a reckoning can’t begin and end with the self.
July 4, 2018 12:41 PM   Subscribe

If you want to know why women are so angry, it’s because this ritual tends to exclude the injured party. This “talk about how you’re going to do and be better” stuff isn’t actually a great formula for reconciliation. It offers neither retributive nor restorative justice. It privileges public acceptance over making things right with the actual victims, who barely seem to register at all. But it’s pretty effective: In an age of never-ending public relations wars, we’re so starved for any sign of sincere spiritual struggle that we rush to reward self-proclaimed sinners who say they’re trying to make good.
Lili Loofbourow: Junot Díaz and the problem of the male self-pardon.
posted by MartinWisse (16 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well said! Thanks for the post.
posted by nickyskye at 1:08 PM on July 4, 2018


That was really excellent, thank you.
posted by smoke at 2:39 PM on July 4, 2018


Wow that was incredibly written. Thanks for sharing.
posted by saucysault at 2:47 PM on July 4, 2018


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much we lose by focusing on individuals and items and not on relationships between things.

It’s harder to accurately observe and measure relationships, which makes them less valued with the version of “objective” most English speakers seem to have, but I also wonder how much of this occlusion of relationships is a legacy of prejudice - the perceived necessity of removing the agency of others in order to live with what we do with them.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:06 PM on July 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


The penultimate paragraph is pretty heavy, and definitely hits home with me, since I've been giving a lot of thought lately to my own past (& present?) mistreatment of women in my life:

"What frightens people about #MeToo is in part, I think, that everyone is guilty. And we’re starting to realize it in new ways. If you grew up in a culture that structurally undervalues women, then you, yes you, have undervalued them. Maybe you haven’t taken some people seriously enough. Maybe you’ve treated them badly. Maybe you’ve condescended to them in your heart. Maybe you’re worried about their having power. Or, maybe, it’s now clear to you—in ways you couldn’t see before—that you did heinous things, things you wouldn’t have done to people you truly respected as equals. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to understand this moment without thinking of yourself as a monster, which you have never felt you were. Maybe you long for redemption and feel it’s no longer available. "
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:15 PM on July 4, 2018 [31 favorites]


I'm bookmarking this essay to send people for when saying "Are you fucking kidding me?" isn't enough.
posted by grandiloquiet at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2018


Oh, I particularly liked this paragraph, which put a finger on why I hate those public Twitter 'apologies' so much:

"If women have a hard time accepting apologies, or declaring a public reckoning over, it may not be because they’re vengeful grudge holders but because they’ve had little to do with the apology machine whose output—male epiphany, primarily—they are told they should accept. Women, in this arrangement, must be supreme apology catchers, grasping at any sorry volleyed into space, to no one in particular, for unspecified harms, on the assumption it was meant for them."

Supreme apology catchers. And grateful for it. Yeah, I'm not a fan of those pseudo-apologies at all.
posted by librarylis at 8:55 PM on July 4, 2018 [27 favorites]


I had a music teacher from fifth grade (age 9) through middle and high school who handled apologies in a way I've carried ever since:
Kid/person: "I'm sorry!"
Prof (and me since learning from his example): "Don't say you're sorry – don't do it again."

The reasoning behind it became obvious with chronic apologizers. If you're actually sorry, you don't repeat the thing that you already know hurts someone. If you repeat it, you're not sorry, with all that can entail.

See also: actions speak louder than words.
posted by fraula at 1:01 AM on July 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


I had a music teacher from fifth grade (age 9) through middle and high school who handled apologies in a way I've carried ever since:
Kid/person: "I'm sorry!"
Prof (and me since learning from his example): "Don't say you're sorry – don't do it again."

The reasoning behind it became obvious with chronic apologizers. If you're actually sorry, you don't repeat the thing that you already know hurts someone. If you repeat it, you're not sorry, with all that can entail.


I'm a former elementary school teacher, and I think a good apology should have three parts:

1) I'm sorry
2) For what I did which was...
3) Next time I will...

