I generally reserve this space for professional content. And it is exactly in that context that I’m going to comment on the #MeToo messages I’ve been seeing, although at some point it’s impossible to separate the professional from the personal and the political.
The messages are very sobering.
I know women who’ve been harassed, abused, even raped. I’ve seen many statistics over the years on the large percentage of women who have said they’ve experience one or more of the above. I always believed those statistics. I don’t anymore.
I believe the statistics are way too low, underrepresenting the pervasive and insidious extent of the problem. It’s hard to find a woman who doesn’t have a story to tell.
Over the past week, I’ve seen many people I admire greatly, smart, strong women, women with great stature in my industry, and women who’ve gone far in other industries, speak out and say #MeToo. If they’re saying it, I know it’s true. I am so sorry that you’ve had to deal with that—that you are still dealing with it.
And I also know that many others haven’t felt secure enough to say anything when they’ve been the victims.
I understand that. There are times when I have allowed people to say and do things that I thought were wrong, morally and ethically wrong, and when I sat silently. I’m actually thinking of examples that had nothing to do with sexual harassment. But they come to mind because I understand the fear of losing one’s job, or business, or even just being looked at differently, or shamed or disbelieved, for speaking up. I’ve lost business for speaking up—the fear is a rational fear.
I also understand the physical fear. I’m a big, fit guy, and probably intimidating to some as a result. And on a couple of occasions, I have been punched in the face for intervening with guys who were harassing women. Other times, I’ve been yelled at and threatened for speaking up. The threat runs through my mind in these situations, because you actually can get hurt, and I can imagine that threat seems very real to most people, let alone to someone half my size.
The courage of those who are speaking up is impressive. At the same time, it’s not the fault of anyone who has been subjected to this for not saying anything, not the fault of those who haven’t felt safe saying anything. The blame lies first and foremost with the perpetrators. It also rests with those of us who don’t speak, who don’t act, when we see it, especially from a position of relative safety.
We need to do better. Much better. This isn’t a women’s problem. (Men can be victims, too, but that is not what I mean.) It diminishes us all. When people can’t do their jobs because they’re afraid—because of sexual harassment, or harassment about race, religion, orientation, or anything else—we lose. In the long run, we lose professionally. But more than that, we lose as humans.
I’m sorry I haven’t done more.
I started by pointing out that this is a professional forum. Now my professional pledge. If I see it, I will say something. If you are a client that can’t treat people with respect, I won’t work for you. If you are a vendor, I won’t hire you. If you are a colleague, I will call you out on it. If you’re not OK with that, don’t hire me, don’t ask me to work with you, don’t ask for my business. I’m fortunate enough to not care if I lose business from jerks. I’m fortunate enough to spend time working to fix this so others don’t have to do business with jerks, either.
That’s not most of you. I work in an industry full of good people. Please, though, let’s work together to do better than we have. If you see something, say something, do something. For all of us.