Two female filmmakers have released a video documenting what it’s like for a woman to walk by herself down a bustling street in Cairo, Egypt. The blatant stares from many of the men encountered along the way highlight the country’s problem of rampant street harassment.
“Today we will be filming what it’s like to walk down the busiest bridge in Cairo as a girl,” says American-born filmmaker Colette Ghunim, introducing the short clip, above. From that point on there are no more words spoken — just the leering gazes from almost every man Ghunim walks by.
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Titled “Creepers on the Bridge,” the footage was uploaded to Vimeo on Aug. 30 and had attracted nearly 250,000 views by Wednesday evening. It is part of a documentary project, “The People’s Girls,” which Ghunim is working on with her co-director, Tinne Van Loon.
“This video shows what it’s like for a girl to walk alone in Cairo, no matter what time of day. Though the video only includes stares, it gives an idea of just how intimidating it can be in the street,” Van Loon, who is Belgian-American, wrote on Vimeo. “As a woman, Egyptian or foreign, comments and stares are the norm every time we step out the door, no matter what we’re wearing.”
A 2013 study from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women found that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women and girls surveyed had experienced some kind of sexual harassment in their lifetime.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Van Loon explained how they captured the scene:
Colette walked down the Kasr El-Nil bridge, secretly recording with an iPhone. She held it by her mouth with headphones plugged in and pretended to talk on the phone. She pretended to be deep in conversation, looking straight ahead of her. Whenever she felt eyes on her, she turned the phone slightly towards them. The clip was filmed in a single 5 minute walk around sunset, as people often gather on the bridge after the temperature cools down.
She also noted that the purpose of “Creepers on the Bridge” is not to denigrate Egyptian, Arab or Muslim men, but to call attention to a problem facing women around the globe.
“We really want to point out that while sexual harassment is an issue of epidemic proportions in Egypt … this by no way means that all Egyptian men are harassers, or that somehow this is an Arab or Muslim problem,” Van Loon said. “This is a problem of a patriarchal society, which is unfortunately worldwide. We’ve gotten a lot of hateful comments towards Arabs and Egypt and we really want to point out that not all men are like this.”
The women have created a Kickstarter and are planning a January 2015 release for “The People’s Girls.”