Posted by: Emily Carrancho | March 14, 2018

Tempered Radicalism is Everywhere.

Hello everyone! Hope you all had a great well rested spring break. I wanted to continue the discussion of tempered radicals because I have been thinking about it a lot since we discussed the articles and the theory from Monday.

Initially reading the Meyerson and Scully gave me a different reaction than reading the Meyerson article. Meyerson and Scully gave a great introduction to the idea of tempered radicals being leaders within and causing change without directly asking for it, while the second drew on examples more and and laid out techniques in which someone is able to perform this change within an organization. Both were clear in defining how tempered radicals are individuals within an organization who  wish to induce change, however more evolutionary through small acts and opportunities. Four different types of tempered radicals were established by Meyerson: Disruptive Self-Expression, Verbal Jujitsu, Variable-Term Opportunism, and Strategic Alliance Building.

When we were discussing this on Monday, I came to realize how much of this idea is in society today and how we all most likely do this without realizing it. I found that I myself would do this a lot whether it be through what I say or wear and do. Not only that but it made me realize that many people probably don’t think they are doing it when they are. One example that stood out to me was Ellen Thomas who is an African American woman in technical services. She was asked to wear her hair a particular way when to her its an expression of her personality and racial identity. Not only that, she knew that her hair should not inhibit her ability to do her job. Ellen performed tempered radicalism through disruptive self-expression, because she did not comply with her colleague asking her to wear her hair a particular way and still gave a presentation and gained another client. When she finished, she went to her colleague and said “as you just saw, my hairstyle has nothing to do with my ability to do the job.” It was so powerful yet also not creating change in a way that is too quick. It made me think about how many African American women have had to perform tempered radicalism at work or at school to be able to show how their identity and hairstyle doesn’t inhibit their ability to do a job well.

This example also made me think about the way women and girls who have gone through similar situations when they would come to school wearing a hijab. These girls and women attending schools wearing their hijab were able to cause change and put in to perspective how the dress code in schools really affect students and puts that pressure for change.

I have even found myself doing this, thinking back on how I lead in my organization. My identity and how sometimes I use disruptive self-expression and how others have as well. This idea of tempered radicals reminds me in a way of leading and causing change from the background. I would define myself as someone who leads from behind and may not have the “leader/high position” title but I am able to cause change within my organization from the sidelines and cause my team to think about something we should change or implement that will continue the progress of the organization but still staying true to the values of the organization and my own.

In an odd way, it reminds me of mothers. Mothers have this tempered radicalism to cause change within her children or family. Whether that be from not picking up after someone which helps that person realize and begin to put their clothes away or pick up after themselves without the mother saying a word. This might be a slight stretch from the definition and examples given in the articles however, I feel that they can be similar.

So, my question is how did reading the two articles open your eyes about tempered radicalism and do you believe that it is everywhere? Did you see how many examples could be defined as such from every day experiences and history, like I did? How have you performed it yourself or have seen it in person if you have done so?


Meyerson, D., & Scully, M. (1999). Tempered radicalism: Changing the workplace from within. Center for Gender and Organization. 

Meyerson, D. (2001). Radical change, the quiet way. Harvard Business Review, pg. 92-100.


  1. I agree that tempered radicalism is everywhere. I never thought of myself doing certain things had a name and could be described as a type of radicalism. I know a lot of African Americans are often criticized for their hair and asked to style it in a different way. It’s always interesting to me how their hair is viewed as unkempt or unprofessional while white women with messy buns, or equally naturally curly hair isn’t viewed the same. I liked these articles a lot since they provided strategies for how to perform tempered radicalism.

    A lot of times, women want to rebel or break rules but are also fearful of being fired or punished. Tempered radicalism provides them with subtle skills to break norms while still remaining a faithful employee or citizen. I agree that mothers do perform tempered radicalism. As children have certain expectations of parents since as babies, they never have to clean up after themselves since they physically can not. However, after they grow up parents must change their dynamics and begin to not clean up or to do things that are out of the ordinary for the children in order to teach them responsibilities that will help them in the future.

  2. I have tried to think of examples of tempered radicalism that I have seen at my job.

    When I started working in a children’s retail store as a sophomore in high school, I had noticed that the atmosphere was very laid-back and lacking enjoyment. My coworkers were there to work, but they were always having full conversations with each other. I noticed that the manager who made the schedule weekly was not giving shifts to the workers that just chat the whole time. This small change made an impact in our weekly sales. I would call it a small win because there was a positive change for the store as a whole.

    The store manager is very outgoing, and she loves to dance and sing around the store. Although this may seem strange to the new employees, it has helped our store have higher sales. Her happy and spunky attitude influences all of the employees to be in a cheerful mood during their shifts. I would say it makes us want to work more frequently because the overall atmosphere of the store is fun, yet productive. I include this as an example because she was expressing herself in a way for the employees to be changed in a positive way.

