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#MeToo and Speaking Truth to Power

September 26, 2018

Just because I never told you, does that mean it never happened?

Just because I knew I was lucky that I had escaped something worse and realized there was nothing the police or anyone else could have (or would have) done about it, does that mean I should have reported it anyway? 

To whom should I have reported the conductor on an overnight train in Italy who found me sleeping all alone in a compartment and climbed on top of me?

The neighborhood boy who tried to convince a nine-year old to go into a garage with him so he could "see me." The high school date who locked me in his car and tried to tear my clothes off before I could escape?  The stranger in Hollywood who followed me out of a restaurant on a dark night? Or the admired athlete I thought was a friend on a night I tried to forget and never told anyone about. Not my friends, not my husband and certainly not the police. What good would it have done?  Dozens would have lined up to defend the athlete's outstanding character as someone who would "never do such a thing." Oh, but he did. 

We are about to witness ANOTHER courageous woman, risking the disintegration of her entire life, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, about to end her decades of silence, stepping onto the global stage to tell her truth about the character of a man who is on the verge of a lifetime appointment with the power to affect the lives of millions of other girls and women. We've been here before. How many more times will it take before the outcome changes? 

So many others have written so much and so well about the historic "she accused/he denied" U.S. Senate Judiciary hearings coming up this Thursday that I felt I had nothing to add.  I'm sure you know where I stand.

But this moment is too important to stay silent. What Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is about to do takes spiritual and moral courage.  She is reluctantly breaking her three decades of silence because there is so much at stake -- for all of us.  If faced with the same situation, I hope I would have the spiritual and moral courage to do the same. When Dr. Blasey Ford is testifying, I will stop whatever I am doing to stand in silence so I can send her all of the "Eve Energy" my lifeblood can spare -- to give her the courage to raise her voice and tell her truth.

Let Our Wallets Do the Talking

March 3, 2018

I'm thrilled with the news that a group of powerful, activist women just bought the Weinstein Company -- with plans to compensate Weinstein's victims, save employee jobs and create a new Hollywood Production Company, with a primarily female Board of Directors, committed to producing cool films with great women roles. Power On, Sisters.  Here's the story!  

Female Rabbi's Perspective on Eve as Spiritual Mother of Me Too Movement

March 3, 2018

Rabbi Tamara Kolton is an inspiring spiritual leader and thinker.  I am privileged to know her and to call her my friend.  We both live just outside of Detroit and about an hour's drive from Michigan State University -- home of predator doctor Larry Nassar who sexually assaulted young gymnasts for decades.  Their #METOO outrage that led to him finally being stopped and sent to prison for life, inspired Rabbi Kolton to write this commentary on why she sees Eve as the "Spiritual Mother" of the #MeToo movement. You'll either find it fascinating or infuriating. Click here to discover her powerful perspective. 

The Rage and Resilience of the Gymnast Sisterhood that Came for a Predator

January 29, 2018

I’m sick over the devastating sexual assault that Dr. Larry Nassar, of USA Gymnastics & Michigan State University, perpetrated for decades on young, female athletes. But I'm also in awe and inspired by the courage of the amazing little girls who grew into incredibly strong women.

They are an example of the power of the next generation of young women who are just beginning to hit their stride. They will not settle for "being one of the boys" or being silenced. Me Too; It's About Time; and "We're Coming For You Larry!" are just the beginning. Long may they lead!

Here's my commentary on the Rage and Resilience of this powerful Survivor Sisterhood. 

Magic Johnson Calls for Accountability at Michigan State University

January 29, 2018

The great Magic Johnson, who led Michigan State University to the NCAA Basketball National Championship on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, has called on his Alma Mater to be held accountable for the criminal behavior of MSU Dr. Larry Nassar.  As a Michigander who married an MSU Spartan, I am horrified and heartbroken over the abuse that hundreds of young, female athletes suffered -- for decades -- and the dozens of adults who refused to believe them or ignored their cries for help. Here's more on Magic Johnson's comments.   

