As common as sexual harassment is, there are still times when it can be hard for a woman — or man — to explain the incident. Sometimes harassment is overt, violent, easy to spot. Sometimes the interaction doesn't sound "so bad," no matter how much someone explains just when it started to go from normal to icky. David Schwimmer's anti-sexual harassment videos focus on these harder to define instances of sexual harassment, which is why they should be mandatory viewing for everyone.
There are six videos in the #ThatsHarassment series, which are adapted from a similar series done last year by Israeli-American director Sigal Avin in Israel. Avin approached Schwimmer about making English language versions and the resulting videos are as compelling as they are disturbing.
If you've been sexually harassed, as one in three women has been, according to a wide 2015 Cosmopolitan survey, each scenario will feel all too real. They capture what can only be described as "everyday" harassment — those times when the man stops behaving like an equal and tries to assert his power over a woman. And because it is a boss, a coworker, a doctor, a person the woman needs for her career (like a photographer doing a screen test or a politician giving a journalist an interview), the woman ends up just doing whatever she can to get out of the situation.
You have to watch them to get the full idea, but please be warned: They're done so well that they could be triggering.
Emmy Rossum does a very good job showing just how hard it can be to extricate yourself from harassment at work — especially when the other person has more power than you.
Noah Emmerich is an actor working with a stylist in this short film, which portrays a troubling and explicit (though it's not shown in the short) moment of indecency.
Here, the twist really comes at the end, when you realize how many people don't, or won't, call harassment harassment, as Bobby Cannavale plays a photographer who just goes too far.
Cynthia Nixon stars in this one, in which a doctor makes a move so subtle even she's not sure she caught it.
Schwimmer himself stars with Zazie Beetz in this all-too-common scenario, in which one person attempts to be "romantic" where it's unwanted or un-prompted.
Ah yes, even when a woman tries to call harassment out, no one gets it, as this short points out.
All of the videos are based on actual real-life instances, which shouldn't surprise any woman — though Avin told Cosmopolitan that some of her friends didn't get it at first:
What a lot of men and good friends have said is that in watching these, you see how easy it is to cross the line. A lot of men in Israel were saying they went to sleep that night going through their history, asking themselves, "When exactly did I do this and when exactly did I do that?"
That subtlety is what prompted Avin to do the series in the first place, and the one video with The Actor is based on her own real-life experience. She said of the project:
I realized that I really wanted to see what sexual harassment was instead of hearing about it and reading about it all the time. There was nothing on it, everything was much more violent, or unreal, but there was nothing that showed the gray area of sexual harassment.
Avin said that even when a man pulled out his penis in front of her, she didn't clue in right away to just how awful and humiliating something like that really was until years later.
Likewise, Schwimmer said that every woman in his life — except his 6-year-old daughter — has a story similar to one in the videos. After viewing the one with the doctor, even his own mother shared an experience in which she was harassed by a physician. The videos, in their simplicity, really get to the heart of just how common harassment can be.
Hopefully, with more campaigns like this one, that won't be true for much longer.