“She’s got my privates standing at attention.”
“Call Amtrak because I need two tickets to Booty City.”
During a skit on Saturday Night Live (SNL) this weekend, four constructions workers stood around their construction site, making offensive comments as women walked by, often equating them to food, such as an Arby’s sandwich or a Christmas dinner, or reducing them to body parts.
One of the “humorous” parts of the skit was when SNL guest host Daniel Craig’s character, who was new to the crew, said “weird” lines, like how the woman had “two big breasty squish rags” and that another woman was like a “bowl of butt soup with nipples.” The other men stared at him in disbelief each time he uttered his “catcall.”
Then the foreman enters the scene and says, “I’ve been getting complaints that you’re heckling women and that some of you are really bad at it.”
The men deny that’s what’s happening and the foreman starts harassing women too. When Craig says he bets the woman has a “big ol’ penis,” the foreman tells him he’s fired for being bad at street harassing women. Craig gets to explain himself however, and keep his job.
A flashback shows us his 8-year-old self visiting his dad, who was a construction worker. The dad harasses a woman and she turns around and shoots and kills him. So that is supposedly why Craig says weird things and everyone forgives him, welcomes him, and the skit ends.
It’s not a very good skit. Can you get more stereotypical than construction workers harassing women or the cliché harassment lines? And the ending makes no sense. Why does his experience explain his weird utterances? Wouldn’t he want to NOT harass women?
But the skit does do one thing well, even though I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of the writers. It illustrates how some men feel pressured into being harassers when they’re with their buddies; how it’s an activity they do together to bond, to impress each other, and to one-up each other. It illustrates how the activity was not about the women or what they wore, but about what the men said.
Why this skit is harmful:
I know it’s just a comedy skit, but comedy skits matter. They impact our culture, language, and even our views. As an advocate for street harassment, I’m concerned about the messages people probably took away after viewing this one, including:
* For men: If you want to fit in, you’ve got to do what other men do, including sexually harassing women. It’s okay to harass women as long as you don’t say “weird” things. Remember: you’re just supposed to say things that equate them to food and reduce them to body parts.
* For women: Walk swiftly past construction sites (if you have to walk past them at all) because you’re going to get harassed and there’s nothing you can do about it short of shooting them dead.
* For women and men: Don’t bother reporting offensive harassment to the construction company because the men in charge think it’s okay to harass women too.
I doubt very many people saw it and thought the men’s behavior was inappropriate and decided to become advocates to stop street harassment. I get that SNL isn’t about advocacy, but there are plenty of ways they could have had a FUNNY skit about street harassment that also wouldn’t contribute to its social acceptability.
Suggestion for SNL:
If you’re going to do a skit about street harassment, here are a few suggestions:
1. The construction worker harasser is over-used. Try using business executives. They harass while they walk to or from business meetings, lunches, and happy hours.
2. Let the women talk back! It’d be way funnier if ALL of the men looked foolish for what they said, so let the women verbally outsmart them in their response. Or let them take photos of the harassers and post them all over town and everywhere the harasser goes, they get laughed at and harassed.
3. Related, what if a group of men and women gathered nearby and started harassing the harassers back?
4. Have the mother or grandmother of one of the harassers walk by and start scolding the men for harassing women!
5. Have them harass an undercover female cop and then let her arrest them.
What are your ideas for a funny SNL skit about street harassment?
Share them in the comments and with SNL:
[Note - ironically enough, the same day SNL decided to do a skit contributing to a culture in which street harassment impacts at least 80 percent of women, CNN.com, published a very good article about why street harassment is problematic and featured it on their homepage.]Share on Facebook