"Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street" creator defends film

In a q-and-a on Salon, Steven Greenstreet discussed his motivations -- and critiqued the angry response from women

Published October 19, 2011 2:28PM (EDT)

A stunningly sexist commentary or a beautiful, harmless art project? Steven Greenstreet's video/Tumblr experiment, "Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street," has certainly caused a commotion over the past few days, including right here on Salon.

Yesterday, Greenstreet himself responded to our staff roundtable, "Is this video 'Occupy Wall Street Gone Wild'?," by directly engaging with readers in our comments section. "Ask me anything," he repeatedly volunteered. Read a selection of his responses to readers' questions below.

Questions from Mike Mariano: "Are you trying to say anything about Occupy Wall Street with this video? These hot chicks are doing all the hard work of being hot and politically hot. Was there any motivation beyond 'hot chicks are hot?' I'm not complaining/indicting/etc., if that's all it was, but if you were trying for more I'm missing it."

Steven Greenstreet: Thanks for the question. I guess I can only speak to what the video does for me. I'm a pretty cynical guy. I see movements come and go and it seems like the "bad guys" always come out on top. So I'm getting to that point to where even "hope and change" becomes bittersweet.

Interviewing the women at OWS, I felt a strong sense of optimism. They were full of such firm dedication and political strength. I almost envied them. The "We Can Do It!" attitude was something I'd thought I'd lost.

And these women, they made me feel legitimately proud to be an American.

As I edited the video, over 48 hours, the Egyptian woman's voice kept closing it out: "Genuine passion never dies out." Can't tell you how many times that got me misty eyed.

"Hot Chicks"? Again, that was our original idea. It evolved. We kept the title. Thought it might get more people to see it. It worked.

But I'm also not going to apologize for calling these empowered women "hot." They knocked me off my feet.

Question from skwjcw: "I understand your choosing the title to attract attention. But, the title gives an impression of sexism and, if you are being honest now about your intent, a false impression of your intent. ... Surely you are creative enough to have developed a title that catches attention and eyeballs without greatly skewing how the video would be perceived?"

Steven Greenstreet: Of course there could have been a million other titles. But "Hot Chicks" was my gut feeling and I went with it. And chances are, you and I wouldn't be talking right now if I'd changed the title to something blander.

Questions from phillcalle: "1. Why name your video 'Hot Chicks of OWS'? 2. Do you think any of the criticism you have received is appropriate? 3. What was your intent in making and distributing the video?"

Steven Greenstreet: 1. That was (the) original title and, even though the video itself vastly evolved, we kept the original title. Thought it might catch more attention. It did.

2. Yes and no. I love reading debates and online discussions about important issues. In fact, I've read some good arguments for why "Hot Chicks" is wrong. But when feminists like Jill Filipovic at "Feministe" are slinging ad hominem attacks and posting my email address which results in threats, etc., it's disappointing. They missed the whole point. And, more over, they alienated a once-ally of theirs.

3. Read my response here for this.

Thanks for watching, analyzing, and liking the video!

Questions from Tronathon: "Did you expect this much of a backlash? Do you have any plans to create a ... film of the OWS men? Do you deride feminism? Do you have a trust fund (as one commenter suggested)?"

Steven Greenstreet: Actually Brandon and I had no idea what would be the outcome of this video/website. We just had an idea and went with it.

We've thought about the "hot dudes" angle, but I'm not into it per se. Let's see.

In NO way do I "deride" feminism. I do, however, deride hate, slander, and wasted opportunities. So many "feminists" have been ranting about acts of violence that should enacted on me, using the word "fuck" a lot, and Jill Filipovic (who wrote the Feministe article on me) is a self-declared "hater."

I am disappointed that these women are the face of feminism. Such a shame.

Trust fund? Are you kidding me? :-) I'm an independent filmmaker. Sometimes I just gotta "trust" that the "funds" are coming. Or maybe I won't make rent.

Follow-up questions from Tronathon: "How could you not see this type of backlash coming? How were you perceived by the women who you were videotaping and interviewing? Did they seem 'creeped out' by you, as some here have suggested?"

Steven Greenstreet: How did I not see this coming? I dunno. I guess I have a history of causing controversy actually. I just didn't expect people who I thought were smart to act so stupidly about it.

The women I interviewed were great! We had a great discussion. I've actually heard from 2 of them featured in the video and they love it! I might post their emails to me after I get their permission.

Final comment from Steven Greenstreet: I just posted the email from one of the women in the video on the website: http://hotchicksofoccupywallstreet.tumblr.com/

By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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Occupy Wall Street