#withoutme – Abuse is not a gender issue

The current cases of sexism, abuse and #metoo should not be made gender issues. Systems of abuse of power should be discussed.

Oh, this campaign is stirring me up. I could also place the hashtag. Get in the mood for the women’s suit against men. There are enough reasons. But an inner voice says #withoutme. I don’t wear this jacket – I’m not a victim.

Actually it’s about something else: women, let’s be honest, “men” aren’t the problem. At least the vast majority of them aren’t. Weinstein also ruined male careers and had female confidants. Jegge only abused boys.

Systems of abuse of power

The case of a professor at the ETH who exploited and bullied her staff, as well as the stories of fifty years of cruelty by Ingenbohl sisters, suggest that we should be talking about systems of abuse of power and not just sexism. And include that women are also perpetrators and confidants.

Recently I talked to a hospital director and asked if he was aware of cases of sexism by chief physicians against female assistants. Yes, he said openly, unfortunately. And: The problem also affects men.

Perfidious abuse of power

Anyone who wants to earn an FMH title or make a career in a special field and unfortunately ends up with superiors who don’t tolerate contradiction and who deal painfully with their staff would have to be afraid for their job and professional future if they rebel.

Whether man or woman. Sexism is a perfidious expression of a much broader repertoire of abuse of power. He says that toleration and silence are common ways of dealing with it. Or a professional change. The story has strong parallels to the current ETH story. What to do?

Talking is the solution

It takes courage and possibly a crack in the career, but the solution is talking; together with other affected people ideally, because power systems are often tightly woven if they are to withstand abuse. In this respect, the current wave is a blessing. The case at ETH Zurich shows: Disciplinary measures take effect when the right people know.

But we women should by no means make the mistake of turning this Hollywood story and other abuses into a simple gender issue, because then it creates false fronts and misses the point. We should get the men on board and don’t make them guilty in general.

*Esther-Mirjam de Boer, Managing Director of Getdiversity and UR Management, President of the Gris Alliance des Créateurs, President of the “Verband Frauenunternehmen”.

In the column “Added value”, successful business women write about the business world.

Article by Esther-Mirjam de Boer* published 3.11.2018 in the Handelszeitung