Friday, November 17, 2017

#MeToo–An Incomplete and Inauthentic Dialog

No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one. - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. - Adam Grant

Authenticity is a virtue. But just as you can have too little authenticity, you can also have too much. - Adam Grant

I’ve been struggling with the #MeToo dialog since the Weinstein explosion first erupted.

It’s not that the conversation is not important in the wake of revelations of predatorial actions by people with deviant beliefs or supersized egos fueled by their need for unnecessary exploitation of power.  Such miscreants must be revealed.

It’s more that I find the conversation to be lacking or out of balance in some ways, expressed inappropriately in others and to be completely hypocritical in others.

There are the obvious public sources of confusion for me.

For example, people have questioned the morals of President Trump with his “grab her by the p___y comment” and yet welcome former President Clinton as a desired speaker despite credible accusations of rape against him and a long history of using his position of authority to exert inappropriate influence over women.

Clinton is, after all, much more affable than Trump – you’d be surprised how much this influences people’s perspectives about someone.

Senator Al Franken, who once expressed his concern over President Trump’s comment, now finds that he needs to defend himself against serious allegations that may be worse than a “mere phrase” (if you can call it that).  I wonder how many other Trump haters are lying in the wings, petrified of their own behavior being revealed.

I am also concerned about the potential of some accusers destroying the careers of others before allegations are proven true or relevant.  It seems that merely saying something can destroy a career without due process.

But as I examine my own career and experiences, greater sources of confusion arise for me regarding how long such issues have been incubating “in silence”.

Dave, a male client of mine at a Wall St. bank years ago, was notorious for belittling women and gay men and women.  One time he, a Senior Vice President of the Bank, called a female VP into a meeting.  When she arrived, he held out a sheet of paper and said “Here – I need 5 copies of this.”  After she complied, he told her she was excused.

Stop being hyper-sensitive, some might say – it’s just photocopying.


One day, Dave looked down the boardroom table and seeing Gary, a gay man with a ponytail sitting at the other end of the table, said, “I didn’t know we invited f*ing faggots to this meeting.”

We were stunned.

Am I still being hyper-sensitive?

When people reported Dave to HR, they discovered that he was more powerful than HR and that HR lived in fear that he might fire them.

He and his abusive, untouchable ways continued at the Bank for years until his retirement.

Meanwhile at another Wall St. client a couple of years later, I was consistently sexually harassed by my client, an alcoholic lush who seemed to need to sleep with every man in her presence.  I was to learn that there was a method to her madness.

When I got tired of it, I reported it to HR.  They first dismissed my concern, indicating that most men would feel flattered that a woman of such power and influence would want to sleep with them (a double standard for men facing harassment?).  When I persisted, they indicated that a review process could only be initiated if her manager agreed to bring disciplinary action against her.

Requesting such an action would have been tricky – she had had an extramarital affair with every manager she ever had at the Bank, including her current one, and so there would be no action taken against her for fear of personal retribution (the method to her madness is revealed).

She had slept her way to the top or as one fellow VP told me, she had “sucked her way to the top”.  Who was being more disrespectful, her or the VP with such an observation?

One time she brought in chocolate chip cookies on a Friday afternoon and distributed them to specific team members.  I fortunately declined.  I say fortunately because one of my colleagues called me from Washington DC the next day, totally freaked out and with no recollection of how he had gotten there.

It turned out that the cookies had been laced with hash and “other stuff” but it was “just in fun”.

Discipline against this woman was impossible.

She held sexual leverage over the only man authorized to do anything in the Bank and the police would do nothing without evidence.

Meanwhile …

I knew a bitter, man-hating member of NOW (the National Organization of Women) years ago who claimed that equality would only be achieved when women were in charge of everything.  She based this assertion on the general level of disrespect that apparently all men dished out to all women.

Then one day, as a group of us were walking down the street and passed a man walking towards us in track pants, she turned to a colleague and said “Wow – did you see the one-eyed trouser snake on that guy?  Look how he hangs in those pants – who wouldn’t want a piece of that?”

I called her on her inconsistency, that she demanded respect from the opposite gender while making remarks like that, and an argument ensued.

We never spoke again (by her choice).

Meanwhile in the media world ….

I’ve noticed over the last few years, a growing number of commercials that poke at the failure of men.

Examples include such things as handyman commercials promoting services to women to repair the incompetent work of husbands (or to do what their lazy husbands won’t do), alarm system companies describing wives complaining about the totally worthless system their incompetent husband insisted on installing, etc.

While some people may find such commercials amusing, as a man, I find them insulting.

