked around Manhattan for 10 hours. (A man walked in front of her, a hidden camera in his backpack.) The video shares the results of the stunt: The woman was greeted with a series of comments, catcalls, whistles, and other forms of unasked-for attention. One guy walked alongside her, silently, for five minutes straight.

The stunt, Hollaback says, ended up recording more than 100 instances of verbal harassment over 10 hours. That 10-per-hour stat does not include winks, whistles, and other less verbal forms.

It should be said that there are approximately 5,000 caveats here. Among them: This is an ad (for the Hollaback campaign). It is produced by a "viral advertising" agency. It is not science. It is unclear whether it is even pseudo-science. Could the whole thing have been staged? Yes. Could it have been selectively edited? Certainly.

Still. There's a reason that the video is currently going viral on YouTube—the way similar videos have gone viral on YouTube—which is that, sourcing questions aside, the experience it records will resonate with pretty much any woman who has ever walked down a street. (Or, for that matter, who has been online.) What is it like to be a woman? Sometimes, sadly, it's uncannily like this.