Worth a Second Look.

A frame grab from a video of the “men only” seat on the Mexico City Metro, part of a campaign against sexual harassment. Credit YouTube

A seat in a subway car in Mexico City’s metro system caused a stir earlier this year. There were awkward glances. Visible discomfort. Baffled looks. Some laughs. And of course, the inevitable pictures from passengers’ camera phones.

It was meant to be provocative, and it was. A seat was changed to look like the lower half of a male’s body, including the penis, part of a campaign by UN Women and the Mexico City government to raise awareness about sexual harassment on subways.

On the floor beneath the seat, there was a sign reading, “It is annoying to travel this way, but not compared to the sexual violence women suffer in their daily commutes.”

Penis Seat’ Causes Double Takes on Mexico City Subway, The New York Times (Mar. 31, 2017).

Before I moved to New York, I worked with a seasoned attorney from the City who had made Richmond, Virginia her home.  As a young attorney, I listened to her explain the legal definition of sexual harassment, noting that, in New York, no woman could ride the train without being groped at some point.  It was, as she explained, to be expected.  And, as she insinuated, to be tolerated.  That was in the late 1990’s. 

I’d like to think that times have changed.  Although the ever-present female-only cars on commuter trains and railways would indicate otherwise.  Perhaps bringing attention to the issue, rather than attempting merely to avoid the mingling of sexes in close proximity will begin a needed conversation to stop such bad conduct. 

At least one can hope.

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