The Rage & Resilience of Gymnast Sister Survivors

January 29, 2018

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are aware of the paradigm shifting events that unfolded over the past few days in a courtroom in East Lansing, Michigan, which is only an hour's drive from my home.

 

One hundred and fifty six (yes, 156!) courageous girls and young women stood before a judge and, in often quivering voices through bitter tears, told their stories of years of sexual abuse (camoflauged as "medical treatment"!) by child predator Dr. Larry Nassar. For decades - DECADES - this evil man repeatedly sexually assaulted hundreds of world-class, young, female gymnasts entrusted to his care. Some only SIX years old. 

 

Nassar is headed to prison. 

 

It's believed to be the biggest scandal in the history of sports. The stories of the "sister survivors" are ugly and heart-wrenching. But they are the tip of the iceberg. 

 

Equally depraved are the dozens of adults at Michigan State University and the USA Gymnastics community who ignored or refused to believe years of warning signs and complaints from young girls who sensed something was very wrong with the "treatments" he gave them for their pain. Those heads are just beginning to fall with the forced resignation of MSU President of Lou Anna Simon and the entire Board of USA Gymnastics.  

 

Our cultural tetonic plates are shifting.  As one survivor put it, "This is what it looks like when little girls grow up and become powerful women demanding to be heard."  We must learn from this depraved lesson so that future generations of little girls (and little boys) are no longer ignored when they raise alarm after alarm. They must be heard, believed and protected. 

 

The coverage here in Michigan, which is at the center of this tempest, has been intense with outstanding journalism shedding light and turning up the heat on this evil.  Here is a quick summary of the major players and the best coverage on each I have found.  I hope you will read, weep and believe.   

 

Key Players:

  • Dr. Larry Nassar - Now a convincted child molester who will spend the rest of his life in prison, Nassar was the USA gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. Who was/is Larry Nassar? 
  • Sister Survivors -- Who knows how many Nassar painfully violated; 156 told their stories to the world in court, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. Remember this name: Rachel Denhollander. She is the courageous young woman who finally broke this perversion wide open by taking her story to the Indianapolis Star (2 years ago) and filing a lawsuit.  Please read her "The Price I Paid" commentary in the NY TIMES. And then listen to Aly Raisman confront Nassar in court.  
  • Judge Rosemarie Aquilina --  For seven days this  transformative judge did something highly unusual. She cleared her docket to make time at Nassar's sentencing hearing for any and all who wanted to speak to be heard. At first they thought it would be 88. But the calls kept coming as more and more of Nassar's young targets courageously stepped forward. The opportunity Judge Aquilina created for survivors to be heard and the support she gave them allowed the world to comprehend what happened and to react with appropriate vengence. This excellent Atlantic magazine article captures Aquilina's important role.  
  • Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon -- Once highly-regarded, Simon served as president for over 14 years. The MSU Board of Trustees, stunningly concerned more about its University brand than its students, circled the wagons around her with a vote of confidence less than 10 days ago. Unfortunately, she will be remembered for her complacency (if not cover-up) in this nightmare and the stunning ARROGANCE of her resignation letter. 

  • Investigative Journalism 
    -- That Larry Nassar is headed for life in prison and the survivors of his crimes are finally being heard is evidence of the importance of investigative journalism. The Indianapolis Star first broke this story two years ago. The Lansing State Journal, the MSU Student Newspaper and the Detroit Free Press have followed with oustanding additional coverage. But my favorite piece is the powerful commentary by sports columnist Shawn Windsor. His fury flames off the page as he tells one of the truths behind this story: society values boys over girls. Here's: This Isn't Penn State; It's Worse. 

