Lifestyle guru Tony Robbins has built a career on motivating people to improve their lives, but based on the comments he’s made about the #MeToo movement, that doesn’t include motivating women to call out their sexual abusers. Robbins recently claimed women used the #MeToo movement in order to make themselves “significant” through “victimhood,” a statement that got revisited last week when video surfaced of a woman confronting Robbins at an event last month. That video went viral, people were rightfully angry, and Robbins has put out an apology.
The video, which Now This News disseminated on Friday, shows a woman named Nanine McCool trying to discuss #MeToo with Robbins at a self-help event in San Jose on March 15. Robbins had just brought up #MeToo on stage.“If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else, you haven’t grown an ounce,” he claimed, per the video. “All you’ve done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good.” McCool, herself a victim of sexual assault, called him out.
“So I think you misunderstand the #MeToo movement,” she said, attempting to explain where Robbins’s victim-blaming interpretation went wrong, right before Robbins, naturally, interrupted her. “I’m not mocking the Me Too movement. I’m mocking victimhood,” he said. “What you’re seeing is people making themselves significant by making somebody else wrong. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It just won’t make you happy. It won’t make them better. It won’t make you better.”
You can watch the lengthy interaction—which includes an incredibly uncomfortable dominative exercise in which Robbins appears to try to push McCool over, and a story he tells about a friend who wouldn’t hire a woman because she was too pretty—below:
You could argue that women who put their selves and reputations at risk to unmask their abusers are, in fact, attempting to make themselves significant, in that the way we protect men who harass, assault, and rape tends to diminish the significance of women who are harassed, assaulted, and raped. That, of course, was not what Robbins was implying, but rather that women use the #MeToo movement to get attention at the expense of others. The video elicited a vehement response from #MeToo advocates, including from Tarana Burke, the civil rights activist who coined the term #MeToo:
At a recent Unleash the Power Within (UPW) event in San Jose, my comments failed to reflect the respect I have for everything Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement has achieved. I apologize for suggesting anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement. Let me clearly say, I agree with the goals of the #MeToo movement and its founding message of “empowerment through empathy,” which makes it a beautiful force for good.
For 40 years I’ve encouraged people to grow into the men and women they dream to be. I watch in awe as more and more women all over the world find their voice and stand up and speak out. All of our growth begins with learning. My own started with a childhood marked by abuse. I am humbled that others have looked to the path I have taken in the decades since as lessons in their own journey. But sometimes, the teacher has to become the student and it is clear that I still have much to learn.
I teach that “life happens for you, not to you” and what I’ve realized is that while I’ve dedicated my life to working with victims of abuse all over the world, I need to get connected to the brave women of #MeToo.
I am committed to being part of the solution.
I am committed to helping to educate others so that we all stay true to the ideals of the #MeToo movement. I will never stop examining my own words and actions to make sure I am staying true to those ideals. That begins with this brief statement but will not end until our goals are reached.
It would be nice if these apologies weren’t contingent on collective outcry, but I suppose in this world, we’ve swapped out self-reflection for the threat of lost book sales.