Examining the #ThatsHarassment campaign

// 25 August 2017

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#ThatsHarassment campaign

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

Many of us think we know what sexual harassment looks like. Sometimes this causes more subtle, everyday instances of harassment to go overlooked — you know, situations that feel so familiar that we don’t even notice when things go awry?

These are the moments actor David Schwimmer and director Sigal Avin want to bring our attention to in their series of videos titled #ThatsHarassment.

Each of the campaign’s six videos explores a different ‘everyday’ circumstance in which women experience harassment. Each one is also based on real incidents that have happened to women.

While these videos may not come as a shock to women who have experienced the scenes they depict, they’re extremely eye-opening for those who haven’t or perhaps never thought of what it might be like to feel unsafe in these spaces.

The Co-worker

Much like a recent SNL sketch, this video showcases the ‘faux feminist’ man. He pretends to be super supportive of women, but only to boost his social credentials. This guy literally says he’s “The biggest feminist there is” after inappropriately touching his co-worker without her consent.

He even says if anyone makes her uncomfortable, he’ll take care of it. Yet he’s participating in the very behaviour he’s criticising. He tries playing the protector role — but instead is a thinly-veiled predator.

The Actor

Celebrities shouldn’t get away with harassment just because they’re famous. A woman working as a stylist asks the actor she’s dressing to make a video for her niece’s birthday, but by the end of their conversation is no longer interested in it.

The actor exposes himself for what he is by the middle of the video. He thinks he’s irresistible because of his status as a prominent actor — but she’s not buying it. It can be a punch to the gut when you find out your idol is a creep and it’s heartbreaking to see the woman’s face as she realises this actor her niece loves is a scumbag.

The Boss

The scenario in this video is probably a lot more common than some people think. A 2015 survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed at work. If the harassment comes from an employer women can feel pressured to avoid speaking out from fear of losing their job.

The boss in this video really preys on that fear by telling his female employee that they had been looking for someone older and with more experience for the job, but that he was glad that they had chosen her.

He also exhibits characteristics similar to the co-worker, but instead of faux feminism, he’s trying to make sure she feels ‘comfortable’ at the company — while becoming the one who makes her uncomfortable. When she rejects his kiss, he makes her end on a hug so he “knows everything is good between them.”

The Doctor

We put our trust in healthcare professionals to give us the care we need, so it really makes your skin crawl to witness someone abusing that trust. In this video, a patient goes in for sinus issues, and that somehow leads to her undoing her shirt buttons.

He then gives her a ‘breast exam,’ letting his hands linger and very obviously making her uncomfortable. He tells her that she has sinusitis, which she expected from the beginning, and which he could’ve easily diagnosed without groping her.

The Politician

Unfortunately, a predatory politician isn’t something that really surprises the world anymore.The journalist in the video has to continually shut down the politician’s advances just to get her interview.

The Photographer

This one might be the most disturbing of all the videos. Not only is a photographer taking advantage of a young model, but at the end, we see there’s a room of people just watching it happen. We want to believe someone would stop this behaviour if they saw it but this video shows how damaging and consequential bystander apathy is.

This campaign is extremely important in showing people subtle, everyday ways sexual harassment can present itself. It also helps validate victims’ experiences by letting them know they weren’t out of line in thinking someone’s behaviour was inappropriate.

Image from Youtube, by #ThatsHarrassment. Used under Fair Use.

Image is of a male politician and a female journalist in a comfortable-looking office. The camera looks through at the pair from behind blinds as if spying. The female journalist wears a smart blue dress and the male politician wears a black suit. The journalist is conducting an interview. The pair sit on black leather couches, facing each other.

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