Wednesday, February 18, 2015

When Speaking Out Is The Right Thing To Do...

Even to me the issue of "stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest," sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices.
                            - Brene' Brown, Daring Greatly

I come from a long line of powerful women. Women who saw problems and spoke up. Women who were willing to do the right thing even though it wasn't easy.

My Grandma, Florence Stanbury, protested the Vietnam War. She felt our involvement in that war was inherently wrong and she spoke up, at great cost to herself. She got called names. She lost some friends. It wasn't easy, but she chose to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences were.

I remember a conversation I had with her when she was visiting us. I asked why she had spoken up. She paused and then said without flinching, "You speak out when it is the right thing to do."

My Mom, Dolores Stanbury McColm, worked tirelessly to get a group of drug dealers off the streets in Seattle near an apartment building we owned. She called the city. She took photographs of the drug dealers. She turned those over to the police. She started a petition of the businesses nearby. 

My Dad recalled how my Mom hid behind a tree on our property and when the drug dealers were on a public phone located on the sidewalk next door, my Mom held on to the tree with one arm and leaning precariously while holding on to a branch, she took pictures of them with her other arm. 

When I talked to my Mom about her "escapades with the drug dealers," she sounded just like my Grandma. "I did it because someone needed to speak up."

It's probably not too ironic that the name of the College Club I help to advise is called "Speak Out!" Since I was a little girl I followed the lead of my Grandma and Mom. 

When I saw things that were "just plain wrong," as my Grandma used to say, I spoke up. I used the voice God gave me to express what I saw as an injustice or a problem or simply something that was being ignored.

Now just so we are clear, there were some rules in my family about voicing your opinion. It was understood that you might pay a price. Some folks might even be so rude as to call you names or tell you that no one wants to hear what you have to say. But no matter how rudely they behaved, it was clear that

I was to voice my ideas in a clear and tactful manner.

As my Nana used to say, "just because they may be rude is not a license for you to be rude in return."

I was to approach sharing my opinion in a way that someone could listen to it. If I made someone defensive by being demanding or rude, then I, in all probability, wouldn't be listened to.

Fair enough. That lesson sunk in.

So it wasn't a stretch for me to be looking online, see something that was appalling to me, and for me to know that speaking up was the right thing to do.

More specifically, I happened to look at the online dress ads for Nordstrom. My granddaughter was looking for a spring dress, and I thought I'd see what the latest styles were. Just a casual "look see" that turned into much more.

The title of the advertisement said, "The Silhouettes 

That Matter Now." And my eyes glanced at the models, not just the dresses. 

I let out an "Oh my  goodness" as I starred at the computer screen. One of the models, who just happened to be Asian, stood out to me. I was thrilled that an Asian model, a woman of color, was modeling for Nordstrom. However, her arms were the size of wrists. She looked emaciated, at least to me.

Since I teach a unit in my Interpersonal Communication Class on the "Impact of Advertising on the Self Esteem of Men and Women," I paused and reflected. Was I just being overly sensitive given the statistics I know? Was the woman really looking as anorexic as I thought? So I called in my resident coach, my husband Bert. Without any preliminary comments that might bias his remarks, I simply showed him the ad and said "What do you think?"

Bert looked, looked again and then sighed. He used three words to describe the model...anorexic, unhealthy and emaciated. He added, "Nordstrom can surely do better."

Since my first shoes came from Nordstrom, I grew up with the Nordstrom boys in Seattle, and our family had once owned a small amount of Nordstrom stock, I felt a connection with this store. Also, some years back, they were one of the first large clothing companies to use a model in a wheelchair. When I saw that ad I called the corporate office to congratulate them on their use of diversity.

I'm like that, you know. I love to see someone doing well and compliment them. I love to challenge others to step up and do it better. And I love it when others give me feedback that will help me improve.

I'll never forget when I noticed that our local newspaper, when reporting the results of Bloomsday, a local running race, always had a huge picture of the male winner. There was a much smaller picture of the female winner and no picture of the wheelchair winner. 

I called the paper, reached an editor, and shared my views. I said I would love it if all three winners had equal coverage. I mentioned how many women read their paper. And guess what? The following year they did have close to equal coverage.

So, after seeing this ad in Nordstrom and imagining the impact it might have on young women like my granddaughter, I decided to speak out. I once again called the Nordstrom corporate office. I explained who I was and what I taught. I explained that I had called them once before to compliment them. I explained that I was about to show their ad in my classes and I wanted them to know my concerns first. 

I asked to speak to the person who was really in charge of marketing. They gave me Brian Denahey's name. I called and left a short message that expressed my concern. I asked him to please call me back.

And to his credit, he did. 

Brian and I spoke for over an hour. We looked

at the ads in question together. And then we came upon the ad that most concerned me. He looked at it and there was a long silence. 

When he finally spoke he said very quietly, "That's horrible. I wouldn't want my own daughter to see that." 

Brian said he wasn't sure if it was the model that was the problem or the angle of the picture, but that whatever the cause the ad was inappropriate. He agreed that she looked way underweight. He told me he would contact the person responsible for the ad and that some changes would be made next time they did an ad campaign.

And then he thanked me. He genuinely thanked me.

That's when I told him about the 12 year old girl, basketball, and the Dick's Sporting Goods Catalogue.

Recently a 12 year old girl from Arizona, McKenna Peterson, who plays basketball, looked at the Dick's Sporting Goods Basketball Catalogue. She was appalled  There was only one girl in the whole basketball catalogue and she was on page 6, sitting in the stands. This 12 year old shared her concerns with her Dad who was a sports announcer. Not only did this young lady write a persuasive letter to the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, her dad made a tweet that went viral.

The young girl told the CEO that she loved basketball. In fact many young girls loved basketball and that they were not represented well in his catalogue. She told him it made her feel awful to not see even one photograph of a girl or woman playing the sport. She said his catalogue sent a message that girls belonged in the stands, sitting, instead of on the court playing. She asked the CEO to make a change.

Long story short, the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods read her letter, and no doubt saw the viral tweet heard around the world, and wrote her back an apology. Just like Brian Denahey from Nordstrom, he took responsibility for the mistake. He said it wouldn't happen again. He told her that the next basketball catalogue would have girls in it and they would be playing basketball this time, not just sitting in the stands. He thanked her for educating him and his company.

She spoke up. She spoke up tactfully and concisely.

She used  the voice God gave her, and she made a difference.

So in closing, I want to thank my Grandma and my Mom for teaching me to speak out when it is the right thing to do. I want to thank McKenna Peterson for speaking out and the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods for listening. And I especially want to thank Brain Denahey from Nordstron for listening and doing something about that ad.

Sometimes when we speak out tactfully and concisely, and it's the right thing to do, we get heard and it even makes a positive difference.

God Bless!



Peggy Sue said...

Oh Linda! how I love your tenacity. I kept thinking go, go , go when I read this. I always speak up...using the examples you just shared..i cannot sit and do nothing...yet I may not be as heard as you are. What a fun fun post..because it shared a real truth...what insite into what truths you just shared...we have to speak up when we Know "its the right thing to do" so greatful you did! I loved seeing...'the whiper snaper' side to you..maybe a old fashion exspression but It made me smile and just think..go Linda go go go!!! love you dear friend!!!

angela30114 said...

I LOVE your blog! I am learning so much from you. . . . THANK YOU!!

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