How would women’s groups react if we ran commercials from the other side, describing lazy, stupid women who kept letting men down?

What would happen if we introduced racial or gender slurs into such commercials?

A windshield company in my area runs a commercial on the radio that ends with the catchy line “come in and show us your crack”, an obvious, intentional double-entendre.

If I went to that establishment, walked up to the woman behind the counter and said to her, “I came here to show you my crack”, she might call the police, depending on how I delivered the message.  It’s fun to say it but not so much fun to receive it.

Watching a national network TV program the other night, four women were having a discussion about the post-Weinstein world and agreed that it was time for all men to feel the sting and shame of disrespect.

Do they really believe that an eye for an eye will solve anything or that punishing all men for the disrespectful behavior of a minority of men is fair?

They concluded by saying that we need laws in place to prevent problems in the future.

We do which leads me to my next concern.

I remember a few years ago as salacious stories leaked out of the Alberta Legislature of highly inappropriate behavior by elected officials that included affairs between elected officials, elected officials and staff and elected officials and outsiders. I was shocked as the details made Fifty Shades of Grey look like a Dr. Seuss book.  Interesting romps around the world on the taxpayer dime, oral sex in men’s rooms performed by elected officials at official functions while their spouses waited outside and the like were astonishing and disturbing.

When I spoke to my elected representative about my concerns regarding how people could be compromised into doing the wrong things against the best interest of the people if these secrets were used as leverage, he replied that he understood where I was coming from but that sometimes values and ethics needed to be put aside for the greater good of the Party.

Not to be outdone, rumors of everything salacious under the sun occurring in the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature are common knowledge, with the same mix of affairs between elected officials, elected officials and staff and elected officials and outsiders (including lobbyists).

It’s such common knowledge that no one cares.  In discussing it up with one elected official, I was told that you need to look past that and see the good in the person.  I argued that I wasn’t seeing the bad in the person but I was concerned about the impact on innocent families and the potential for a secret to be used against an official in some form of extortion.  My argument was rejected. 

Another elected official complained to me (why me, I can’t do anything about it) incessantly about elected officials sleeping with each other, sleeping with lobbyists and even using sex in exchange for legislative support but when I pointed out that they could do something to put an end to it, the response was that this could compromise their position in the Party or impact future election possibilities and so it wasn't a realistic option.

A third elected official told me that the elected individual having an affair with a staff member was really the victim and that outing the individual would hurt their family unnecessarily and unfairly.

I’m sorry – that person has already hurt their family unnecessarily and unfairly.

The family just don’t know …. yet.

Two of the three elected officials I mentioned are women.

Recourse is difficult.

Bring such news out in the light of day and you face SLAPP lawsuits, libel suits, etc.

Bring it to the press or some oversight group and you have to hope that they haven’t been compromised or you face the other possibility that the news is so common, that it’s a yawner of no interest to them.  One reporter to whom such stories were reported to did nothing because he was having an affair with communications personnel working for the person facing some of the allegations.  In another situation, an individual in an oversight group that protects women is best friends with many of the people being accused so justice won’t come from that corner either.

Meanwhile, the people on the inside who aren’t participating turn a blind eye towards such behavior, often for personal, selfish interests or perhaps they face the reality that someone has something on them also.

I wonder what those people would think if they were on the receiving end, if their husband or wife participated in such things (or were extorted as a result) or if their mother, wife, daughter or sister got caught up with someone of influence exerting unnecessary power with their influence.

I wonder what the legal system would think if a private corporation had such things going on and where such activity was encouraged or ignored.

And so the conversation is not as easy or one-sided as #MeToo would imply.

My point with all of this is that this is not just a “women being disrespected by men” issue.

We have some serious underlying societal issues that, while surfacing because of Weinstein, go much deeper and broader than one gender being disrespected by another.

We have been overrun by a lack of respect for ourselves and for each other, regardless of which gender we represent, and a need to exploit others for personal or professional gain.

And until we get back to respect for each other, regardless of gender, race, religion, financial status, skin color, etc., events like the Weinstein moment, while media worthy, are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Bottom Line

The sad part of all of this is that as people observe the #MeToo conversation explode, many can relate to stories much worse.

It’s easy for Hollywood types or other public figures to come out and admit they’ve been assaulted, they have considered suicide, they have faced gender bias, they suffer from depression, etc.  They are worshipped and admired for their strength and courage.

The average citizen, unfairly and unfortunately, faces a much more difficult personal and professional battle making the same assertions.

