A powerful campaign film was launched this morning by Southwark Council to tackle sexual harassment and violence against women and girls.
The campaign film, entitled “Through Her Eyes”, directly targets men and boys aged 16 to 25 and aims to portray the deeply uncomfortable experience of sexual harassment from a female perspective.
Southwark Council partnered with agency Nice and Serious to produce the campaign, which aims to inspire men and boys to challenge their own attitudes and behaviour.
Serafima Serafimova, the film’s director, said the best way to make boys and men feel what women feel on a daily basis was to reverse the gender roles in the video.
It portrays a young boy on his way to school, who is subjected to cat-calling, staring and harassment by women in public.
Serafimova said: “Southwark Council were looking to make a campaign video that, rather than addressing the victims of sexual harassment and violence, addressed the boys and men who are the culprits.
“Women get blamed all the time for walking in the middle of the night alone, or running in the park at 6am. Women get raped, kidnapped and murdered, and the first response from many, including other women, is ‘well what was she doing out at that time?'”
The council’s women’s safety survey last year found 61% of respondents in the borough have been sexually harassed in public.
This compares to 71% of women of all ages in the UK, according to the UN Women UK YouGov survey 2021, rising to 86% for the 18-24-year-old bracket.
Councillor Kieron Williams, leader of Southwark Council, said: “The sad truth is every day women and girls across our community are faced with a barrage of sexist and abusive acts by men. All too often it is passed off as harmless comments or attention, but the reality for women and girls is very different.
“This misogyny is a toxic inheritance that has been handed down by men to boys for generations. We will only break that chain if men take responsibility. That means changing the way we bring up our boys and calling each other out whenever we see sexist, leering or abusive behaviour.”
The campaign aims to target boys and young men so that harassment against women and girls doesn’t spiral out and turn into something more physical, Serafimova added.
The filmmakers were determined not to show any extreme behaviour, to emphasise how smaller incidents of harassment can escalate into more serious harm and even physical violence.
Serafimova explained: “I think when you see something and it’s overly shocking and overly horrific, you think to yourself, ‘I would never go that far’, but then you think that everything you do is acceptable because it’s not that bad.
“We were hoping the film would hit home that even something that may seem innocent or funny can be really upsetting to another human being.”
Unveiled on the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the video will be rolled out by Southwark Council in local schools and youth groups to facilitate discussion about sexual harassment and gender equality.
Young people from Southwark worked closely in focus groups with the council to develop the campaign, steering both the creative direction and content of the film.
Those involved in the feedback sessions were Southwark students and residents aged 16 to 24.
The response from councillors, politicians and the film’s target audience reinforces the strength of the campaign’s message, according to Serafimova.
She added: “I didn’t expect people to be so shocked, but they really were. In particular, the male audience we showed it to were really quite taken aback by how awful it feels, and by how palpable that tension and that horror was in the male lead actor’s emotions.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who also supported the campaign, said: “We all need to work together as a society to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls.
“This excellent campaign by Southwark Council will help to get the message across to men and boys that words matter and there is a link between misogyny and violence.”
Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, added: “I fully support Southwark Council’s new campaign focusing on men and boys in the quest to end male violence against women and girls.
“Every day women and girls are killed, injured or sexually harassed by men. Men have got an important role to play in stopping male violence, by continuously re-examining their own attitudes, by stepping in when they see other men threatening women and girls, and by male perpetrators taking responsibility for their own actions.”
The campaign will be unrolled in different stages over the next few weeks, coinciding with UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
It has been supported by the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund.
Featured image credit: Southwark Council via YouTube