Mayor Rahm Emanuel Unveils Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign With The Help Of A ‘Friend’ (Hint: David Schwimmer) | WBEZ
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel Unveils Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign With The Help Of A 'Friend' (Hint: David Schwimmer)

The #metoo and #timesup movements aren’t just on social media anymore. Chicago cab and bus riders will be seeing anti-sexual harassment messages during their commutes starting Monday.

Public service announcements about workplace sexual harassment will start playing in Chicago cabs, and posters with the #ThatsHarassment message will be displayed at city bus stops. The campaign was co-created by actor David Schwimmer, who’s best known for playing Ross on the TV show Friends.

The ads are particularly timely given the allegations of sexual harassment that have rocked multiple industries, including Chicago and Illinois politics.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the point of the PSAs?

Each of the ads takes place in a different professional setting and shows a man in power crossing a line with a woman. In “The Politician,” a male pol compliments a female campaign staffer while rubbing her leg. Another depicts a male doctor conducting a routine check-up on a female patient before giving her an unnecessary breast exam.

Schwimmer said the goal is to educate the public and provide resources to victims, bystanders, and most importantly, employers.

“Traditionally and historically, [human resources] training in this area has really been to protect the companies legally from litigation, so this is taking it a step further and trying to create a culture,” Schwimmer told reporters at the campaign’s unveiling at City Hall on Monday.

How did Ross from Friends get involved?

In addition to playing Ross, Schwimmer has advocated for sexual assault education, awareness, and prevention for more than two decades, according to the mayor’s press release.

Schwimmer said the work on the ad campaign was well underway before the sexual assault scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein made headlines. When asked if anything has improved in the entertainment industry since the #metoo and #timesup movements began, he said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know if it’s getting better or worse,” Schwimmer said. “But I’m pretty confident that sexual harassment is happening every day, probably right now as we have this conference, in every industry.”

What’s the #ThatsHarassment campaign have to do with politics?

The #metoo movement swept through Illinois politics last fall, and more recently hit City Hall.

In February, Alaina Hampton, a campaign staffer for the Democratic political organization of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, accused the powerful state lawmaker and local Ald.Marty Quinn (13th Ward) of not doing enough when she reported sexual advances from her boss. That boss, Kevin Quinn, is the alderman’s brother.

After ducking questions about the scandal, Emanuel said Monday that he supports a full investigation.

“They’ve got to get to the bottom of it and the chips will fall where they may,” he said.

He had a similar answer when asked about the fate of Madigan, who was re-elected as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party later in the afternoon.

How might this affect Emanuel's re-election in 2019?

Emanuel has tried to distance himself from the scandal as he seeks re-election in 2019. He has instead highlighted his recent effort to close the gender pay gap by barring city departments from asking job candidates’ salary histories. The mayor also supported recent updates to the city’s sexual harassment ordinance.

“We have to set a standard,” Emanuel said on Monday. “We can’t ask something of the private sector and not do something ourselves, given how large an employer we are.”

Emanuel rolled out the #ThatsHarassment campaign standing alongside a group of female politicians, including Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th Ward), who sponsored the changes with other female council members.

“We’re supportive of one another, but truthfully, we’re also supportive of the men that support women, too,” she said. “Whether that’s David (Schwimmer), or the mayor, or the other male members of City Council.”

Emanuel could use that support now that he’s facing seven possible challengers, only one of whom is a woman. So while the PSAs are aimed at all Chicagoans, they could resonate with one particular audience: women voters.

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. You can follow her at @beckyvevea

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