Readers will know that I have been writing a series of posts about my experiments in personal growth titled “Tony Robins made me do it” which was started as a response to watching his documentary film “I am not your guru”.
Well this week Tony Robins definitely made me do it. He made me really cross.
Over the weekend, I saw a youtube video of part of a Tony Robins seminar which left me feeling deeply conflicted and frankly pretty disenchanted.
This is it. It’s an 11 minute watch, the sound isn’t great and there are shorter versions out there but I think it’s important to get the full story.
I found this deeply uncomfortable to watch. Not because of the content of what Tony Robins says about the #metoo movement itself (in summary this he talks about how some people using the #metoo campaign for self recognition and that this in turn keeps them attached to a situation in which they were a victim, which helps no one), but because he refuses to listen and acts like a bully in getting his argument across (about 4 mins in).
Lets take the content first. He doesn’t need me to defend him but I think that the point he is making is, essentially that anger and shouting at each other never solved any problems, that outing someone publicly and ruining their life won’t make their accuser happy. I actually agree with this because I think trial by social media just turns into a witch hunt followed by decisive slanging matches. I read something in one of the threads to the effect of “no one wants to re-tweet reasonable debate”. THAT in my opinion sums up what’s wrong with discussion on social media! I can’t tolerate unthinking outrage.
I do understand what he is saying about the potential for miss-use of the platform, and I have my own reservations about the usefulness of the #metoo movement based on my comments above. BUT. If it gives someone the courage to report abuse, or even raises awareness and understanding (in men or women) that certain behaviour is just not okay then there is incredible value to be found.
So what’s the problem?
What bothers me is the way he behaves towards the woman who stood up to ask the question.
For a start he barely lets her speak or make her point, he just preaches about his own opinion. He acknowledges that anyone can disagree with him but sadly he does not give the woman the opportunity to do just that
But the bit that really raises my blood pressure is that he uses his physical dominance to push her back, and keep her from speaking up. He seems to be suggesting that a if someone pushes you that you should not fight back. What I think he’s trying to say is that anger breeds anger but he frankly made a total mess of getting that point over and just looked like a 6ft 7in man dominating a woman who disagreed with him. For me that was hard to watch.
I don’t believe it’s intentional, but I think that a lot of men simply don’t understand the impact of their physical dominance on women. They perhaps understand it as it relates to other men (testosterone etc.) but many do not have the forethought to think about how they might feel if the roles were reversed.
How often do men have to think about what response their behaviour may elicit in someone physically stronger than them? When men get hit on in a bar, do they worry that rejection may provoke intimidation, verbal or physical abuse? How often to they hold their keys tight between their fingers when walking alone on a dark street and a lone man is on the other side?
This kind of thing forms women’s everyday experience. And it’s not about thinking that all men are abusive and that women are somehow the weaker sex. That’s all bullshit. But women’s self-preservation instincts have developed to automatically think about these things, whereas people who are physically dominant do not have and evolutionary need to even consider these things. It doesn’t even hit their radar.
Here’s an example to highlight what I’m trying to say.
My brother, who is around 6ft (not massive, but can hold his own), recently told me a story about a time when he was travelling in Mexico with another male friend. They were in local a bar in Guadalajara, when the bar tender bought over a drink sent form another table. Looking to see who it had come from, he was faced with a smiling, physically large transvestite, apparently also some sort of local gangster. He told me how he was bricking it as he felt so intimidated by the attentions of someone he did not know, he did not know their intention, their power, how he should react so as not to offend them and potentially provoke an aggressive response. I looked at him and said that this is basically how I feel every time I get inappropriate advances (without the gangster bit though) as you just never know how someone is going to react. It was like a lightbulb went off in his head, that this once in a lifetime experience for him is pretty commonplace for a lot of women.
So when I see Tony using his physical dominance to shut someone down like that I felt deeply disappointed in him. Surely this man of all men should know better? This is someone I hugely admire behaving like a bully. I applaud the woman for remaining calm and continuing to stand her ground and speak out against him, calmly and intelligently. She just wanted to have the discussion.
There’s another deeply concerning part of the video which I want to touch on. The story about his ‘friend’ who didn’t employ a woman (who was the most qualified candidate) because she was attractive and he worried about lawsuits. Aside from this being illegal (let’s not even go there!), it illustrates an important point. That perhaps, just aa women fear men may attack them, these male employers are worried about law suits. Everyone is just scared.
Here’s a newsflash.
Not all men harass women, not all women are going to launch harassment suits.
Just respect each other, don’t be a wanker and we should all get along fine!
The key here surely has to be communication. That is what Tony was saying about leaving the anger alone, but then he went and bloody ruined it by refusing to follow his own rules. THAT is what made me so cross. He was refusing to listen to let alone acknowledge this woman’s point of view.
So, I reluctantly let him tumble from his pedestal.
Then I realised something. And it’s nothing to do with #MeToo or about Tony Robbins even. I should not have put him up the ranks of the infallible in the first place.
No one is perfect.
If we believe, unquestioningly, that one person is all right or all wrong then we are immediately limiting our options and our freedom to decide own ur own beliefs (this is a big part of the issue I have with organised religion but that’s a whole other giant can of worms I’m leaving closed – religion and feminist movements in one post? I’m not insane!).
So as a response to this realisation,I have decided to change the name of this blog series to remove Tony Robbins name going forward. Not as some sort of protest against him, but because ultimately, personal development journeys are not about anyone but the individual on the path. He may have inspired me to kick this off, but the experience of it is mine.
This fall from grace in my eyes does not undo all the other great work work Mr Robbins has done in helping thousands of people across the world. It just shows him to be human.
And right on queue, just as I go to publish, I see that Tony has tweeted an apology of sorts about this whole episode.
I’m not here to tell you what to think so I’ll leave you to reach your own conclusions about that!