A former University of Manchester student took to the streets of London in a social experiment to demonstrate everyday sexism that women endure in modern society.
Taking tweets from @EverdaySexism, where women (and men) can recount sexist incidents, Leah Green, 25, acted these out on unsuspecting members of the public.
Despite the daunting prospect the former philosophy student revealed to MM how personal experiences along with a desire to ‘turn the tables’ on the other sex inspired the project.
“People do not fully realise the problem that women face every day and some don’t see it as harassment or a big deal is because it happens so much,” the video producer at the Guardian explained to MM.
“For example two days before I filmed I was on a bus at nine o’clock in the morning and a man opposite me on the bus was masturbating and staring at me.
“This is a serious example but people need to take notice of incidents happening to women of every age on the streets in daily life.”
HONK: Leah terrorising the male population in her van
Since the video went viral on the Guardian website last Friday it has received more than a million hits and nearly three thousand comments.
The stunt included scenarios where the London-based journalist said the lines ‘get your arse out mate,’ and ‘do you guys wax or shave down there?’, ‘alright sexy,’ and ‘have you guys ever made out with each other?’
The experiement has so far received mixed responses with some women stating it highlights harassment they receive on a daily basis and various men commenting that the words coming from the mouth of a woman made them realise their weight and impact.
However others felt the film was negative as by subjecting innocent men to sexually aggressive comments, the Sheffield-born journalist became no better than the men who do that, thus completely undermining the feminist message.
Speaking on Twitter user, Rachel Fellows said: “Leah Green is spot on and hilarious turning the tables on misogynistic men, but she’s scarily accurate.”
“Nothing truer in this Leah Green video on street harassment than the silent staring that dudes do,” said Bim Adewunmi.
While David Steven said: “Leah Green strikes a blow for equal rights by harassing random men in the street.”
Leah was eager to respond to criticism and stressed she had ‘not conformed to a male stereotype’ as all the scenarios were based on real life incidents which have happened to female victims.
“It doesn’t make sense to make that argument because I have taken tweets and recreated them exactly so it is not like I am going around making things up,” Leah said.
“I haven’t acted out a stereotype. Everything you saw in that video has happened to a woman somewhere in the world since September last year which they tweeted about.
“I’m not saying that I believe the majority of men behave like this towards women, but I know that sexism is a problem and that the majority are female victims.
“Much like the men in the video, they haven’t done a thing to deserve it.”
The disbelief of men in the film is evident and Leah explained this was essential to mirror the disbelief everyone should feel when acts of everyday sexism happen to women.
AMAZED: Leah asks group ‘have you guys ever made out with each other?’
Despite appearing confident in front of camera, including driving around in a large white van honking the horn and shouting out the window, the undercover journalist admitted this was an elaborate act.
“It was a hugely daunting process. It’s not in my nature to even talk to strangers let alone ask them whether they wax or shave their pubic hair,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for my camera man Tom (Silverstone) I would have probably left half way through the first two days because it was horrible and I found it hard to continuously go up to men and be quite awful.
“The van scenes were particularly bad. I thought I might enjoy honking the horn but to be honest the van was really hard to drive. The whole situation was really stressful.
“The van does give you a feeling of power and I’m not making that generalisation to all van drivers, but I can now see why driving in a big vehicle makes you feel a bit braver sometimes.”
After scenarios played out, the undercover reporter revealed her real persona to her unsuspecting victims and explained the sexism concept behind the project
“I knew that men would be shocked to hear some of the lines coming out of my mouth and I was preparing myself for the worst reaction but the guys I approached were lovely,” she said.
“Whilst I watched the filming back I felt really sorry for them and how I acted in the scenario but I always got out of character straight after and said ‘sorry that wasn’t me just then.
“I made sure they all understood what the project was trying to do and the majority gave very positive feedback to what I was doing and encouraged it.
“Only two or three didn’t give consent and the majority were mainly relieved that I wasn’t the mad woman that they assumed I was.”
EXCUSE ME? Leah asks ‘do you guys wax or shave down there?’
While the film highlights sexism women may encounter in everyday life, Leah was quick to stress that she recognises men can be victims too although not as frequently.
“Of course women can be sexist to men and it is tough for guys in society when they feel they have to fit a ‘supposed image,’ being tough and not being truly expressing their feelings for example,” she said.
“But I do believe women face street harassment more, for example @EverdaySexism, encourages both tweets from men and women but 95% of those tweets come from females.
“It was important for a video concerning this subject matter to be created and there are many wonderful female feminists and male feminists who are really making huge efforts to change issues apparent in society.
“I think feminism is on the up and things can only get better.”
The video was directed and acted by Leah Green and recorded by Tom Silverstone.
For updates about Leah Green’s work follow her on Twitter @LeahGreenTweets.
Images courtesy of the Guardian, via YouTube, with thanks.