Tony Robbins, Women See Who You Are
Editor’s note: Following is an open letter from Robyn Furse to Tony Robbins concerning the motivational speaker’s controversial appearance in San Jose, Calif., last month in which he criticized the #MeToo movement. To illustrate a point during the March 15 event, Robbins physically and repeatedly pushed an audience member, Nanine McCool, who challenged his theories on the movement and what motivates women to support it.
I understand that a video of you discussing the #MeToo movement with audience member Nanine McCool was removed from the internet at the behest of your legal team.
Luckily, I was able to watch it first, and many people downloaded it. In it, you said it would be “inauthentic” to apologize for your behavior to McCool. I assume that means you value authenticity. If so, I suggest allowing the video to be available to the public. There is nothing authentic about hiding your own actions.
It appears that you think the movement fosters fear-based thinking. If so, and if you do not believe that you yourself are acting from fear, I suggest showing the world that you are being open and actually listening to the feedback people have about your behavior in the video.
You evidently believe that #MeToo fosters a “victim” mindset. If you think you yourself are not of that mindset, I suggest that you do not imply that you and other men are helpless in the face of potential sexual harassment lawsuits. Instead, take the initiative to learn how to prevent sexual harassment and deal properly with employees who engage in that behavior, rather than feigning helplessness and fear over the idea of employing women because they might be sexually harassed by your employees.
You seem to think that #MeToo also fosters anger. To that, I say no: Being treated like nothing more than a sexual object is what elicits feelings of anger. And anger is not a bad thing. Anger, like all feelings, is useful when we know how to work with it. Anger is a powerful feeling that not only can provide us with valuable information, but also give us the energy and drive to act on that information when necessary.
Anger lets us know something is happening that we are not OK with. Anger lets us know when we are being treated in a way we don’t want to be. Anger lets us know when our boundaries are being violated. Anger lets us know when something is unfair. It lets us know what we care about, what is important to us, what we want and don’t want, and therefore who we are and what we can do about it.
By vilifying this basic and incredibly powerful human emotion, you show that you do not understand its power to do good. You betray the likelihood that you are not comfortable with anger and have not learned how to use it in a healthy manner. This dynamic of unprocessed anger certainly seems to be playing out in your interaction in the video.
We see you.
Yours are not the actions of an evolved man. They are not the actions of a man of integrity. They are not the actions of a man who is secure in his beliefs or in his position. They are certainly not the actions of a man who understands feelings, power dynamics, social and cultural programming, or those of a man who has examined his own position of power and privilege in this world and uses them to ensure a better, safer world for everyone.
If you remain frozen in your bubble of unexamined, unearned power and privilege, you will be left behind. Women and “minorities” are rising up and we are speaking up, and the momentum is too great to stop us now. But why would anyone want to?
You have a choice: You can be left behind, or you can use this opportunity to learn to listen, step back, and recognize the limits of your understanding based on your limited worldview—a world in which you have grown accustomed to being listened to, a world in which you have grown accustomed to being treated like an expert, even when you are not, a world in which you have grown accustomed to having your voice heard, over and above others—even on topics you have no personal experience with, such as being a woman in a world that treats you like an object on a daily basis.
Plenty of women and men are ready to lead from a place of understanding these things without needing to ignore or bypass these realities to maintain their spirituality or their worldview. Plenty of men know how to embrace, feel, process, express, work with, learn from and use emotions such as anger to grow, heal and better themselves and the world. These are the ones who will lead us forward.
I recommend humbling yourself and opening up to learning from these people. Kundan Chhabra for example, can be found here, on Facebook and on Patreon. He teaches about the power of anger and how it can be used for good in the world. Another is Vito Mucci, who is on Facebook and Patreon. He teaches how to process our emotions, including anger, for greater authenticity and healthy self-expression. Ukumbwa Sauti, on Facebook and elsewhere, has a deep understanding of power dynamics, sociopolitical hierarchy, and how these things directly affect women and people of color on a day-to-day basis. He teaches men to listen to women and to believe us about our experiences, as well as how to be men in a way that does not require the subjugation of others to feel powerful or strong as a man. His words can be found using the hashtags #menswork and #mentakenotice.
I have much more to say, and I will keep saying it whether you and your ilk like it or not. For now, I end this letter with a genuine thank you. Thank you for the good you have done, as well as for your time. And understand that your time may be coming to an end.
A version of this commentary first appeared on the online publishing platform Medium.Wait, before you go…
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