If there was a way to make a bold statement about sexual harassment, Mexico City has done it with their “Experimento Asiento,” which means “an experiment with a seat.” The metro system in Mexico City made a splash earlier this year by changing one of the seats to look like a male’s body, including a penis, to raise awareness about sexual harassment. In the last week, the campaign videos have gone viral and received hundreds of thousands of views, and I will not be surprised if that number is soon in the millions.
Sexual harassment and violence is a problem that needs to be combatted, and I believe that starts with making people more actively involved in caring. As a female I have been told numerous times “don’t yell rape, yell fire that way people will actually try to help,” which is so awful to even think about, but is sadly the reality of sexual harassment. Reported by a national survey conducted in 2016 by the Mexican Institute of Women, nine out of 10 women or girls who use public transportation feel unsafe while doing it. Living in fear of using your transportation system because you might be sexually harassed is so extremely sad and unfortunate, and unfortunately tactics like the one used in Mexico City might be the way to wake people up to the seriousness of the problem.
I think that the seat idea is genius because I personally agree with the reason given by the campaign members for why they felt they needed to go to this extent. According to a New York Times article, one of the representatives of the campaign said, “In order to generate change, you need to create empathy,” meaning that the only way to get people to actually care about this issue is to show them how it really feels.
While watching the video live from the metro system, you see individuals sit on the seat and immediately shoot back up because they did not notice at first. The riders look in disgust at the seat, men and women alike, and one man even tries to cover it up with a jacket which proves to be unsuccessful. Riders completely avoid the seat and will stand before sitting on the seat and being uncomfortable. Personally, this idea is the perfect way of showing people that no one wants to be put in an uncomfortable situation while doing something like taking their morning transport, yet sadly this happens all of the time. Showing people, specifically men, that this is something that is violent, not funny or something to be taken lightly, can give them incentive to either stop sexually harassing women or step in if they see an incident of sexual harassment.
Some say that because this is such a public space, and that the tactic of using this seat is inappropriate. However, I think that this is the way to start the conversation about sexual harassment, with bold expressions of what victims of this endure. A victim of sexual harassment does not get to stand up and easily avoid the source of their discomfort, because often it is another person that actively engages and even can forcibly engage with the victim. It is so important to make a bold statement about such a serious issue, and there are still so many cases of sexual harassment and violence in the world today.
If a campaign like “Experimento Asiento” can start a conversation and get people thinking and caring about the seriousness of sexual harassment, then I think it is a great thing. I do not think that a seat with a penis on it is any more inappropriate than an individual being sexually harassed and targeted on their commute, or in the workplace, or in all of the other public and private settings that sexual harassment occurs. Sexual harassment is inappropriate; trying to combat it is not.