“So few men want to have this conversation, because they get killed. They get killed,” Megyn Kelly said boldly to David Schwimmer on Megyn Kelly TODAY. “Do you have any fear in being the guy that does it?”
Without hesitation, he replied, “I don’t.”
This isn’t a shock, as Schwimmer has co-produced six short films with writer and producer Sigal Avin, appropriately named #ThatsHarrassment, to shed light on the different ways that women are being sexually harassed every day. These videos have also been shortened into a series of PSA announcements that are set to run on Fox, Showtime, CBS, Hulu, and Amazon, as well as all of New York’s Taxi TVs.
Schwimmer, known for playing quirky Ross on Friends, is brazenly helping to open doors that, for much too long, have quietly been kept shut.
I know this, because I see myself in their videos. From the clip of a man exposing himself to a woman at work, to another portraying a woman being sexually assaulted by her doctor, I find myself reeling as I remember the job I quit after a superior filed a falsified disciplinary action against me when I refused his sexual advances. And, these PSAs bring back memories of the doctor whom I simply never returned to after he called me his “special patient” and groped my breasts during a routine physical.
I never said anything to anyone about those instances, but I wish every day that I had.
Schwimmer says he’s had enough, especially after growing up with stories of his mother, a California lawyer, being sexually harassed in the workplace, and then learning that many women in his life had also been the victim of sexual harassment or assault.
“I want to change things,” he recently told Megan Carpentier from NBC’s Think.
And his motivation for this is one that parents everywhere can relate to: He wants a better world for his 6-year-old daughter, Cleo.
“She just told me last night that at school on Friday, some boys behind her, some older boys, were kind of touching and kicking her back a little,” he explained to Kelly. “She turned around and gave them a look. I said, ‘Next time, Cleo, you need to turn around and firmly but politely say to please stop touching me. If you do that twice and they keep on touching you, you stand up, walk away and find a grownup, period.’ It’s important to instill that kind of confidence from an early age.”
With a no-shame parenting style that I can’t help but applaud, Schwimmer doesn’t hold back in explaining that he wants to raise a daughter who is proud of her body, and who she is.
“With my daughter, it’s more about just knowing it’s your body and your space,” said Schwimmer. “It’s more about personal space and building confidence in her to speak out and speak up if anything she encounters makes her feel uncomfortable, period. Her body, her hair, it’s hers. She owns it. It’s giving her the courage and confidence to speak up and speak out.”
This deeply resonates with me especially, not only as the parent of a 9-year-old daughter, but because of my own past history of sexual assault. I know that much of what happened to me occurred because there is so much that no one talks about. I knew that rape was bad, but what I didn’t know was that there was an entire rape culture around me where lines were blurred and secrets were kept. I didn’t stand up for myself, because in a society built on parenting our children to be polite, there weren’t enough people teaching me when to speak up and say “no.”
And that is not the path that I want for my daughter.
Thankfully, Schwimmer, a 15-year board member of The Rape Foundation, doesn’t want that for my child either.
“This is real. This is unacceptable,” he told Carpentier. “I’m the father of a 6-and-a-half year-old daughter; if I’m going to do something about this for the future generations, now is the time.”
I find myself cheering along with him, because he couldn’t be more right. With the #MeToo movement, followed by the #MeTooK12 movement, if there is anything that we are learning, it’s that the problem of sexual assault against women is much bigger than we have previously given it credit for.
Schwimmer understands this. He’s speaking out now because he wants a better future for his child, my child, and your child. There is no shame in teaching our girls to say “no,” and there is no shame in standing up and saying, “I’ve had enough.” As he told Carpentier:
“I want to make sure that every employer and every company understands what they can do to help prevent sexual harassment at work. If every company would do that, that would be a good start to ending the sexual harassment that women have had to ensure for generations. And then, maybe, my daughter’s generation won’t have to endure what my mother’s did, and what mine did.”