Op-ed: How Tony Robbins Was Compelled To Issue An Apology For Debating The #MeToo Movement

 World-renowned self-help guru and motivational speaker Tony Robbins has recently been subject to immense criticism from the mainstream media after bringing to light the downside and misuse of the #MeToo movement, which was generated to encourage women to speak out against sexual misconduct in the workplace.

At an Unleash The Power Within seminar at San Jose, Robbins stated that women were using the movement to gain ‘significance’ and claim victimhood. Robbins said, “Anger is not empowerment… I am not mocking the #MeToo movement, I am mocking victimhood”. He went on to explain, “If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else… all you’ve done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good…”

Robbins’ words were immediately placed out of context by mainstream media to launch a tirade against the motivational speaker and portray him as a misogynist. As a survivor of abuse, one could potentially interpret that Robbins was simply encouraging his event attendees to move past the trauma and focus on self-development rather than indulging in the blame-game. However, his speech was used to mislead readers into believing that Robbins doesn’t ‘understand’ the movement.

The video from the San Jose event clearly indicates that Robbins doesn’t question the validity of #MeToo, he simply calls out on the misuse of such a movement. Thanks to #MeToo, the likes of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein have rightfully and successfully been penalized for their conduct. Moreover, it has spread global awareness and encouraged millions of women to resist and speak out against sexual harassment.

A movement of this magnitude has spawned a much-needed revolution and will hopefully curb the actions of many potential perpetrators. However, one cannot deny that some people, albeit a very small percentage have used it to their personal advantage. On that note, Robbins shared the example of a client who didn’t hire an attractive woman because it was just ‘too risky to have her around’.

For instance, examine the example of actor and comedian Aziz Ansari, who was recently accused of sexual misconduct in what was a blatant attempt to malign the character and career of a man who ended up on bad date. This is a real-life example of unfairly exploiting a significant movement and disrespecting the real survivors of sexual abuse.

However, with mainstream media perpetually equipped to attack and misconstrue statements even at the whiff of a debate, outspoken personalities such as Tony Robbins inevitably get struck down for attempting to voice their concerns or even modify a survivor’s perspective and coping strategy.

Instead of lashing out against Robbins, the founder of #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke also acknowledged, “If we’re all agreeing with each other, if we shut down all the people who don’t agree with us then we have no discussion and we get nowhere… I hope what we can actually do is create a discussion with Tony Robbins instead of at Tony Robbins”.

Following the backlash from the San Jose event, Robbins issued a public apology stating:

At a recent Unleash the Power Within (UPW) event in San Jose, my comments failed to reflect the respect I have for everything Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement has achieved. I apologize for suggesting anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement. Let me clearly say, I agree with the goals of the #MeToo movement and its founding message of “empowerment through empathy,” which makes it a beautiful force for good. 

For 40 years I’ve encouraged people to grow into the men and women they dream to be. I watch in awe as more and more women all over the world find their voice and stand up and speak out. All of our growth begins with learning. My own started with a childhood marked by abuse. I am humbled that others have looked to the path I have taken in the decades since as lessons in their own journey. But sometimes, the teacher has to become the student and it is clear that I still have much to learn. 

I teach that “life happens for you, not to you” and what I’ve realized is that while I’ve dedicated my life to working with victims of abuse all over the world, I need to get connected to the brave women of #MeToo.

I am committed to being part of the solution.

I am committed to helping to educate others so that we all stay true to the ideals of the #MeToo movement. I will never stop examining my own words and actions to make sure I am staying true to those ideals. That begins with this brief statement but will not end until our goals are reached. 

Tony Robbins



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