Female and male voices — combined — are necessary to end sexual harassment — and to change SYSTEMS! It’s essential to understand the necessity of NUMBERS. Speaking out alone feels both risky and dangerous. Support as we see in the on line “me to” movement…and now “how will I change” from men…will hopefully help any woman who fears speaking out about what has happened to her in any place and at any time in her life.
If the extent of harassment of women is hard for you to believe, try asking any of the women you know what their experience is. And try asking your mothers, older women who have been in the work place for their entire professional lives. It is hard to find a woman who has NOT experienced some form of physical and/or verbal harassment. Truly!
The source of the problem: women as a group are defined as POWERLESS. When an individual is seen as UNEQUAL, she (or he) is open to miss-treatment. Certainly and thankfully there are many individual women who are powerful and who do speak out when facing inequity. However, the blow back can be challenging, regardless of the outcome. So the source of real power is SYSTEM SUPPORT. At the most simple level, if you want to introduce a controversial idea in your organization, you likely know you need some level of peer/colleague support when you speak up. When colleagues get on board with you, you have increased your power base, your impact, with NUMBERS. A group is harder to discount than one individual. Now add the emotional energy of coming forth with a charge of sexual harassment. Doing it alone doesn’t just FEEL dangerous…it IS dangerous. That, simply, is the reason so many women remain silent. And, now, thankfully, it’s the reason so many women are speaking up. They are being both believed and SUPPORTED. And when the support comes from both other women and MEN……it’s POWERFUL.
Personal Power can’t be over looked. Sadly, too many women in our culture have been taught to “give power away”…..through not having a voice that is contrary to group norms, to the beliefs of the larger group…..or simply causing conflict in any one on one relationship! You will be able to identify many exceptions to that statement…..and that’s wonderful. Women who own personal power and speak up are a gift to women hoping to learn to do the same. And it needs to be learned. Gretchen Carlson is a wonderful exception. Against all odds she took on the outrageous power and abuse of FOX NEWS….and she shares how long, how much courage it took to step out, to risk speaking out. As a result, her new book, BE FIERCE, will help women everywhere.
Carlson also advocates for “by-stander training” — helping all of us who see or suspect abuse to have a VOICE! Powerlessness is fierce. I first wrote about it in the 70’s and 80’s… my book RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE is in a third edition. You can find it at Amazon or on my website…. It is time for us to see the problem of abuse that comes from defining a group as powerless as a cultural problem. Think about stepping up and speaking out. You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel….and you deserve to feel good.