Sexual harassment training videos are a mandatory embarrassment for most employees and awkward absolution for employers.
Terrible. Cheesy. Outdated. Heavy-handed — those are the kinds of words that come to mind for the vast majority of these scenario-laden instructional videos. And unfortunately, few people really expect them to serve a purpose beyond creating a legal shield for employers in the face of future sexual harassment allegations.
In the months since the #MeToo Movement started, people who have wanted to implement real change at their workplaces have struggled to find a guide for workers that addresses the complicated ways these situations can play out and doesn't brush subtler forms of harassment under the rug. Now, Rashida Jones is taking up the mantle with an animated anti-harassment PSA she directed (and narrated by Donald Glover) for Time's Up.
"There's been a lot of discussion about whether that's even fair to link someone pinching an ass or something off-colour at work to an actual assault," Jones told BuzzFeed. "I think a lot of people struggle with the connection, because they think it's dramatic to connect the two. So the PSA is intended to explain that there are these nuanced dynamics that are happening when there's a power imbalance."
The video used the viral "Tea Consent" written by Rachel Brian and produced by Blue Seat Studios as a model, Rashida told BuzzFeed. In it, a series of stick figures navigate the issue of consent through the making and sharing of tea: "Just imagine instead of initiating sex you're making them a cup of tea you say, 'Hey would you like a cup of tea?' And they go, 'Oh my god, fuck yes, I would fucking love a cup of tea — thank you!' then you know they want a cup of tea," the narrator explains.
This time around, Jones worked with Brian to create a series of legal-friendly FAQs that address "touching people at work, making comments about a coworker's appearance, dating at work, and witnessing other people's bad behaviour." She says Glover expressed a desire to help, and that his involvement underscores the need for men to discuss these issues, too.
"It's been a tough conversation to include men in, because I think there are a lot of things women feel men have not understood up until now, and they don't feel like it's their job to educate them," Jones told BuzzFeed.
The video is refreshingly realistic in this respect. A fair number of men — and women — have caterwauled about the "thought police" making it virtually impossible to say anything to women at work without being accused of impropriety. But certain standards aren't that difficult to uphold. For example, Glover asks in the PSA if it's okay to think someone looks sexy at work. The answer: "Sure. Think away." But is it okay to leer at another person, toss out sexual innuendos, and demand that they accept your "compliment"? Uh, the answer is no.
Curious about how the rest of the video holds up? Check it out to see.