In San Jose, Calif. in March, motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins denounced the #MeToo movement at one of his “Unleash the Power” events. According to the Washington Post, Robbins said that women in the #MeToo movement are playing the victim, going as far as to say that, “All you’ve done is basically use a drug called ‘significance’ to make yourself feel good.” Robbins’ words are ridiculous and his recent apology should not be taken seriously.
While arguing with and towering over Nanine McCool, the audience member who brought up the #MeToo movement and a childhood sexual abuse survivor herself, Robbins disavowed #MeToo and argued with McCool for over 10 minutes.
The Washington Post also reported that, during this exchange, Robbins relayed the alleged anecdote of a famous friend, saying that this friend refused to hire a qualified, attractive woman because it was ‘too big of a risk.’ If you are at risk of sexually harassing a woman who works for you because you are attracted to her, to the extent that you refuse to hire her, you should not be in a position to hire anyone. If you think that this argument is a reasonable one to level against women who call out sexual harassers and rapists, then you should take a long look at yourself and reconsider your misogyny. Sexual harassment is never the victim’s fault – it’s the perpetrators.
Robbins’ speech went viral when Now This News published a video of the entire argument between Robbins and McCool on April 6, 2018. Tarana Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement, called out Robbins on Twitter. Burke stated in her tweets that, “You try to make it seem like it’s ‘just your opinion of SOME people’ saying ‘me too.’ but my question is WHO? Who have you seen using their story of sexual violence for ‘significance?’”
Reporting sexual harassment and sexual violence leads to denials from friends and family. It leads to women being called ‘sluts’ and liars by men on the internet. It leads to people saying that a woman is ruining a ‘good man’s’ life. It leads to a so-called life coach saying that you are trying to report sexual violence in order to become famous. No one is going to do that for fun.
Burke wasn’t the only person to call out Robbins. Emily Nussbaum, a TV critic for the New Yorker, tweeted that Robbins, “doesn’t even describe it as fame-seeking. He’s literally saying, they are worth nothing, how dare they publicly criticize someone who is worth everything.”
Finally, two days after going viral, Robbins apologized on Facebook. This is very much a case of ‘too little, too late.’ He could have reconsidered his comments before being called out online. He could have, in fact, reconsidered his actions while he was arguing with and intimidating McCool. He could have reconsidered his stance and behavior when his friend said he was afraid to hire attractive women.
Robbins is apologizing out of self-preservation, nothing more. I won’t take him seriously until he shows actual improvement; not when he is trying to weasel out of the consequences of his actions. And for those that respect Robbins as a life coach and pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for tickets to his events, it seems like he may need some life coaching himself.