Working alone in my office the entire evening as 2018 rolled in, I sat at my desk scrolling through their nasty late-night comments, as woman after woman RAGED that I had NO RIGHT to offer supported reasoning as to Tavis Smiley's OFFENSIVE sexual behavior.
Of course, that begged the question: what horrible sexual act(s), exactly, had Tavis Smiley committed and to/with whom? Because truth be told, as of 31 December 2017, no one knows exactly what Tavis Smiley did - or did not do - as he has not been allowed to face his so-called accusers (who have mysteriously remained in the dark). Is that fair? Is that JUSTICE? (Remember, in the United States, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. The 14th amendment to the US Constitution guarantees to every person - aliens included - “equal protection under the law”.)
For those who have come under my wings of guidance, I am someone known as a passionate fighter with a core that's tough as nails. With my bullshit barometer heavily tuned, I have been around the block more than once. The majority of clients have been men, so I have dealt with crazy and ludicrous issues - from absolute stupidity to absolute absurdity - over the years. At this stage in my life, nothing ever surprises me.
In response to those women who were angered by the below blog, here is some food for thought:
- It takes two to tango. Knowing that Tavis Smiley was single, rich and available (and possibly on the prowl), why would any of the employees hook up sexually with Smiley who (from what I have read), was essentially their boss. Did these female employees know no boundaries? Was having sex going to help catapult their careers?
- For women, it takes just two seconds (literally two seconds) - and a strong, firm voice - to say: "No. NOT interested".
- If his alleged advances truly were unwanted, why didn't any of the women speak up for themselves: "Hey, Mr. Smiley, YOU'RE MY BOSS. I WORK for you; if you want to fire me - then FIRE me - but I WILL NOT mix business with pleasure."
- Why didn't any of the women take a stand and quickly push him away verbally (if they felt so sexually harassed)? And another question: with Smiley earning his fame and fortune, what sort of body language and vibes did the women send in his direction?
- If, by chance, the women were propositioned, why didn't they immediately report the incidents to their superiors, to management, to the NETWORK, and nip it in the bud? No one would listen? Then scream LOUDER.
- If the women felt pinned to the wall (having had second thoughts AFTER they engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with their boss), why didn't they just interview for another job and move on to a better place (realizing - after the fact - that they never should have hooked up with him in the first place). Because for every action, there is a reaction - and with that reaction, there will always be consequences.
To my knowledge, no one has yet to report any rapes, broken bones, fractures... Am I being too hard on the female employees? Frankly, I don't think so. As a woman, when I do not feel respected or safe, I quickly remove myself from the situation. And to be perfectly clear, I DO know and recognize the difference between flirty behavior (between a man and a woman) and an actual attempted or forced rape. Because no man - and let me repeat that - NO MAN has the right to take a woman against her will.
I was watching the iconic film "Thelma and Louise" a few nights ago. On a weekend vacation, Thelma and Louise stop for a drink at a roadhouse bar where Thelma lets loose with alcohol, then meets and dances with a flirtatious stranger. When he takes her outside to the parking lot (so Thelma could grab some fresh air after a toxic evening combination of dancing and binge-drinking), he starts forcibly kissing her and ripping her clothes off without her consent. Thelma resists, but he hits her, and then starts raping her. Louise finds them and threatens to shoot the bastard with the gun that Thelma brought with her. Suddenly, the man stops the rape, but as the women walk away, he yells that he should have continued with the act and hurls vicious insults at the two women. Enraged, Louise responds by shooting him dead, and the pair flee the scene, with unforeseen consequences.
As of this writing, neither you nor I know exactly what transpired with Tavis Smiley. Until the actual details are disclosed - assuming that the fine points are eventually published - Smiley is not guilty until proven guilty and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. An intelligent, articulate man (possibly an extremely, overly arrogant man), for all I know he could be a total and complete jerk at work. Or, consider this: maybe he was looking for love in all the wrong places. Time will tell.
Anyway, here's my blog about Tavis Smiley, posted minutes before 2018 rang in.
As a woman - especially as an established manager working deep in the trenches in the male-dominated world of entertainment - I nurture creative talent. Which is why I am particularly puzzled by the peculiar handling of "unknown anonymous charges" against Tavis Smiley, and the apparent lack of due process. While his network made a corporate decision to halt programming and indefinitely suspended distribution of the 53-year-old's eponymous nightly show amid secret allegations of alleged sexual impropriety, something about the grittiness of his public hanging (without a hearing or trial) bothers me. I am also disturbed by his own tangled web of media "crisis" statements, i.e, "Let me also assure you that I have never groped, inappropriately exposed myself or coerced any colleague in the workplace ever in my 30-year career.” Such vivid, visual word choices only added further fuel to the fire. His rocky response was awkward - opening up a can of worms - a can that should have been very tightly sealed.
For the record, I do not know Tavis Smiley. We have never met (nor have we ever dialogued telephonically). What I do know in my gut is that something is a little off-kilter about both his sudden suspension and his impetuous, knee-jerk reaction to the unclear claims that led to the discontinuation of his television show.
