“Harassment” is a word that in the last few weeks and months has been written countless times, mostly in relation to the recent (yet old) scandal involving both politics and the movie and entertainment industry.
The #MeToo movement has been stirring up different pots and helping expose some myths. However, at the end of the day, it has showed something that is quite simple in some aspects and complex in others- it has showed how societies from the five continents have been failing their powerless members.
This issue came to me in an interview I recently did in Macau with actress and voiceover artist Victoria Willing, ahead of the opening of the first Biennial of the Woman Artists in Macau, in which she was representing her mother, the painter Paula Rego.
At some point in our interview, the movement was brought up and I remember something that Willing said, “in the end it’s all about power.” Yes, that’s exactly it – power – and above all about the power that the “powerful” exercise over the “powerless.”
She continued with another very simple yet complex fact. After being asked how it was possible to have so many cases coming to light over the past few months, that were kept silent all these years, she said, “it was culturally accepted as normal.” Again, I must agree. This is in fact the core of all these issues with harassment, bullying or any other form of abuse, the fact they are “culturally accepted and seen as normal.”
So, I ask, where does this “culture” come from? Why is it okay for a boss or a chief or a manager or simply an “important person” to exercise their power over the people that are less powerful than them?
My answer is also as simple and as complex as the information that laid the basis to my thoughts: It comes from education! We were told, to different extents, that we should “respect” the orders of the ones that are more “powerful” than us and by that we understood “respect” to mean, “do whatever they tell us to do without questioning.”
This is what we have been teaching in both our schools and our houses. There is a hierarchy of power from top to bottom and this hierarchy in schools usually results in what we used to call “bullying.” When these school kids grow up their attitudes turn into what we call “harassment” and many other forms of abuse. And it just does not stop. In our working careers and throughout our lives we keep encountering these “bullies”, turned into “harassers” and guess what, there are more and more of them and they are everywhere. Many of them get “empowered” simply by using the social media platforms they use to exercise power over others, to bully them and to harass them.
How do we stop this? By starting with the only human form that you can control, yourself!
Stop harassing others! It is as simple as that. Think twice before harassing or bullying a work colleague, a schoolmate or your son or daughter. Teach others how to NOT harass and to use respect instead of power.
I am positively sure if we all start doing this with ourselves, we will create not just “a” positive change but “the” positive change that we all say we want to see happening in the world.