It troubles me. The Tony Robbins video we all have seen the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure what troubles me the most, though. Whether it is how he addressed women who have been sexually assaulted standing up for themselves or how he is mansplaining the woman who had the guts to confront him; whether it is how he justified his point of view by giving an example that displayed why we still have to keep talking about that darn glass ceiling or how he raised his voice to drown Nanine McCool’s; whether it is how he used his sheer size to intimidate her or the threatening words that came along; whether it is how he refused to apologize for something he’s not sorry for because he didn’t want to appear unauthentic or how he a few weeks later posted an apology status on his facebook post after all. Or if it is all the people in the room listening and watching and still cheering for him. It is all troublesome.
The Global Problem
So, why would I, a resident of Norway with no ties to the USA, even care about this, a video of a man at an event thousands of miles away, on the other side of the big pond? I could just close my eyes to this or look in another direction because it doesn’t concern me. But I can’t and it does. This is a global problem. Even though Norway is defined as one of the best countries to live in, even though we have come a long way integrating equality in the workplace – we have an all-female top government for crying out loud – we also fight the same attitude Mr Robbins displayed in the video. I owe it to my fellow sisters to raise my voice – or sharpen my pen – to show my support. Mr Robbins has also a huge impact on the Scandinavian and European self-development arena, his approach legitimates an attitude men in my immediate area could pick up on.
From my point of view, in this video Tony Robbins becomes a manifestation of the typical man who uses his power and position to get what he wants. The really sad thing is that he claims to be a supporter of the #metoo movement, a movement he doesn’t seem to have grasped the understanding of – at all. According to McCool paraphrasing afterwards about the moments before the video started, Mr Robbins, after telling a story about Steve Wynn and all his accomplishments, managed to say that women used the #metoo movement as a mean to stay in the victimhood and use it to gain significance. Steve Wynn has recently stepped down after serious sexual allegations in his workplace. Mr Robbins calls himself an empowerment expert, that is what he has focused on for his 40-year long career, he claims. I find it odd that he then doesn’t acknowledge the empowerment women actually express when coming forward with their stories. Instead, he is covering his client’s arses, I mean the clients with the big bucks. In the clip, he is advocating this group, not the numerous clients of his who are not members of the boys’ club, not the average fan of his who may have been targets of sexual harassment. Believe it or not, most women have at one point during their career experienced it, some more serious than others. It is a huge problem.
There are plenty of decent, cool, nice, lovely men who know how to behave, please do step forward and show the ones that don’t how to be around women.
This problem is bigger than Tony Robbins, what he showed us in the video reflects the attitudes of many middle-aged men. It is too common, it is too integrated in our culture for us to see it. It is accepted. Men will be men, boys will be boys. Another way to say that the boys can do what they want and, as the President of the US so eloquently stated, «just grab them by the pussy». This is what troubles me the most: that we silently accept it. It shouldn’t be necessary that we need to out men because they don’t know how to behave, that we need to make a global movement to address the problem, that we have to shake the people in power’s ground, just to make it visible to them and others that this is not okay. Turns out that after 12 years of the movement’s existence and 6 months after the hashtag went viral, we still have a long way to go. It seems like many men, like Mr Robbins showed in the video, doesn’t understand the depth of it. I want to jump in with a quick side note here: this doesn’t apply to all men. There are plenty of decent, cool, nice, lovely men who know how to behave, please do step forward and show the ones that don’t how to be around women.
Victims vs Truth-tellers
I admit Tony Robbins does have a point, though poorly presented. This isn’t easy to bring up because it is a sensitive matter and many can feel violated. Let’s face it. Some people feel violated by everything. Some cultivate their victimhood. If they want to thrive and get out of the situation they are in, they need to look into the ugly mirror that reveals everything and find the strength within them to rise above the difficulties, whether it is an abusing boss, alcoholic mother or a bullying classmate. But to use it to have leverage isn’t the way to conquer, to use it to get sympathy isn’t the way to build a strong foundation of self. That is not the #metoo movement’s agenda, its agenda is to distinguish right from wrong, to make it visible to the world what women have had to keep up with within the men’s self-acclaimed arenas and to signal that enough is enough. Expressing that is not very victim-like, is it?
So when Robbins marries the defence story of a man known for extensive sexual abuse in his workplace and the idea that women use this as a mean to get the significance, it is serious. He devalues the experiences many women have and have had. Should we question that he ever was abused by his mother? Should we question the intention he had with coming forward with his story. Was it to gain significance at his mother’s expense? Hasn’t he used this story as a mean to connect with people, to bring them closer to him or vice versa, to build a multibillion-dollar company?
He has also been marked by abuse, Mr Robbins writes on his Facebook page, implying that he knows the heart of this. Hence the apology, can’t we just let it go? The guy has posted an apology, you might think. Yes, he has, and it would be the easiest thing for me to ignore it all. But there is something that still troubles me after reading the apology. Well written as it is, I still get the feeling that he doesn’t fully understand the problem. He writes that his “comments failed to reflect the respect” he has for the movement and its ignitor, and continues with stating that he agrees with the goals and the founding message. He also writes that he still has much to learn (haven’t we all?) but, in his apology post, he fails to actually apologize for his behaviour at the event. The same way he controlled the mike and the communication at the event, he does so in this statement. Posting it on his facebook page – a platform mostly filled with fans, he is cultivating his clients. The post is eloquently written, again he will direct many to agree with him. Is he sincere? I believe he realised he overstepped something. If he really understands what, I’m not so certain of. As we could hear in the video, he wouldn’t apologize for something he wasn’t sorry for, well, with this written statement the one thing he apologized for was how he suggested anything other than his profound admiration for the #metoo movement, he proved that he isn’t sorry for his mansplaining, his threatening behaviour, his blaming women for searching for significance on the men’s expense or for justifying men’s actions. He says he has watched in awe how an increasing number of women find their voice, stand up and speak out, he failed to mention the powerful voice McCool expressed. He, as a teacher of empowerment, should have recognized that.
In the midst of all this, we can all be grateful for the cool McCool’s in the world, who stand up against this neanderthal thinking and acting.
In the midst of all this, we can all be grateful for the cool McCool’s in the world, who stand up against this neanderthal thinking and acting. We need more of them, we need to be a McCool in our own lives, each and every one of us, we need to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in, no matter how powerful and intimidating the opponent is. If we manage that, we might see less of acts like the ones Mr Robbins pulled in this event, and that so many of his likes do every day. That would make me less troubled.
Featured image: Line Heggelund