The United States during the mid 1850’s was suddenly thrust in to an area of struggle few could have seen coming. The Women’s Suffrage Movement had gained momentum though it had taken almost a century to fester into its current role. However, it struggled as it gained it’s voice as two opposing factions within the movement began to butt heads over the approach taken by the other.
The founding women believed in a more moderate, soft shoe approach that involved letter writing, and political pressure. The other group believed in civil disobedience, sit-ins, protests, and inflammatory speeches. The end result was a massive split between the two groups ending with mixed messages that caused neither group to hold much influence.
When it seemed like all of the Suffrage’s hard work to win a woman’s right to vote was all for naught, along came a leader who changed the course of the movement.
Frances Willard had joined the Temperance Movement years earlier, and had become interested in the Suffrage Movement over time. In 1876 Willard got the Suffrage Movement to join forces with the Temperance Movement resulting in a sudden reignition of both. How did she get the cause of women’s right to vote back on track? She folded the main cause of her focus, voting rights, inside the cause of alcohol temperance.
Willard talked not about a woman’s right to vote, but of the harm that alcohol abuse causes with in the home. She cleverly wrapped this emotional, softshoe plea directed at mostly the male gender of the time, as a woman’s ability to keep her home safe for her man who was hard at work providing for his family. A sly move but one that was very palatable to the paternalistic society at the time. Once her alcohol abuse message began to be well received, she further pressed the voting cause by genially stating that given a mother’s natural caring instinct, they would be well positioned to elect strong men who would govern with an ability to protect their sacred home. Who could resist such a puffball, nonthreatening argument. The fragile male ego was stroked, and in short order wome were granted the right to vote. Willard was a brilliant observer of the human condition and played her cards perfectly.
By wrapping her main objectives within a softer package that most of country held as their values…namely protecting the home fires, Willard was able to achieve what the Suffrage Movement wasn’t.
By getting those opposed or indifferent to care about her main cause, the right to vote, Willard came across an ingenious method of making a fastball look like an easy lob to home plate. As Adam Grant in his amazing book, “Originals” (How Non-conformists Move the World) he describes Willard’s approach as having “…smuggled the vote inside the Trojan horse of fighting alcohol abuse.”
How do we get today’s kids to buy into stopping cyberbullying using the same methods Willard employed?
What we are doing is not working. Suspensions only result in more angry bullies, and zero tolerance rules often resultin the wrong kids being disciplined due to inflexible, non-negotiable school laws.
Kids who are not affected by bullying/cyberbullying either are not interested in becoming involved in such a movement, or if they are involved such as witnesses, they don’t want to step forward for fear of unwanted attention by the bully, or fear of being labeled as a rat by their peer.
What is the Trojan Horse that we can use to wrap the need for them to become empathetic about stopping harassment and abuse? What is the “hot button”, the “value” that would flip the switch deep inside their Amygdala, the lizard brain, to suddenly make the cause of wrking to prevent bullying/cyberbullying become part of their raison d’etre?
Adam Grant states in writing about Frances Willard’s approach, “Her actions offered two lessons about persuading potential partners to join forces. First, we need to think differently about values. Instead of assuming that others share our principals, or trying to convince them to adopt ours, we ought to present our values as a means of pursuing theirs. It’s hard to change other people’s ideals. It’s much easier to link our agendas to familiar values that people already hold.”
WOW! When I read that I had a mind blowing experience. It makes total sense. Instead of swimming against the tide to try and catch a fish, why not jump into a passing boat, and fish as the others suntan.
The key is to present the idea of teen getting involved in preventing bullying/cyberbullying, but not having that as the main message in whatever Trojan Horse one comes up with. Schools try to sell their students on the idea of being a family, of being a Mustang, or a Giant, and while this does resonate with some kids, it only seems to affect those that are either involved in after school activities where they belong to a team or a group that represents their school, or to those who are empathetic by nature.
By exploring what kids value, we as adults, may be able to identify this mythical Trojan Horse that will become the the carrier of our main objective, to prevent bullying/cyberbullying.