A woman can be subjected to catcalls, leers, winks, jibes and remarks that undermine her intelligence on a daily basis.
Take a moment to think about how many times these sorts of things happen to you.
I would bet that many of us don’t even flinch when these events occur – in fact those moments, and the unease that follow, have become an almost accepted and expected part of life.
We often joke to our female friends about the satisfaction that would come from having our male partners, colleagues, friends and family walk in our shoes just for a day, to experience a bit of what it’s like to be a woman in what is essentially still a man’s world.
But what would happen if the roles were reversed and women played the role of men?
French director Eléonore Pourriat explores this exact theme in her short film Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority), which has been watched almost 7 million times in the fortnight since it was uploaded to YouTube. See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4UWxlVvT1A
The 10-minute production depicts a day in the life of Pierre, an ordinary guy in an unnamed Parisian town, with one twist, he exists in a womens world.
“On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women…” the film’s description reads.
Women run bare-chested, belittle Pierre’s intelligence, piss in alleyways and harass him with sexual favours as he goes about his daily routine.
While the film does touch on undercurrent themes in France, like the idea of Western democracy ‘saving’ Muslim women from wearing the hijab; it is for the most part quite humorous.
However, a culmination of events sees the story take a dark turn when a gang of women sexually assaults Pierre at knifepoint.
It’s uncomfortable to watch these women attack a man like this, especially as the female actresses play their roles perfectly, in a way that seems, dare I say, so un-female-like.
During the next scene of a bloodied and beat up Pierre making a statement at the local police office we are offered some comedic relief when the chief, a female of course, comments to her inferior male colleague: “get us a drink sweetie” and “great ass”.
But it is the ensuing victim blaming that accompanies Pierre’s assault that is brings it all back home. Pourriat’s reversal of the roles here is pure genius as it attempts to make men understand what sexual victimization feels like and how their language and reactions attribute to the victim-pointed blame game that can often ensue such an attack.
“So often when women get assaulted, people say it’s their fault. Even close people. That’s what I wanted to say with this character,” Porriat told reporters.
“It came from a personal experience. I was a woman. I was 30 years old and my husband didn’t believe that I was – I was not assaulted, but I got remarked on in the street often. He said, ‘Wow. That’s incredible.’ His surprise was the beginning of the idea for me. Sometimes men – it’s not their fault – they don’t imagine that women are assaulted even with words every day, with small, slight words. They can’t imagine that because they are not confronted with that themselves,” she adds.
Even more chilling is Pierre’s wife’s reaction to his assault. Held up in work meetings she was unable to rush to his side until much later on that night. “I couldn’t get out of the meeting … But I think I really knocked ’em dead,” she remarks almost brutally to her clearly shaken assaulted husband.
‘I wanted it to be not so realistic but frightening,’ Pourriat says of the film.
While the film was made five years ago, and won an award at a film festival in Kiev – it made little impact in France at the time. Now the video has gone viral and Pourriat has been inundated with messages from impressed fans, grateful viewers and harsh critics. Many of the more aggressive messages have been deleted, except one:
“I kept one though because really, you can’t believe it. Someone said: ‘More patronising feminist bullshit. Keep whining, bitches!’ When I read that, I was more convinced than ever that I have to continue to make films,” Pourriat says.
Essentially, for me the film blurs gender distinction to highlight right and wrong. Each wince, each cringe and uncomfortable twist in my seat as I watched Oppressed Majority reminded me that people, both men and women, need to see this film and to be confronted if anything is to change.