On surface viewing, one could speculate that Tavis Smiley is tenacious, aggressive, a tireless go-getter with an independent streak. There's also good reason to presume that he carries a super-sized ego and a cocksure confidence. If he were to be called out for anything, possibly his day-to-day behavior towards coworkers suggests a likely deficiency of a certain social grace, a lack of professionalism and polished protocol, leaving him spilling over with grandiose, controlling, and self-centered ways. Welcome to the world of celebrity, at times a gutsy battleground of self-love and self-hate in the unprotected environment of fame and superstardom, where viewer ratings and a celebrity's TV-Q dips and dives, frequently leading to a show's sudden death - corpsed by network cancellation.
To his credit, there is something remarkably special and significant about Tavis Smiley and his extraordinary accomplishments - both personal and professional - that has pulled me into his arena: his backstory. While each and every one of us has a unique past, Smiley's particular skill set - the innate ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles - is a fascinating study of perseverance. His perseverance.
For that reason, part of me wants to dismiss the rumblings of inappropriate behavior that may - or may not - have occured in the black-and-white culture of finger-pointing reactions to innuendos and gossip about Smiley. Rather than rehashing the disseminating, disparaging and derogatory comments, I want to come to his defense, as there are always three sides to every story: his side, their side, and split somewhere down the middle - a decaying track leading to traces of truth.
I am not one to judge others, as I have spent the better part of my life vigorously fighting to bring about racial awareness and social changes - putting in the extra miles - along with a readiness to go through hell and back on behalf of clients at every twist and turn. Do not begrudge me for pursuing an avenue of alternative thoughts about what did, or what did not, transpire with Tavis Smiley. One thing is critically clear: his road to riches was awfully rocky.
There is something very characteristic about growing up in a fractured family. When the unit is not whole, not secure, not pure - when bits and pieces start to fall apart - there is a void, an emptiness, an anger that sets in when life splits at the seams. Suddenly, there exists an absence of structure, of maternal and/or paternal nurturing. The child's inner security and well-being are at stake. I know this scenario all too well, as I myself had a tumultuous childhood, left to my own devices as I struggled for my own survival. Abandonment is cruel; but more than that, it affects us for the rest of our lives.
For sure, Smiley's background was painful. His birth mother was single, stern, just a teenager; he was raised in poverty (while not knowing the identity of his actual birth father). At times, he lived in a trailer home sheltering thirteen, including Tavis and his seven brothers and two sisters and three adults, affording him no personal space, no alone time. There was a period when he was placed in foster care, increasingly damaging his relationship with his mother.
And yet, in spite of an anguished and difficult childhood, Tavis Smiley was able to pull himself up by the bootstraps and move forward in life. On a professional level, he has excelled beyond one's expectations. That's easy to understand, because in business, business is business; it's about climbing that ladder of success to the top and winning.
Where Smiley tripped and tumbled is in his so-called "relationships" with women, which surely should come as absolutely no surprise as his biological mother was just a young girl herself, confronted with her own personal struggles and setbacks. (On that note, Smiley is not alone: too many men tussle emotionally and psychologically when it comes to women.)
My guess is that Smiley is a workaholic - a longtime TV/radio/book personality who has spent a lifetime trying to establish his reputation and brand. As a prominent, wealthy, high-visibility workaholic, that lifestyle brings to the table its own set of interpersonal relationship realities: are women flirting with him, chasing after him because they LIKE him or LIKE his bank accounts, or, are they tagging along to ride his celebrity coattails? Is it his fame and money that they are after, or his brains and personality? Equally important, does he himself have the psychological awareness and emotional intelligence to size a woman up to determine her ulterior motives - if any? More importantly, does he even understand the one-on-one dynamics and necessary ingredients that are the essential building blocks of a vibrant, male/female relationship?
That said, Tavis Smiley made an interesting point last week: He's single, eligible, a lifelong bachelor. He stated to an interviewer: "And let’s face it, nobody’s working 40-hour weeks anymore. We are working 40-, 50-, 70-, 80-hour weeks. Where else are you going to meet people in this business?" Defending his sexual relationships with employees, he posed the question: "How else are you going to meet people?"
From where I sit, Smiley missed the mark of understanding about the definition of a business environment. Furthermore, why, at age 53, is he looking for sexual relationships in the workplace, when what he desperately needs most - more than anything else - is a secure, permanent one-on-one relationship of trust and transparency, a relationship grounded in honesty, openness, devotion, admiration and respect - a tender and loving, emotionally fulfilling relationship and commitment. A relationship where he is not being used, but rather, valued.
Yes, one might meet people at work in the hope that there would be that one human being with whom there is a common denominator upon which to build an eternal love. But Tavis Smiley first needs to be taught the essential ABC's of courtship, while also rounding up a small circle of genuine people to befriend him - not for his celebrity status or political connections - but because they share a certain bond, an openness, a camaraderie.
But first, Tavis Smiley needs to revisit any indiscretions from the past and learn from them, for experience is truly the best teacher. For sure, he will reinvent himself and elevate himself and expand his horizons.
Starting tomorrow, his focus should shift to the future, using his incredible media celebrity to his advantage to make a significant difference in this world.
Most importantly, he needs to reassess his life's true purpose and priorities, and find a healthy counterbalance. And I am confident that he will do just that.
- by Sam David