The Problem with David Schwimmer’s #ThatsHarassment Videos

The David Schwimmer PSAs blew up my Facebook feed this week. Touted as “powerful” and “must-see” I thought they’d reveal something about sexual harassment that the average person didn’t already know. Instead, they perpetuate the patriarchal interpretation of what sexual harassment is and is not. That is to say that unless sexual harassment escalates to a certain degree, it’s not, in fact, harassment.

Each PSA portrays intensifying incidences of sexual harassment in workplaces. A bartender who harasses his new female colleague with inappropriate jokes, then grabs her ass and licks her ear. A boss who hovers over his employee, gets increasingly closer, then touches her earrings and kisses her on the lips. A photographer who prods for a model’s sexual fantasies then has her masturbate in front of him.

The clips end with “#ThatsHarrassment” displayed across the screen. As someone who has experienced sexual harassment, “#ThatsHarassment” felt like a slap in the face. It was as if to say the crude jokes, inappropriate hovering and uncomfortable prodding were not also harassment, which they are.

Here’s how the Government of British Columbia defines sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It is sexual harassment if someone repeatedly says or does things to you that are insulting and ffensive. It can be words or actions that are sex or gender-related.
There are many types of sexual harassment:

  • unwanted touching
  • making o ensive jokes or remarks about women or men
  • making sexual requests or suggestions
  • staring at or making unwelcome comments about someone’s body
  • showing sexual pictures or images
  • being verbally abusive to someone because of gender

Harassment may be sex discrimination even if it is not sexual in nature. This can happen when someone harasses you simply because of your gender. Sexual harassment happens most often to women, but it can also happen to men or between members of the same sex.

Sexual harassment is a human rights issue. If you or someone you know is experiencing harassment or discrimination based on your sex or gender, you can seek help. Don’t feel like you have to report it, but here are some resources that may help you:

Please let me know if you know of other resources in and around Vancouver, or if you need directing to services in your own area.

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