7/15/19: Punch Up.
Yesterday, Adam Grant posed a question on Twitter: what’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received? Monica Lewinsky responded: “a White House Internship would look terrific on your resume.” and OH MY GOD I FELT THAT!
Hi! This is Coach MK, and THIS is the Morning Mantra.
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Hi, my name is MK Fleming. I'm a run coach based in Denver, Colorado. But this isn't a podcast about running, exactly. Don't tell my clients, but *whispers* we're never really talking about the running. When you know a crap-tastic event is coming it helps to have a mantra to keep you centered and focused as you move through it. You don't have to be an athlete to be hashtag #coachedandloved by coach MK. And if you are here, then you are hashtag #winningatlife.
Today’s Mantra is: Punch UP.
This morning, we recorded a WAY TOO LONG podcast, which I then linked to WAY TOO LONG shownotes, connecting the dots between the way we perceive three powerful women, as well as our relationship to ambition and power...and bullies.
One of the women in question is Taylor Swift. Imma DIE ON THIS HILL YOU GUYS, Look What You Made Me Do never had anything to do with Kanye West. That’s too convenient, and to be honest, WAY too petty. Why do we want to believe that she is petty? She’s 30 years old and by all accounts a brilliant businesswoman with a solid team around her. She knows she isn’t Fifteen anymore. Do we?
I firmly believe that the tilted stage in question was the one she was standing on in Washington, DC in July 2015 that malfunctioned. The one the head of her record label made her stand on. Yeah, Taylor’s dad was on the board of the label, but at the time of its sale he only owned 4%; the head of the label owned 60%. That is a LOT of ownership, a LOT of control in a firm with exactly 5 shareholders. There are reports of him slowly asserting that control, and eventually, creative control, over Taylor starting back in 2012. Smaller artists on the same label started to jump ship around that time. “If he can do that to TAYLOR, what’s he gonna do to me?”
Taylor Swift is a unicorn- her rise changed a small independent label into the biggest in Nashville, and changed Nashville as well as the country music industry forever. Meaning: everyone watched in horror as the biggest act in a generation, a talented songwriter with unprecedented control over her work and an ownership stake in her label...slowly lost control over her own product. The most powerful woman in music still has to answer to a man in a suit, he owns her masters. And he doesn’t have to sell them to anyone he doesn’t want to.
If you haven’t been following this story, Taylor published a post on Tumblr 2 weeks ago, and was immediately accused of bullying the buyer, of sending her millions of fans after him on social media. They want you to remind you how big Taylor’s following is, they want you to think she is petty, that she’s a bully. That she has a huge platform and is anything but powerless.
Stop and think for a minute about that. She can't be bullied unless she is totally powerless? That isn't how it works. She IS by all accounts a powerful and wealthy woman; she has never claimed to be a rags-to-riches story. And the best she can do is send her fans to swarm someone’s instagram with snake emojis? That doesn’t sound powerful to me. And I don’t believe they are actually concerned about her audience converting into a mob. It’s about you remembering that she isn’t weak, she has power. That’s true. BUT. Having power in general doesn’t mean you have power in every situation, that you have enough power when you need it most. The definition of bullying is exploiting an imbalance of power.
This country has a long history of fighting for the underdog, of looking at people in power, people who abuse it and saying STOP. That’s punching UP. Taylor ain't’ perfect and she shouldn’t have to be- in this situation, by speaking up, she is indeed punching up. (they were never going to sell her her masters, you guys.)
SO. The Mantra. The next time you see a powerful woman reduced to a petty narrative, Stop and ask yourself what you are really seeing. A woman can be rich AND powerful AND petty AND correct AND be deserving of criticism AND still not have complete control over her work much less the way her story is reported. How we react to this situation, matters. If we aren’t willing to critically evaluate this before rolling our eyes and deciding to write Taylor off as petty and her own worst enemy, are we being mature, or are we being bullies? (ICYMI: YOU ARE BEING A BULLY)
If you MUST take a shot at at fellow woman, punch UP, don’t kick her when she’s down...especially when it isn’t your fight.