 

Finally  -- I'm numb and sick over all of this. But I'm also in awe  and inspired by the courage of the amazingl little girls who grew into incredibly strong and powerful women who refused to be quiet. It took an incredible, tenacious young leader to unleash the power of this young sisterhood. They gained in strength as each stepped out of the shadows and felt their collective strength grow in that courtroom. They are an example of the power of the next generation of young women who are just beginning to hit their stride. 

 

They will not settle for "being one of the boys" or being silenced.  They are taking the baton of empowerment from generations of women who have gone before. Me Too; It's About Time; and "We're Coming For You Larry!" are just the beginning. Long may they lead!  

 

 

 

Insightful Voices on What's Next After #METOO Cultural Explosion

December 31, 2017

The New York Times recently gathered seven wise women for an insightful, roundtable discussion of the challenges and complexity of moving forward in the wake of the Silence Breakers and #METOO explosions of 2017.  One year of outing predators is just the beginning. How do we turn this moment of cultural reckoning into a positive turn on our evolutinary wheel?  Lots of thoughtful insight in this fascinating discussion about Work, Fairness, Sex and Ambition. 

Best Women's Writing on 2017 Issues

December 27, 2017

Huffington Post has compiled a fabulous collection of the most compelling commentaries written by women writers in 2017. For the next few weeks, I'm going to regularly share these outstanding voices with you. Many of the pieces are related to one of the biggest stories of the year: the #METOO explosion.   Here's "Y'All Don't Deserve Black Women," by Ashley Nkadi and first published in THE ROOT. 

What's Next After #METOO?

December 27, 2017

As one disturbing #MeToo story after another plays out before our national consciousness, I’ve started wondering what the best of our men are thinking. Our brothers, husbands, sons and trusted friends. Perhaps the reason so few males realize how frequently females experience or escape from unwanted sexual attention, harassment or assault is because we don’t tell them. Here are my thoughts on how we can move past "outing predators" and venting and forward to healthier gender dyanamics.  

What's Next After #MeToo?

December 23, 2017

December 23, 2017 -- Auburn Hills, Michigan USA

Dear Global Friends/Thinkers:

As one disturbing #MeToo story after another plays out before our national consciousness, I’ve started wondering what the best of our men are thinking. Our brothers, husbands, sons and trusted friends. Fathers, too, if you are lucky enough to still have yours.

None of the stories – not even the obscenest, nor the abundance of them – has surprised me. What has given me pause, though, is the reaction of so many well-intentioned, wonderful men who have said, “I had no idea how pervasive this is!" 

Women are all too aware of the menacing, gender iceberg that is always lurking just beneath the surface of our daily lives. Nearly all of us have been scraped by its sharp edges. Most have been at least cut or even sliced deeply. The unluckiest haven’t lived to share their stories.

In millions of deeply ingrained ways, every culture teaches females and males different stories about who we are, our place in the world and how to navigate it safely. Little boys are encouraged to learn to protect themselves from likely aggression from other males. Because most females don’t have the physical strength to out-muscle nearly any male we will encounter, girls are taught from an early age to stay out of harm’s way.

The most likely harm we must always be on guard against is from unwanted male attention. Attention that always has the potential to turn sexual. And, if we don’t cooperate, dangerous.

I've been puzzled that not one of the  most beloved men in my life has thought (or dared?) to ask, “Anne, have you ever experienced sexual harassment, or worse?” The only person who did was a radio host who was stunned by my on-air answer

Men Don't Ask. Perhaps the reason so few males realize how frequently females experience or escape from unwanted sexual attention, harassment or assault is because we don’t tell them. So, I decided to write a letter to the closest men in my life. By the time I finished, it was five, typed pages, but too painful to share.  

As I opened my memory file-drawer, scenes I’d forgotten came flooding back. They are never really forgotten, of course. Each one leaves its mark, impacting how we move through the world. And, hopefully, how we are listening now to the deluge of wounded women who are finally sharing their stories and confronting their predators.   

