Posted by: meghancasey18 | October 19, 2016

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

Last Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama made a stump speech in New Hampshire in support of the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Instead of praising Clinton, Michelle Obama instead focused on the latest tragedy in what I’m sure we can almost all agree has been has been a disaster of a campaign season. She did not use Donald Trump’s name, but she addressed the remarks he made that were released on the Access Hollywood tape, the so called “locker-room talk” we discussed in class. Then she went on to say that the fact that a candidate for President of the United States said these things has “shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted”.

She went on to discuss the power-dynamic that we struggled to define.

“This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.”

Power and influence are interrelated concepts that sit at the heart of leadership. According to the Encyclopedia of Leadership, “A politician has power when he is able to influence the direction of public policy. Parents have power when they determine what a teenager can and cannot do on weekends. A manager has power when she is able to hire, fire, and/or reward employees. One reasonable way to define power is the potential ability for one individual to exert influence over the attitudes and behavior of others.”

I would argue that the power-difference between men and women in our country is what makes “locker-room talk” more than talk. An individual with the ability to exert influence over the attitudes and behaviors of others has the ability to enact action. Action that can be threatening and harmful. As Michelle Obama put it, “It is cruel.  It’s frightening.  And the truth is, it hurts.  It hurts.”

Here’s a link to her speech in its entirety if you want to hear more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGeiuCPs6xA.

References:

Neider, L. L., & Schriesheim, C. A. (2004). Power: Overview. In G. R. Goethals, G. J. Sorenson, & J. M. Burns (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Leadership (Vol. 3, pp. 1248-1251). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference.

Office of the First Lady (October 13, 2016). Remarks by the First Lady at Hillary for America Campaign Event in Manchester, NH. Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/13/remarks-first-lady-hillary-america-campaign-event-manchester-nh.

 

 

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Responses

  1. I think that you bring up an excellent point that power does not mean you are influential, and the two go hand-in-hand. This is something that we as human beings I think have a hard time grasping, that people who are powerful are influential, in the right ways. Power and influence should be considered separately before we consider them together, because if there is negative influence being exerted by a leader, and people are influenced by it, we as the followers either give that leader power. But is that power and influence taken in a good or positive way? I think that any leader, bother women and men, need to know that positive influence means that their power is justified and they are being a good leader, while the leader given power because of negative influence, is still a bad leader. Both men and women have to understand this and unfortunately I think men are the ones who are the leaders, exert this negative influence, people listen to him, and the things that he says unfortunately portray women in a bad way and his influence turned power over people, makes people believe women will not be good as leaders. (sorry if I rambled)!

  2. Something that has continually bothered me during this time is when people post something along the lines of “Trump only said mean words, while Hillary has actually done bad things.” I don’t think people give words the credit they deserve. Many of the horrible leaders in the world didn’t get into office because they did horrible things–Hitler didn’t start out by killing a bunch of Jews. I don’t want to compare Trump to Hitler, but what I mean to say is that many bad leaders in power got into their positions because they appealed to nationalism and prejudice through their words. Words are incredibly powerful–we express our thoughts through them, and they are how we relate to others. So it is completely unsurprising to me that words can be dangerous, too; they can incite violence and stir up emotions. They can start rebellions. They can assure young men that it is perfectly okay to sexually assault a woman, and make them believe that women are not fit for leadership roles. It’s that power and influence aspect you were talking about. Trump’s celebrity status without a doubt gives him power and influence over other people, whether or not he has earned it. When you couple that power with the things he says, it sets a dangerous precedent, as I’m not sure he completely understands the repercussions of what he says, or the fact that many people are looking to him as an example. Honestly, he could be a very straight-laced person, he could never have sexually assaulted anybody, and could be the least sexist person in his actions, but as long as his words set that standard, his power is being used to the detriment of women.

  3. I agree with the above commenters completely. They always say that actions speak louder than words but this election has proved that is not always the case. We need to keep in mind what is the intention, to help or to harm? His words towards many groups have been harmful and degrading. To be in a position of power one it supposed to uplift followers do not tear them down due to differences. While he may not have physically done anything words can be harmful. He is showing his followers that it is okay to have a hateful and discriminatory rhetoric to those that are different. And while people love to say that they are independent society and culture, things that impact us aren’t. The president is one of they most powerful people in the world and they and their family are supposed to set the standard for the Americans. Just look at how influential Regan, FDR, and the Kennedys were and still are. A leader’s words can’t be ignored as it reflects their thoughts and therefore actions they may take. Also, we can’t be known as the leaders of the free world and the paradigm of freedom while preaching hate.

  4. I agree with the comments and the overall post about how powerful words can be. Not only is “locker-room talk” harmful to women, it is also harmful for young men who see that a presidential candidate of the United States of America can say awful things about and to women, and still be in the running. This behavior is only re-iterating what men already felt entitled to, and that is power over women. The president is influential and therefore, even presidential candidates have power enough to shift the way people think, even if its subconsciously. Donald Trump’s actions only promote sexual aggression towards women and make it more normalized. The idea that “Trump only said mean things” is not even close to being true if we consider the impact he has had on the young men in this country who are looking up to him. Unfortunately, this type of rhetoric has always been a problem in our country and it will continue if men who are presidential candidates can be in the running and still degrade women.

  5. I agree with you on the relationship you pointed out between locker-room talk and power. Locker room in itself is harmful, but when a powerful person uses locker room talk then things start to get more dangerous. I have seen this in the context of swim teams I have been on. On each swim team I’ve been on there have been certain individuals that emerge as leaders in both the men’s group & the women’s group. I have noticed that if the leader of the men’s group uses locker room talks and treats women in a degrading way, almost every other guy on the team will behave in the same way. At the same time though, if the leader of the men’s group respects women and uplifts them, almost every other guy on the team will begin to show more respect to the women. This is important for especially male leaders to keep in mind when leading. Oftentimes male leaders might not necessarily realize how much their followers look up to them in regard to how they treat others; I would encourage everyone who reads this to remind and encourage their male friends to keep this in mind throughout daily life.

  6. I would like to start by saying I am not ready for either Obama to leave. I want to cry everytime I think about this.
    But one of the great things about Michelle Obama is that she is blunt, honest and always supporting women. She is the perfect soul to fight for women’s rights. She will call anyone out on anything. She calls attention to the power men have, and how if women use that they will punished. She challenges the double bind. She pushes not only her own children but other children to go after their dreams not matter what. She is a strong voice that everyone can connect with. She can help create awareness to the society norms and such that women live in.


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