Women's March

On International Women’s Day: Female Marines Attacked by the Corps

In honor of International Women’s Day, the organizers of the Women’s March called for a general women’s strike to create A Day Without a Woman. I heartily endorse this and hope if you’re a woman reading this you were able to participate in some sort of meaningful action—because there is still so much work that needs to be done to support women. It is clear that despite all the editorials, articles, awareness seminars, diversity training workshops and conferences that rights for women are still sorely lacking. Look no further than the U.S. Marine Corps, which is currently being rocked by its latest scandal—private photos of female Marines shared without their consent by former partners or stolen outright—and being posted with vulgar comments in a secret online Facebook group.

The veterans and active duty members of Marines United posted hundreds of photos of female Marines in varying stages of dress and undress and included their names, ranks, social media handles and where they were stationed. Not only were these actions unconscionable against the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who serve beside them, it also strikes a deep blow against the cohesion and camaraderie of the Marine Corps. As Thomas Brennan, the Marine veteran who founded the nonprofit news site The War Horse, which broke the story, told the New York Times: “We are hurting other Marines.”

Sadly, this attitude is not surprising. In my research on workplace dynamics, and in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I have observed that you cannot reform a culture by overlaying it with a diversity program or forcing managers to attend sexual harassment seminars. Systemic change only happens from the top down and requires total integration into workplace culture. The Marines are particularly resistant to this due to their cultural conversation of being “rough and tumble” and having no leadership from the top to model better behavior. Sadly, this won’t be happening any time soon. The current resident of the White House is known for his complete disdain for women and his blatant predatory braggadocio.

However, there is someone who is fighting on—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). In 2013 she reintroduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MIJA) into the Senate, but sadly lacked the 60 votes needed for it to pass in 2016. The bill was designed to protect victims who report sexual assault from being retaliated against by their peers or commanders.

While it would greatly help servicewomen, especially female Marines who despite constituting the smallest percentage of any branch of the service (7 percent) report the greatest number of sexual assaults, it would help men as well. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 10,000 men a year are sexually assaulted in the military. Unsurprisingly, only about 13 percent report it, compared to 39 percent of women. Samantha Bee did an excellent report on the MIJA and why it’s so desperately needed on her show, Full Frontal:

As the Women’s March and today’s general strike shows, women have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands, but we have to do our part. Until violators like the men of Marines United are routinely disciplined with dishonorable discharges for posting stolen nude photos, alleged rapists are tried for sexual assault, and violent and vulgar language is no longer condoned within the ranks—nothing will change.

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps

The Revolutionist of the Week: The Marchers

This week's Revolutionist of the Week goes to all of the people who participated in the Women's March.

In my new book, From Bully to Bull's Eye: Move Your Organization out of the Line of Fire (RCJ Press; January 10, 2017) I encourage employees who work in toxic environments to become activists to force cultural transformations, invoking the words of Mohandes K. Gandhi:

"It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration."

The Women's March by all indicators was an incredible success in making people’s voices heard. From my perspective these events are just a beginning. Event organizers have indicated that they will be following up with other events and activities to become what in essence could be a powerful, and much needed, opposition as well as a check and balance to the new administration.

The current opposition parties and checks and balances are very fragile, and cannot be relied on to protect democracy and the hard-fought rights, privileges and core values that clearly are at risk. This void can be filled by the power of positive, effective protests and activism.

Here are my top tips for protest organizers and participants:

·       Be inclusive. What you are embarking on should not become a partisan undertaking. Given the diversity of the people involved, you should recognize that there is diversity in viewpoints and areas of concerns, and to shut these people out, will dilute your effectiveness. Also, realize that many Republicans share your frustrations and concerns; to become truly effective don’t limit your resistance to just the Democratic Party.

·       Define your purpose. Knowing what to fight and what not to fight is critical. Your purpose should be to protect democracy, rights, privileges and core values—not to mention keeping government honest and transparent.

·       Differentiate between dislikes and what is fundamentally wrong. There is no question that most people do not like the fact that Donald Trump is president. To try to unseat him because he is unpopular is not only futile, it is undemocratic. However, if Trump and/or his surrogates were complicit with the Russians in influencing the election, that would be considered fundamentally wrong—even treasonous. If this is not dealt with swiftly and according to the Constitution, then a demand to do so must be fought for with vigor. A recently launched twitter campaign to force Trump to deliver on his promises to release his tax information is an excellent example of positive and effective activism. Trump continues to ignore the demands of the people and give us the finger, as rationalized by senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, “He is not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care; they voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”  Forcing Trump to release his returns should put to rest whether he misrepresented to the electorate and his financial relationships with other countries.

·       Challenge “alternative facts.”  This term was coined by Kelly Conway this weekend over the absurd debate about the size of the crowds at the inauguration. By whatever name a lie is a lie is a lie. Bullies are masters of manipulation, deception, deflection, deceit and denial. As an expert in adult bullying, there is no question in my mind that Trump is a bully. Every time he is exposed for using “alternative facts” inundate your members of Congress with calls, letters and social media to force them to hold Trump accountable for his lies.

·       Appreciate that “right makes might.” When you stake your position, make sure that right is on your side. There are many things that Trump will do that you may not like, but they may be things that he has every right to do. Yes, these can be challenged, but at the end of the day unpopular decisions are still his right. The most effective challenge is at the ballot box. Marshal your facts, consult with experts, and form alliances with like-minded groups to make real and lasting change—with right on your side.

·       Pick your battles—not everything is equal. Be viewed as enablers rather than restrainers. A key factor in what we are experiencing was caused by years of polarization and gridlock. Legislators of both parties became restrainers. Part of the reason Trump was elected was to break this gridlock. Adding more gridlock will make you part of the problem, not the solution.

Godspeed. You are on a critically important journey.

Credit: Chicago Tribune