(TIML NEWS) When a new style of seat suddenly appeared on Mexico City’s metro system, it was labelled as inappropriate, uncomfortable, humiliating and embarrassing.
It was supposed to be.
The seat, moulded to include a protruding penis and chest, was designed to highlight sexual harassment experienced by female passengers.
The explanation next to the men-only label read: “It is uncomfortable to sit here, but that is nothing compared to the sexual violence that women suffer on their daily journeys.”
The seat is not a permanent fixture, but part of a campaign launched by UN Women and the Mexico City authorities called #NoEsDeHombres, which aimed to highlight sexual harassment on public transport
But the response has been mixed.
Underneath a video of the stunt, which has been seen more than 700,000 times in the past 10 days, some viewers praised the idea, while others called it “sexist” and unfair to men.
Gendes is a Mexican civil society organisation that focuses on working with men to promote equality and combat sexual harassment, which remains a major problem in the country.
Rene Lopez Perez, who heads their research programme, praised the campaign for taking an important issue and making it a talking point. But he also stressed the importance of not seeing all men as attackers.
“It’s important not to stigmatise all men as violent and potential attackers of women,” he said
Mexico City’s metro has women-only carriages
Holly Kearl, who founded the US-based website Stop Street Harassment, said there was something to be said for turning the focus away from women for once.
When she attended the UN Women Safe Cities Global Leaders’ Forum in Mexico City last month, she noted the onus of change was often put on women.
“Too often initiatives around women’s safety focus on what women should or should not do, so it is refreshing to see a creative campaign aimed at men,” she said.