My earliest memory is from age 11 when a teenage boy, a stranger, tried to drag me into a neighbor’s dark garage. I knew I was in danger and ran. I never saw that boy again, but I met many of his cohorts over the years. Some were merely hanging out of cars yelling vulgarities at me, or grabbing at their crotches and hissing something obscene in my ear as we passed on the street.

Others caught me in the dark, at a moment when I made the mistake of simply being alone -- or trusting someone I thought was a friend.

And then there’s the mocking disrespect, the disdain, the sexual innuendo that all violate a woman's sense of personal safety. As a lone, female sports reporter interviewing athletes in locker rooms, I regularly absorbed gender hostility. That was considered the price of entry for women of my generation who dared to tackle all-male work environments, imposing ourselves where we were not wanted. In every decade of my life, I have been routinely reminded -- even by men who claimed to love me --  that physically over-powering me was always an option. 

But here's the saddest part of all this: there's nothing special or unusual about my experiences. Nearly every woman I know, who has lived long enough, can match me story for story. 

Dysfunctional, gender dynamics have wreaked havoc from Congressional hallways and network newsrooms to Hollywood casting couches and auto industry plant floors. Blue collar women at Ford Motor Company have endured decades of apalling harassment. And yet, it goes on and on. 

Time magazine got it right. The courageous Silence Breakers of 2017, who begn this national cleansing with the January Women's March on Washington, DC., brought this simmering outrage to a full boil with a steady drumbeat of stunning revelations about powerful men. Roger Ailes. Bill O'Reilly. Harvey Weinstein. Charlie Rose. Louis C.K. Matt Lauer. Roy Moore. John Conyers. Al Franken. Our Comander-in-Chief.

What's Next? Now that the lid has finally blown off our Pandora's box of decades (no, centuries) of gender injustice, the only thing that really matters is, What happens next? Will this moment of national reckoning lead to a forward turn on our evolutionary wheel, or will it be a mere passing blip on our cultural radar? Here are my top three forward steps:     

1) Millennials Will Lead. It is young women – millennials who thought the gender wars were behind us and are stunned at what older women have been tolerating – who are leading on this issue. 

Katie Couric tolerated Matt Lauer "pinching her on the butt" for years. Taylor Swift outed and sued the DJ who tried the same with her. Meryl Streep once called Harvey Weinstein “God” on Oscar night and claimed she didn’t know about his abuse of young actresses. Rose McGowan defied the Weinstein empire and publicly accused him of rape. The U.S. Congress established its own taxpayer-funded slush fund to handle these situations – and paid out $17 million over the last 20 years to cover them up. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other women members of Congress led the demand for “zero tolerance” that toppled Senator Al Franken and Representative John Conyers.

2) Male Confusion is Unacceptable. This is not about flirting or extra-marital affairs.  The #METOO movement is about the pervasive male trespassing on women's bodies and psychological safety. Vice President Pence's solution of never having lunch or dinner with a woman without his wife is insulting to men who can control their sexual appetites.

3) Start With Our Kids. We must innoculate our girls to be prepared for the gender harassment virus they will inevitably face. They shouldn't be too shocked to protect themselves when it happens. And it's time to turn our attention to the gender norms our culture imposes on boys. We've spent decades teaching girls to be strong women. It's time to teach our boys the power of being sweet men.   

True leaders step up and lead at the right moment, which is nearly always long before it’s easy. We are at a moment in time when women’s evolutionary march toward equality is drawing us close to a critical mass of influence. We are finding the courage to raise our voices -- collectively. The non-apology apologies rain on deaf ears.  There is no turning back.

To my Sisters everywhere I plead, "Keep raising your voices." Begin by telling your stories to other women. Then share them with men who love you. Don’t wait for them to ask. Most don't know how. Or, perhaps they are afraid of what our answers will be. 

To my Brothers everywhere I ask, "Are you listening?"

The truth will set us free.  Have a peaceful holiday! Anne 

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