Chances are, if you are a woman, you have experienced a form of sexual harassment at some point in your lifetime.
Instances can vary from the extreme, like being followed home or threatened by strangers, to the more subdued: catcalls at the bus stop, subtle comments on appearances, unsolicited compliments from bosses. No matter how seemingly small, they each leave a dark, stinging bruise on the lives of the women affected — and Friends actor David Schwimmer has teamed up with Israeli-American director Sigal Avin to create a series of hard-hitting, albeit slightly nauseating PSAs to bring awareness to this issue.
The “gray-area” affixed to instances of sexual harassment, specifically those that occur in the workplace, can often leave victims unsure of whether or not what they have experienced was even wrong or worth reporting (and to make matters worse, over half of work-related sexual harassment claims result in no charges).
This leads to various unacceptable acts being brushed off or minimized, leaving the woman uncomfortable, often frightened and always asking the same question: was I just sexually harassed?
On this feeling of confusion, Schwimmer states: “When you’ve been objectified your entire life and become accustomed to being a second-class citizen in many, many ways — constantly told that you aren’t worth the same as men, basically, and that your body comes first, or what you look like comes first —
it makes a lot more sense to me that a lot of women don’t even recognize when they’re being harassed, because you spend your whole life not being treated with the kind of respect that men are automatically given.”
The PSAs highlight the abuse of power dynamics in workplaces, and were derived from co-creator Avin’s own series of ads run in Israel. This version includes Schwimmer himself, alongside seasoned actors such as Emmy Rossum, Cynthia Nixon, Bobby Cannavale, Grace Gummer and several more, each depicting various scenarios of harassment: a politician making unwelcome advances toward a journalist, a bartender warding off her coworker’s advances and a young woman’s new boss kissing her without consent, who then promptly brushes it off and invalidates her experience. “Nothing happened,” he insists. “I was showing you […] how great you are.” He then asks her for a hug, and she uncomfortably obliges. Another scene shows a doctor becoming inappropriate with a patient during a check-up. Each stark, chilling ad depicts a different form of the “gray-area” that confuses victims and keeps them from coming forward.
On the current importance of these PSAs in our current sociopolitical environment, Schwimmer explains, “the current climate right now in this country … it feels like women and their advocates are fighting for basic human and civil rights. Sigal and I thought,
we need to explicitly state that sexual harassment and sexual assault is not permissible and also give a face to it.”
Watch the six videos below: