On a breezy summer afternoon I was walking home from my corporate job in New York City, completely lost in thought.
A man came running up from behind and stopped me. He was an Academy-Award-winning writer and director, and he wanted to cast me in a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Everything about what I just wrote is true, except probably the part about him wanting to cast me.
When we finally met up to discuss it in a ritzy midtown hotel bar (our afternoon meetup at Starbucks got postponed when his flight was mysteriously delayed), what ensued were hours of debate about why I wouldn’t accompany him upstairs to a hotel room so we could begin working through the character development in private, immediately. I needed to “get raw” and “vulnerable,” and how could I possibly draw on the innermost parts of myself in this public setting?
Until the recent slew of allegations about producer Harvey Weinstein it never occurred to me that perhaps I could’ve or should’ve reported his behavior. In addition to bringing up this old memory, the stories in the news have me and many others reflecting deeply on the nature of predatory behavior and how we react when confronted with it … and not for the first time.
Like so many other women, this wasn’t an isolated incident in my life, nor was it my worst. I’ve got flasher stories. Cosby-esque stories. Prank caller stories. Grab-‘em-by-the-pussy stories. Inappropriate clergy and authority figure stories. And the list goes on.
So what does all of this have to do with The Uncommon Way?
Uncommon decisions and uncommon acts of courage.
It’s worth recognizing that people who choose to speak up and speak out in any context are making a brave and uncommon choice.
Most of my stories went completely unreported. Sometimes I thought no actual crime had been committed, or it wasn’t bad enough, or it was just part of the culture I was visiting. Sometimes I never really got a good look at the person, or questioned my own agency, or felt ashamed or fearful or exhausted. I also internalized the “boys will be boys” messages all around me, especially in my younger years.
Which it turns out is all very, very common … and predators bank on it. In the aggregate, we know it’s what emboldens them to continue preying on other people down the road. But when it comes to our individual stories, it’s not always so easy to see black and white.
Let’s step back even one step further.
We need to recognize that silence emboldens every person or group that tries to assert power in any context. There’s a corollary with even the most benign forms of suppression in society. No matter how much we recognize that, say, peer pressure is collectively detrimental, how often do we actually speak up in the moment that it’s occurring?
Life is a series of decisions. And each time you choose the discomfort of speaking up and using your voice, you help turn something that’s uncommon into something more everyday. You make the world better, less afraid, safer, and richer.
For every time you’ve made the uncomfortable decision to speak up, thank you. And if there’s something going on in your life for which you’re considering doing so now, I’m behind you 100%.
Here’s to taking uncommon stands,