The experience of a woman using public transport in Mexico City seems pretty miserable. Not only do women living in Mexico’s largest city face more verbal and physical harassment than 13 other world capitals, but a more recent survey has found that 90 percent of women in Mexico who use public transit don’t feel safe doing it. If that’s not enough, another survey reports that 58 percent of women in Mexico have been randomly touched and groped.
In response, UN Women and the Mexico City government rolled out a campaign, titled #EdEsDeHombres (translation: “this isn’t manly”), in January to take a stand against gender inequality, specifically focusing on harassment against women in public spaces. The goal: make men feel as objectified as women for a change. The idea was that by feeling uncomfortable themselves, men would hopefully develop more empathy for women. Therefore, they’d be less likely to harass or catcall her in the future.
To accomplish this, the city’s metro system installed a so-called “penis seat” in one subway car, of which it just released video (below). The seat was molded to replicate a man’s lower torso, a considerably large penis and his upper thighs. The metro system then invited male passengers to take a seat in the chair, which was labeled “Men Only” and additional messaging about what women often encounter while using public transportation.
In another experiment, the city hired a camera crew to record the butts of male passegers waiting on the platform. This footage was then broadcasted in real time on multiple screens in the station. In effect, men became sexual objects for everyone to gawk at. Obviously, this approach is much more drastic, but evidently, the city’s officials and UN Women believe drama and hyperbole are the best way to convey this uncomfortable message.
“In order to generate change, you need to create empathy,” Yeliz Osman, a program coordinator at the Mexican UN Women office, told the New York Times. “The idea is that men can get a sense of what it is all like. By creating empathy, we hope that this might change their behavior.”
While some may argue that the campaign is hypocritical in how it sexually objectifies men to reduce the objectification of women, the other side is arguing that, by experiencing objectification themselves, men may be more willing to think about harassment.
As a man, I admit I’d feel super awkward if my ass was broadcasted to an audience of strangers. As for how I’d react, I’d probably be pretty pissed about it having been unfairly targeted because I’m a so-called sexual predator. What’s more, I’d feel victimized for being singled out. But that’s exactly the point: a women don’t choose to have theirs butts grazed or whistled at in public.
Obviously, the legitimacy of this campaign’s approach is up for interpretation—and that’s a good thing. It’s a good place to start a conversation. But in terms of the campaign’s impact on Mexico’s residents and international news outlets, the result is a lot more obvious. This thing’s a hit.