Public Service Announcements (or PSAs) are strange things. Some of them have been so tone deaf over the years, using weird imagery and language while trying to push kids to just say no to drugs or avoid the perils of teen sex. I still remember a PSA I saw as a kid about someone stealing condoms because they were too shy to buy them, with the messaging that if you aren’t mature enough to buy condoms, you aren’t mature enough to cope with the reality of sex. This latest batch of PSAs deal with sexual harassment, and they hit a little too close to home for me.
So often, sexual harassment and assault is depicted as strangers jumping out of bushes to flash people, or gross lecherous men groping teenagers on the subway. The reality of sexual harassment is much more nuanced. It’s usually from someone you know, perhaps in the workplace or from someone in a position of power. It is still harassment, and in a way even more insidious. David Schwimmer helped produce these new PSAs and they are well written, acted and filmed, and showcase some real star power as well. Here are a few that resonated with me.
I found it really hard to watch these. I was uncomfortable and the videos are difficult to deal with, probably because it made me realize just how much more sexual harassment I’ve experienced in my life. And there has always been the pressure to just “be cool with it”, to not lash out or react because then you’re the bitch, the feminazi. Like the woman in the first video – you’re meant to just say “nah, it’s fine, we’re good” instead of calling the guy out on his bad behavior.
When we talk about sexual harassment being normalized, when we talk about the impact of having notable celebrities and role models exposed for gross misbehavior, too often the backlash is horrible. People will ask “well, how else are men supposed to make women know they’re special, that they’re interested?” or “well, maybe she just misunderstood”. Men AND women continue to question what really happened, to undermine victims’ voices. And the “cool” women don’t seem to have these issues, so what’s the problem?
I hope that everyone, men and women, watch these PSAs. Sexual harassment can occur against women and men, and perhaps aggressors aren’t even aware that they are perpetrators. This should help raise the profile of the conversation, at the very least, and possibly change a few people’s views of sexual harassment. Sadly, it reminds me of conversations I will need to have with Harley as she grows up. I just hope that the world is a little bit safer when she’s older, and that she has the skills needed to combat these kinds of situations. We can only hope.