The latest viral video creating waves across the Internet shows a woman, decked in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, walking down the streets of New York City. She doesn’t say a word but is harassed by different men more than 100 times, over a 10-hour duration. At one point, she was even stalked by one man for a whole five minutes.
This two-minute video—put together by an anti-street harassment advocacy group in collaboration with a marketing agency—has struck a raw nerve among some viewers (mostly male). Heated debates have since ensued on whether those comments even constituted acts of harassment and whether the video had been unfair in its portrayal of African-American and Latino men as well as of men in general.
When I first stumbled across the video, I felt for the lady and identified with its intended message immediately. The comments and remarks made by the unidentified men in the video to her were undue, inappropriate, and downright unnerving. But it was interesting to read comments that argued otherwise. Some felt that the men were just paying her compliments, which could hardly be constituted as acts of harassment.
Wondering whether it was simply a difference in perspectives between males and females, I decided to get a second opinion from a male colleague. He felt that whether it’s deemed as harassment would depend on culture and context. But the men were definitely interested to get to know her, he added.
Our different takes on the issue paralleled the myriad of views I had read so far. There could be so many ways to interpret the video and every argument appeared to have its own plus points. How then should males and females look at such issues? Would we ever reach a consensus or should we just agree to disagree?
Perhaps the first thing to do is to establish common standards, and in our case, biblical standards. As Christians, the way we view the opposite gender speaks volumes of our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:4 provides a helpful starting point for us to consider: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
Jesus himself also gives clear instructions on how men ought to view or treat women. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). What goes on in our mind when we look at the opposite gender is just as important as whether we eventually act on our intentions. Lust in our hearts alone contravenes God’s standards.
For women, the same standard applies. We’re equally liable if we cause our fellow brothers to stumble. The Bible makes a clear stand on how women ought to dress. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 we read that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” Paul exhorts the women to dress in good taste, and more importantly, to express godly character in both their wardrobe and their works.
So yes, there is a consistent way Christian men and women should be looking at gender relationships. But beyond just acting on the biblical commands, let’s desire to do so with the intent of growing closer to God. May God’s name be glorified by the way we behave towards the opposite gender.