It took the #Metoo movement to finally get some senior executive men to understand that it was not okay to sexually harass women. The movement started in 2006. Realize though, that initially it was effective at raising awareness, but didn’t really start changing behavior until the perpetrators began to be prosecuted, removed from their jobs, and consequently much of their privilege. After all this type of behavior had been going on for quite for some time without any penalties. It started with the quiet dismissal for some, but this began to escalate as people realized that the desired change was not being manifested. As women’s stories began to be heard, more women spoke up, and the breadth and depth of the damage began to come into focus. Once legal action was pursued people began to pay even more attention. As the legal action escalated to include senior executives, being publicly removed from their positions, often with real financial penalties, we began to see some actual changes start to happen.
Until consequences show up, behavior rarely changes.
We know this. We've known this for eons. Ask any parent. Consequences indicate this is important and we are not willing to compromise. The levity of the consequences usually indicates the seriousness of the infractions.
We are now watching people who participated in the protest being fired for cause by both public and private companies. This is a consequence. The FBI is considering putting some people on the “No Fly” list due to their participation in last week’s insurrection. Another consequence and loss of privilege.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly not faced any consequences for his outrageous behavior over the last four years, and so he continues it. An errant child, who faces no consequences will not only continue the behavior but will continue to push the boundaries even further.
“I got away with that, how much more can I get away with?”
Why have we not done anything? Why did we not take effective action earlier? I expect a lot of people ducked their responsibilities because they feared retaliation. And for good reason, Mr. Trump's ability to viscously retaliate has been documented over and over again.
For years, this same fear also prevented women from speaking out. They got sexually harassed, said something, then got shoved in a corner, demoted, assigned to thankless tasks, or covertly fired. Other women watched this happen. Then they each had to decide, should I speak up or would it better to take the “safe bet” and chose silence. Often the fear of unknown can be magnified and appear far greater than the threat of the known. The harassment of women continued unabated for years, because they were full of fear.
Of course, there is another huge factor that plays into these scenarios and that is power.
Power is an undeniable force. One that often comes with a false impression of knowledge. Powerful people are that way because they are smarter, they know more, they have the right connections. But this does not necessarily ring true. As we know from other scandals like Enron, power does not connotate intelligence. We just think that it does.
Power does bring one thing that is deadly. The ability to silence others.
And this side effect of power has been used for time immemorial, to maintain the current status quo.
During the initial phases of the #Metoo movement many Executives were given a second chance, "I promise, I learned my lesson, I'll be good," only to become repeat and often serial offenders, as subsequent legal proceedings have shown. What changed? What shifted to start the turn of the tides?
It starts with one small voice. Rosa Parks spoke out by not giving up her seat on that bus. But it took many others speaking out to actually get change to start to happen. The same thing happened with the #Metoo movement. You can look at the case of Harvey Weinstein. A few bold women spoke out and were brave enough to press charges. Then more women spoke up, and more, and more. How could one man be allowed to get away with harassment, rape, and assault for at least three decades? You can bet that there were many who knew about his behavior long before those few brave souls spoke out and were heard. There were many who chose to turn their heads the other way. Perhaps they convinced themselves that these were isolated incidents. But I expect power had a lot to do with why they chose not to speak up or take any action. You can bet that fear was an overarching factor in their decision to remain silent.
What will be the consequences for last week's events? If we choose not to provide any, then we are condoning this behavior, so I hope we realize that we will see it again and again, because we are basically saying it is okay, the status quo. This is not okay with me.
There must be consequences for last week's insurrection.
If the protestors who participated are facing consequences, so should the perpetrator. Public companies have taken appropriate action. Social media accounts have been suspended, in accordance with their terms of service. Even web hosting services that were used to support communication amongst the participants have been terminated.
Congress must do their part and take real action! It has been started, but we must pursue it until the consequences are stiff enough to cause pain. Privileges may need to be suspended, perhaps indefinitely. Otherwise, we will be seeing more atrocities, not just from Mr. Trump, but from others, waiting in the wings. Our experience with #Metoo has told us that the consequences must be serious enough to incite a different behavior. Then, the rippling effect of change can begin.
Some people say, "Yes, but he's only in office till Jan 20th." That totally misses the point. And if you are thinking, "How much damage could he do?" If this week’s insurrection isn't enough for you. Need I remind you that he has the codes for our Nuclear Weapons? And quite frankly, that may be what scares me the most. What we do now will set precedence. Not only are people in the US watching, but so are other countries. What will America do?
There’s another message that we all need to hear, and it may be the most important one. There’s action that each and every one of us can take. Speak up. Just like we tell our children, use your voice. Do not allow fear to silence you.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
Whenever that little voice in your head says, “Wait a minute, what’s going on here?” This is when you really need to pay attention.
Now is when you need to speak up.
Adam Grant taught me a great lesson. He encourages people to speak up when someone makes a caustic remark about women. He teaches us to look at the person and ask, “What did you mean by that?,” out loud for the whole room to hear. Then let the silence settle over the room. It will be uncomfortable. Do it anyway. It is time for us as a society to stop letting people get run over by others. To stop letting those in power take unfair advantage of others.
It is time for each of us to start speaking up when we encounter wrongdoing, abuse of power, and oppression. And if someone else speaks first, and you agree; chime in and share your view. This is the only way, we as a society can implement change. This is how it has always happened. Each of us has the power to become the voice of the brave. It is up to us to use our voices to create the world we wish to live in.