Many people have observed such evil acts themselves and done nothing, either because they felt it wasn’t their business, someone had dirt on them, they didn’t want to compromise some potential gain for themselves or they were afraid of the repercussions of being vocal against ignorance.  Many of those who reach out to me with observations or complaints, having the power to fix it and doing nothing with that power, get little time or respect from me.

The more painful stories for me are from the people who have been hurt by the evil or indifference of others and could not find a way to bring justice and peace into their lives.

Many have reached out to me in recent months and shared their stories.

They are staggering stories of abuse, mistreatment and abuse of power by people who should be in jail.

However, they are helpless, either for fear of their job, for fear of their Life or because, as in my HR stories, the people in authority could or would not take action.

We don’t need revenge and anger in these conversations – this doesn’t solve much and will likely make problems worse.

We don’t need apathy and indifference, either because we are lazy or because standing up doesn’t serve our own personal interests.

We shouldn’t accept that people need to hide in fear while others use or abuse them.

We don’t need more legislation to prevent abuse – we have plenty of it already.

We do need an environment where victims, men and women, can feel safe reporting their pain, regardless of the nature of their concern. 

We need an environment where people are not forced into waiting for someone else to come forward first, creating a détente that produces silence.

We need an environment where observers can safely report pain when they observe it and where no one else within the environment will do anything about it (including the victim).

We need an environment where an individual’s power and authority, in business or government, doesn’t become a hammer under which people cower and refuse to stand up to them.

We need to acknowledge that not all men are to blame for all women’s problems, contrary to the point that one woman tried to make to me.  When she told me this and I countered with all of the work I have done with battered women’s shelters and the like for years, she said that denial was proof that I was more to blame than I realized or that I did so because of a private guilt I was struggling with.

Hatred has no logic or reasoning and must be approached with caution since ulterior or misguided motives may be in play.

I know of many situations where women have contributed to women’s issues, either being the protagonist in a situation or doing nothing when another woman was in trouble.  While this is the exception and not the rule, it happens more than we want to admit and must also be part of the dialog.

We need men and women of strong character, morals and values to stand together and out all poor behavior, whether it is perpetrated by their gender or the opposite side.

We need to listen more and be more aware of the plight of others around us.

We need to stop being hypocrites, accepting the hurt of others but only becoming angry if such activity ends up in our own world and affects us directly.  Whether we realize it or not, all abuse affects all of us directly … always.

We need to respect ourselves and stand by our values more often and with unwavering courage, because if our foundational values are poor or we are afraid to defend them, then we won’t see the problems developing around us (or our contribution to those problems).

We need to recognize that seeing the good in people is not the same as turning a blind eye to the bad or evil in them.

And until we have these things, Weinstein will just be the tip of iceberg.  Many will continue to suffer in silence while miscreants practice their twisted arts, relying on this silence to exploit others.

Meanwhile, others will take advantage of the noise and anger that has erupted for their own misguided reasons that have nothing to do with defending victims.

There are a lot of voices that are silent that shouldn't be and a lot of hypocrite voices that should put up or shut up.

Otherwise, we need to stop acting surprised, disappointed or angry when this stuff explodes or when we are directly impacted by it.

Because we will have been be part of the problem all along and not part of the solution.

Are you a part of the problem or part of the solution?

Are you sure?

Can you prove it?

In service and servanthood,


PS:  Readers who are quick to respond in anger regarding the notion that the majority of abuse is perpetrated by men against women are missing the point, should recognize that statistics aren't the point and that people who are in a statistical minority while experiencing abuse don't care that they are a minority.  The point is that we need a healthier world for everyone.

If we can't get to an agreement on that fundamental fact, then we will never solve the problems facing us because someone will always be facing oppression or abuse.

On a side note, I have a personal belief that we are karmically responsible for actions that we take and actions that we don't take that were within our reach.  For this reason, I believe that people who choose not to take action in the defense of others karmically owns the result.

Addendum - The Overreaction / Inappropriate Reaction Camp - November 20, 2017

In Sweden, women are reacting to the assaults committed recently by primarily immigrant males by announcing concerts where only women, trans-people and non-binary people only will be allowed.  This will allow them (so they claim) to guarantee that no sexual assaults will take place during the concerts.  I guess this also implies that gay men may be on the radar to assault women since they are also excluded from the concerts.

Such over-reaction would be akin to having a male-only concert where we would exclude women so that the "sluts and whores" present would not tempt us or a concert that excludes all immigrant males because we "just know they are all inherently evil".  The outcry would be significant (and warranted).

It goes to show that hastily embraced labels and generalizations that originate from overreaction or poor data create more divisiveness and problems than solutions.

But when has that stopped some people in the past?

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