  3. To me, tempered radicalism is leading from behind the scenes. While it is not always seen, it is there and it is making big changes. When I read the Meyerson article about tempered radicalism, I was excited to finally label an action that many people do, but never know they are doing it. It gives people power to know that they are making a difference and a change in their organizations, even in the most subtle of ways.

    Two of the tempered radicalism approaches, I see very often: variable-term opportunism and strategic alliance building. I have noticed that women will often build an alliance when they want to initiate change or to call an insensitive action out. When the school board oh my hometown was deciding to move certain teachers around one year, and the possibility of closing a school in our district, the female teachers silently banded together and spoke out against the school board. They found that there were power in numbers, and eventually after recruiting the entire community into the argument, the school board backed down from their decisions.

    Another example, is when some of my science teachers wanted to begin recycling unused paper or unwanted homework instead of throwing it away. They began setting up recycling bins in their own classrooms. After a while, other teachers began to notice and my science teachers would encourage them to participate as well. Other the last few years, our school has recycled not only paper, but cans, bottles, and plastic. Now, a green team has been established to help promote more recycling within the school.

    The easiest form of tempered radicalism to practice is disruptive self-expression, because it involves just being yourself. I feel that a lot of young women today practice disruptive self-expression, including myself. At my old job as a cook in a local restaurant, I worked in an environment that required you to either where black, maroon, or khaki colors in order to make everything the same. I felt that this took away everyone’s unique personalities that made the restaurant a great place to go to. I first started experimenting with putting colorful bows in my hair, and then began wearing bright colored appropriate length shorts with a black shirt. Even though I was adding some spunk to my outfits, I remained completely professional in my job. Eventually, my colleagues began noticing and so did the customers. They liked the small changes. It showed that I had character and added to the atmosphere of the restaurant.

    I agree with Lauren that tempered radicalism is a great technique for employees to rebel and yet still remain professional. I feel like this should be taught in schools today, especially in celebrating small wins. Small actions, like putting out recycling bins or wearing bows, can snowball into big changes.

  4. I also enjoyed the concept of tempered radicalism, I’ve noticed that the phrase “verbal ju-jitsu” has quickly worked its way into my vocabulary!

    Despite my use of the phrase “verbal ju-jitsu” becoming more frequent, I believe I have used strategic alliance building the most when practicing tempered radicalism. As the phrase goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” and I truly believe that networking can make the difference in the success of any movement. I have noticed this within the greek community. As a sorority president, I have become close with many other sorority presdients. Although we are all part of different organizations, we often band together if we disagree with a policy the university tries to put in place. On the other hand, we have created an environment to celebrate each others successes when things go well.

    I like the idea of temepred radicalism because it is something that can be done by everyone. It does not require a big statement to be made, but rather small, subtle changes. This is more more manageable to people like myself who prefer to fly under the radar during times of controversy.

  5. I think tempered radicalism is very important and prevalent in society today. It is constantly occurring in so many different situations in so many different environments. However, sometimes people are unaware that it is happening because the changes are so slight. You mentioned that tempered radicalism was evolutionary, and I thought that was a really cool way to phrase the phenomenon. People practicing tempered radicalism are making small, often times unnoticeable, changes that eventually make a big difference in the long run. This reminds me of Darwinism. Charles Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands and studied how several species of finches varied from island to island. This supported his idea of evolution because the birds were making minimal changes that eventually set themselves apart from their ancestors. This is like tempered radicalism because people are making small changes that eventually change the bigger picture in the end.

    You mentioned that Ellen Thomas was making small changes in her field by wearing her hair in an unconventional way. Rather than conforming, Thomas chose to stick up for herself and stay true to herself. By doing so, she was affecting all the women that will follow after her. Now women of the future will not be afraid to wear their hair in whatever way they choose to.

  6. Tempered radicalism is something that I truly identify with. This is a practice that I often employ myself. This has to do with my relationship with sexual assault. For my entire life, I have been a victim of sexual assault, experiencing it tens to a hundred times. Throughout my life, I felt obligated to be quiet, silent, and that there was overwhelming shame in my story. Finally, I realized that this is exactly what is wrong with society–that we blame the victim and shame them into silence, and that if I did not have the courage to speak out, neither would anyone else who have gone through my same experiences.

    I have tattooed on my collar bones “never a victim, forever a fighter” because it is a story that I wear proudly. Whereas I use to feel shame and fear whenever sexual assault was discussed, I now make it a point to wear this phrase proudly, and to be able to share my story. Speaking up is important, I have even experienced criticism from friends, but rape culture is something that is unbelievably real and prevalent in our society, and is something that we as humans should stand up against, together. No one should be shamed into silence.

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