By EMMA JANGER
October 27, 2011
The “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” video is generating quite a controversy. In his short video, Steven Greenstreet – who also created the tumblr, “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” – interviews women at the protest about the reasons why they came to Zuccotti Park. This sounds good in theory, except this is not what the video is about. While the women articulate their thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, the camera lingers over their bodies: their bare skin, their lips, their eyes, their tattoos, and their clothing.
On his blog, Greenstreet calls it “the sexy side of protesting corruption.” He says that he was inspired to make the video after he watched “one video in particular and commented to a friend, ‘Wow, seeing all those super smart hot chicks at the protest makes me want to be there.’” He and his friend went to Zuccotti Park and made the video, which he “hope[s] makes you want to be there too.”
But is this really how OWS should be advertised? As a place to meet hot chicks? Some defenders of the video have suggested that a protest is a legitimate place to go and meet people. Be that as it may, it does not justify objectifying women in order to create a sexy advertisement for OWS.
The video, despite its disregard for the women’s activism, is not leering. In fact, from an aesthetic perspective, the film is beautifully shot. The camera does not focus on cleavage, but on faces. In many ways it is a romantic look at the female activists. But these “romantic” trappings do not obscure the fact that these women had no choice in how they were portrayed. Few of the women are looking into the camera or seem to be aware of their being filmed; and of those interviewed, it seems unlikely that they controlled how their bodies were depicted. Out of a crowd of many, all protesting for the same fundamental reasons, these women have been singled out because of their appearance. Their political speech has been reduced to an appreciation of their looks.
That is to say, Greenstreet misses the point entirely. Yes, there are attractive women at Occupy Wall Street. But that should not be a reason to come to the protest. Nor should men be encouraged to protest solely for the purpose of meeting “hot chicks.” The video sexualizes these female activists and strips them of their political power. It is too easy to trivialize a woman’s voice, her views, and her power, when the focus is instead on her beauty.
Rebecca Traister from Salon.com says it all when she states, “This video is sexist. It’s an example of women participating in public life — political, professional, social — and having their participation reduced to sexual objectification. That’s what happened here, nothing more, nothing less.”
Greenstreet addressed this criticism on his website: “Apparently a lot of controversy has erupted online from people passionately opining (among many things) that this is sexist, offensive, and dangerously objectifies women. It was not my intent to do that and I think the spirit of the video, and the voices within, are honorable and inspiring. However, if you disagree with me, I encourage you to use that as an excuse to create constructive discussions about the issues you have. Because, to be honest, any excuse is a good excuse to bring up the topic of women’s rights.”
Despite the video, his last sentence, at least, is something we can all agree with.
Emma Janger is a freshman in Yale College. She is a staff writer for Broad Recognition.