Last week Stanford University ProvostJohn Etchemendy cast a much wider net around the filthy email trail left by Spiegel from his college days. It’s not just regrettable what Spiegel “thought” (that women were sluts and then some). It’s not just repugnant that he needed to broadcast his impressions, along with instructions to his fraternity brothers about how to take action against women.
What the Stanford provost brings to our attention is how many people received the emails that were “crude, offensive and demeaning to women.” And, all those men seeing those emails, didn’t one have a sister or mother? Didn’t one have a friend in a sorority house?
Not one person spoke up and said: “Hey, that’s disgusting. Stop it. We’re better than this.”
Truth is, this derogatory speech goes on all the time.
Not just about women. Not just about minorities. About anyone who is different. Anyone not in power at the moment. Not in the clique, or the club, or the boardroom, or wherever there’s potential to put down someone who somehow is different.
Mean boys are no different than mean girls. Bullies all of them.
What’s worse is that we let them say their piece, and we never speak up. Even if we don’t agree, or don’t find it funny – we are loathe to say to the bully: Stop.
The Stanford provost wants us to be better than this. It’s not enough to ignore it. Or pretend you didn’t hear it or read it.
If you don’t speak up, you are part of the problem.
I spent a good part of last year policing a client. He is a good man in a very angry time of his life. The result was some mean-spirited blogs and posts. I never let one go by. I urged, hectored and insisted he remove them. We finally decided we could not work together.
That’s why it’s hard to speak up. Because you will not hear: “Thank you, you brought me to my senses!” You will however replace that client, friend, club, or whatever it is you’ll give up for something better.
That’s the lesson. Do what’s right, even if you did nothing wrong.