We sure do love our villains.
Maybe that’s why we spend so much time talking about and calling out perpetrators – or potential perpetrators – of sexual harassment and violence. We write blog posts to them and about them. We break down and rehash their actions and attitudes. We are obsessed with villains.
When we look for villains, we miss the people with the real power – the everyday heroes who have the power to fight harassment and violence. Yeah, I’m talking about you.
Perpetrators will change their behavior when the culture around them changes. And when that culture changes, our children will be less likely to grow into adults who find pleasure, meaning and power in dehumanizing others. Culture change requires all of us to change, not just the people doing “bad” things.
Villain worship prevents us from looking in the mirror. When we obsess on villains, we aren’t taking inventory of the ways our own attitudes and behaviors make it harder for men and women to develop empathy, compassion and situational awareness of the culture around them – the antidotes to dehumanizing others through sexual harassment and violence.
Some villains are born, but most of them are raised. And guess what? We all help raise them.
- Maybe you think sexual harassment and violence is wrong, but can’t find the courage to say so on social media.
- Maybe you have been so obsessed with avenging a friend’s assault, you haven’t quite figured out how to be present with their trauma and recovery.
- Maybe you consider yourself an advocate, but have shut down a male friend who wondered aloud how he’s supposed to know what’s appropriate anymore.
- Maybe you’ve announced a zero tolerance harassment policy at your organization, but haven’t offered training to help your employees recognize bias, set boundaries, and intervene effectively.
- Maybe you know a friend experienced harassment or violence, but can’t find the right way to check in with them.
Perpetrators’ power comes from silence and from shame. Silence is permission. Shame is protection from getting caught. Make silence and shame the enemies and you will defeat the perpetrators. Start small. That’s what The Uncomfortable Conversation video channel is designed to do. All you have to do is start a new kind of conversation. One that isn’t about the villain. One that is about you.
Perpetrators of sexual harassment aren’t reading this. But you are. So be a hero. Start by sharing a workplace video today.