There’s a certain level of emotional intelligence required to speak well publicly. You have to be aware of yourself, you should hopefully have deep empathy for others, and because of that you should be able to discern when not to speak, how to speak and on what topics.
That’s not to say that those who are emotionally intelligent should be restricted from tendering an opinion on something new or unfamiliar, or that people never misspeak regardless of their familiarity with the subject matter. We all make mistakes. That’s human nature, and these days, let’s face it. Every mistake is magnified a thousand times by social media, and then distributed far and wide at lightning speed whether it deserves the attention or not.
Still, sometimes I can’t help but wonder: What in the actual $@&! is wrong with some people? It’s gotta be a scam right? A ploy to get quick publicity? There’s no other explanation – beyond sheer stupidity, of course – to explain why some celebrities and public figures routinely put their feet so far into their mouths it’s a wonder any of them can breathe, let alone talk.
Take Lindsay Lohan. She made a few headlines this week when she said the #MeToo movement makes women look weak. Just typing that sentence makes me question her sanity. But for the sake of the blog, let’s unpack the idea, shall we?
First, Lindsay Lohan is a second-rate actress. Her image does not need any help looking worse. Once a bright and shining child star who transitioned into a very popular mean girl, bad acting, bad behavior, bad choices in men – including reports that she was beaten by a boyfriend – booze, etc., turned Lohan into a tabloid queen, complete with piss poor finances and questionable fashion choices.
Second, Lohan has already gotten a ton of heat for defending Harvey Weinstein last year in what CNN described as “a now deleted Instagram video.” Since the video was deleted, presumably she saw the error of throwing her support behind one of the most polarizing figures in one of the most popular social movements for women in recent history. So, what changed?
Well, she does have a new reality series coming out on MTV. I know, I know, I was mildly surprised too. I didn’t even know MTV was still around. But then, that’s not saying much. I don’t have cable. But back to her comments. This bit from her interview with the UK’s The Times was particularly problematic:
“If it happens at that moment, you discuss it at that moment. You make it a real thing by making it a police report. I’m going to really hate myself for saying this, but I think by women speaking against these things, it makes them look weak when they are very strong women. …”
She went on to say that some women are speaking out for attention, which weakens the case for women who’ve actually suffered a real incident. At least, I think that’s what she meant. For the sake of argument, let’s assume she was well intentioned. There is, in fact, a serious problem with women who lie about such things. It does weaken the case for women who have been hurt or abused. Further, the nature of this particular offense doesn’t just affect one woman in a legal context, it affects all women in society as a whole, which is why it’s so horrible when a woman admits that she lied about being raped or molested.
It is important to report these kinds of incidents immediately, if only to gather evidence quickly and increase the chances the police will arrest and convict the accused. But taking that action requires significant courage in a moment of trauma, courage some women simply do not have because they know how poorly many victims are treated by police, by society, by everyone. Finally, the heartless, short-sidedness of victim blaming of any kind – even alluding to a woman being somehow at fault for not reporting an attacker – Lohan seems to have neglected that aspect of the discussion completely.
You could easily perceive her comments in a negative light because they weren’t explained or articulated very well, and because she’s already got a bad reputation, that’s exactly what happened. I haven’t seen anyone come to her defense. Instead, the internet is buzzing with people, ordinary and celebrity, who are basically denouncing her as a heretic.
Most of us don’t have Lohan’s level of notoriety. But there is a lesson here for the common man when it comes to public speaking, whether you’re being interviewed by a major publication, or you’re on a panel and it’s the Q&A portion of the event. If someone asks you a question, think carefully before you answer – especially if the issue is as hot a topic as the #MeToo movement.
It’s best to have considered an appropriate response ahead of time so you won’t be caught unaware. But if you do find yourself in the hot seat, before you answer a controversial question consider the impact your response might have on key stakeholders – such as all of the women in America or potentially the world. Further, consider how your response will make you look long-term.
For instance, do you want to be known as the C or D list celebrity who said that #MeToo makes women look weak? If you didn’t answer no right away stop reading this blog immediately and go meditate on your life choices. Trust me. It’s not going to do your image, your business or your anything, any good to be that person.
Contrary to popular belief, all press is not good press. Lohan is an actress. With just a few ill-considered comments she’s potentially shut herself out of consideration for any role playing a woman of integrity.
Would you choose her to play a complex female lead who has been temporarily weakened or wounded by circumstances outside her control and then redeemed by the hard choice of bravely facing her accuser? Nope.
Women contribute millions, maybe even billions to the global marketplace in annual buying power. Would you choose her to represent your female-centric brand, product or service? Nope.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, guard your image. Speaking carelessly will do your brand, your business or your career prospects considerable harm, and it takes a lot more energy and resources to repair what has been tainted than it does to prepare and avoid trouble in the first place.