Thoughts on the Harassment focus in the media

Hello dear (private) reader. 


As you know, if you're reading this now - you're part of a pretty exclusive club.  This blog is going to be password protected and only able to be read if the password is specifically provided by me (or if you hack me; but I doubt I'm that important).


If you were reading anything in my blog before and wondering "why password now?" - you will read the rest of the entry and figure it out.


Much of this ties in with the whys and hows of the recent (ish) explosion of complaints in the media about sexual harassment, shady and unethical dealings behind the scenes and general crappiness being reported on in the whole showbiz/entertainment industry.

Why is this happening???

To put it very simply and on a very overview-type level - I blame all of us as a society.   I blame the culture we have cultivated and normalized over the decades in how we treat things like "professionalism" and "public face".  The message that was originally supposed to be one of balance and common sense has become so skewed and flanderized that it has become harmful to us as a whole.


What I'm talking about is the general ethos of "No one likes negativity" - or "No one likes a whiner".  We've heard it before: 

  • Don't say anything negative about your previous job, regardless of how terrible or unethical they may have been... it will make you look like a whiner and a pass-the-buck kind of person and no one will hire you.
  • If you've had a bad day or a bad week or you've been treated unfairly - don't post that in your social media, no one wants to hear that and prospective employers don't want to see all that negativity
  • Give the impression that you're always positive and always happy, or else...

Essentially, you can see the trend - slowly, almost like a creeping choke, we are being denied the right to seem anything but stepford and human.  True enough, nobody wants to read or hear about  a crappy day 24/7.  If you talk to John Doe every day, and every single day and every single word out of his mouth is always something like "Woe is me... my life sucks... nothing works, nothing is right" - fine, we understand... very few (if any) people have lives that are truly that terrible on a constant and persistent basis.  At that point, after a few weeks *straight* of that kind of talk, you can probably safely figure that John has some issues he needs to work out.


However, the "don't be negative" mantra has gotten to the point where there are entire guides online, in courses and from teachers, coaches and mentors are just hammering in "don't be negative, don't be a complainer, don't look difficult" - and in the end what do you think happens with those emotions?


We bottle them up.


We pretend nothing is wrong.


People take advantage of us and we say nothing.


In fact... we smile and preen and pretend "everything is wonderful.  Everything is great."


We are lied to, stolen from, betrayed, prejudiced against and yet, we say nothing... for fear of seeming "negative" and never working again, never having friends, being abandoned and being left alone.


Is it any wonder then that all these terrible things are only coming to light now?


Some of the reason these stories are so big is the sheer volume - and finding out just how far back this egregious breach of ethics goes.  The questions milling around the public are "why now?  Why would you not say anything before?  How could this possibly have been going on for so long?" - and I think of it very similarly to why and how corporations have been allowed to slowly become corrupt, how and why abuse goes on at *any* level for an extended period of time.


Although we, as individuals and consumers at home say "Speak up!!" - what is it (now be honest, you're really just talking to yourself here anyhow, no one is judging you) that we tell our friends looking for a job?  "Remember... if they ask about your old job, don't tell them anything about how that last job didn't pay you, or how the boss was a sexual harasser, or how you were denied a salary raise based on your gender, or how you were called 'little girl' all the time"... the advice is ALWAYS: "Say something nice and neutral and really positive and go-getter sounding... like you were trying to concentrate and narrow the focus on your career, that you were ready to move forward to a company with further career opportunities"


Even reviews in public on websites... like glassdoor.com, or yelp, or indeed... yes, they SAY: "Give us a review of a company" - but in reality, do we ever?  No... we don't.  We allow poor treatment to continue and all we do is hope and pray that the next person magically doesn't get mistreated.  The reason?  Self-preservation. 


Let's be brutally honest with ourselves here... we will lie and we will cover up and we sugar coat our lives so that others will like us, others will hire us... it's no wonder there's a syndrome out there now for social media... where people are actually getting depressed because they think other people's lives (what they post on twitter, on facebook, etc.) are perfect. 


WE (the royal we... as in we as a people and society) have made this bed for ourselves.


Even worse, it's now getting skewed so that slowly, but surely we're not even allowed to be proud of what we HAVE done and the good things that do happen to us because it is seen as boasting, and the urge to "take a person down a peg" is very strong. 

What can we do to change it?

We can all start practicing what we preach, to coin a term.  We want honesty - so we should accept honesty.  The cry and request to the public now is to "just tell us the truth"... for "transparency"... for "genuine human emotion". 


The fact of the matter is that yes... some people are generally happier than others... then again, some people generally have more things to be honestly happy about.  I'm glad for them.  They should be happy, and it is wonderful that they share that with the world... at the same time I know myself I'm not going to think any less of them or believe they're terrible people if they have down days, or if they are feeling insecure some days.


It's called being human. 


So much of this "filtered positivity" only serves to corral others into feeling inadequate, to grow resentment and to seem quite fake and prideful.  Entire reams of entries of "I'm awesome, everything is awesome, be ready for anything, I know I am!" sets up unrealistic expectations of what life should be.


I don't believe it is fair or just for any prospective employer to say "oh look, this person had been scammed on the same day their dog died... and they're posting about being unhappy?  What a whiner, wouldn't work with THEM".    Yet, this is strangely enough the kind of thing we seem to encourage.


The society we live in today is so contradictory to itself.  We all want to know more about each other... we want to know the "real person" behind the social facade (ie: not just the dinner-party version)... and yet we refuse to accept that we feel, that we get down.


It still surprises us when a celebrity states that they have mental health issues, or depression - why?  Because they've been coached and groomed to seem "Happy and perfectly A-OKAY!" all the time.  It's unhealthy.   It's purposefully isolating and down-low shaming a person for being affected by events that are unfavourable. 


What can we do as people?  Generally, we have to stop wanting to have our cake and eat it too.  If you want honesty, you have to accept that people are unhappy as well as happy.  If you want transparency, if you don't want to feel that the person you know is a lie - accept that they will not be perky and go-getter cheerleader happy all the time. 


Essentially we have to stop demanding that we hear only what we WANT to hear, then being equally dissatisfied when we do. 


The people: Only be positive!  Don't show the negative!  Don't be a complainer, don't be difficult!

You: Happy Happy joy joy, oh boy oh boy I'm so excited about work and all the great things

The People: OMG, stop talking about how good your life is, you're being such a smug jackass!

You: I was backstabbed by a friend today and lied to about a job raise... feeling a little down and wondering what to do

The People: You're such a whiny wanker, no one likes you and no one wants to work with you!



- several months/years later -



You: I'm coming out with this big group of people that I too have been underpaid due to my gender and I have also been harassed by a long time by people in a position of power - it's contributed to my depression and anxiety and I still have nightmares

The People: Why did you wait so long??? WHY didn't you say anything about it?


And the cycle goes on and on... *we* are the ones who made this mess.  *we* are the ones who have to fix it. 


I think a good first step is... to stop encouraging our friends and loved ones to lie about being happy if they're not.