And ideally three should be positive and not negative, e.g. instead of "I'm sorry I hit you. Next time I won't hit you." it should be "I'm sorry I hit you. Next time I'm feeling really angry, I will do ten jumping jacks and get a drink of water." And then you actually have to do it, you actually have to put your plan into action. If you're genuinely contrite, you should be willing to do the work of figuring out how to protect other people from your actions and emotions.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:21 AM on July 5, 2018 [29 favorites]


Between the self-pardon apology and the apology that is designed to make you the bad guy, I seriously wonder how I've continued to interact with men for the last 40+ years.

My father, who was lovely in many ways, was an absolute shit when it came to apologies. And much to my dismay, many of the men I've been involved with have had his same flaw. His wrongs were never actually wrong, they were just misunderstood. His slights were just done to make you stronger and his feelings were absolutely more important than yours while being hidden and not talked about.

If he yelled at you for the tv being too loud while he was napping, it was your fault for not understanding how tired he was. If he was pissed off at a coworker and brought that anger home, it was your problem because you weren't paying attention to his mood and giving him space. If he sulked for days at a time because you failed to acknowledge or notice something he did that was nice, it was your fault for being so insensitive. And if you ever called him on it, or explained that these kinds of apologies aren't apologies and his actions weren't justified (which I finally did as I aged), then you got my favorite apology.

"I'm sorry, I guess I'm just an asshole."

I do wonder how I can be not full of rage 24/7
posted by teleri025 at 8:30 AM on July 5, 2018 [16 favorites]


Cis men so often want to act like they’re entitled to be terrible and should be copiously rewarded for exceeding that expectation, but that the rest of us owe them apologies any time we’re less than perfect.

This is a lot of why I don’t generally date men and don’t get why so many other women who have the option do.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think mostly for the penises.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm a former elementary school teacher, and I think a good apology should have three parts:

1) I'm sorry
2) For what I did which was...
3) Next time I will...

And ideally three should be positive and not negative, e.g. instead of "I'm sorry I hit you. Next time I won't hit you." it should be "I'm sorry I hit you. Next time I'm feeling really angry, I will do ten jumping jacks and get a drink of water."


I definitely adhere to this with my children, but for adults it still feels like there needs to be a (4). That is, it's still not enough to apologize sincerely and knowingly and to plausibly commit to not doing it again. There's also usually a history of benefiting from the injuries done to others, and of course the lasting effects of those injuries. As with legal crimes and community service, a full reckoning here should also include voluntarily embarking on formal work with organizations that alleviate the sorts of injuries that were caused, with an amount of time proportional to the accumulated amount of harm that was done (at least). As with theft, it's not enough to apologize and agree to stop stealing people's money, and it's not even enough to give it all back, because that harm cannot be undone; the only full reckoning is to put in new time actively helping those who were hurt and those like them, in proportion to the harm that was done. Absent that, even the most profuse apology and commitment to sin no more just feels like a mechanism for getting on with their lives.
posted by chortly at 1:45 PM on July 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


As with theft, it's not enough to apologize and agree to stop stealing people's money, and it's not even enough to give it all back, because that harm cannot be undone; the only full reckoning is to put in new time actively helping those who were hurt and those like them, in proportion to the harm that was done. Absent that, even the most profuse apology and commitment to sin no more just feels like a mechanism for getting on with their lives.

I would add a number 5, for grownups-- "I understand if some people no longer wish to engage with me or my work."

So many of these apologizers use the apology as a bludgeon from that point on-- "but I apologized, so not giving me the job/award/RT is wrong!" The belief that the apology should evaporate any ill-will or wariness from that point onward is endemic, and absurd.

I wish apologizers could understand that "I have done harm, and I have tried to make amends, but I understand that for some people that will never be enough" is actually ALSO part of trying to make amends. Sometimes people don't want you in their social circle anymore. Sometimes people don't want to take your classes anymore. Sometimes people don't want to teach or promote your books anymore. Sometimes you never get the benefit of the doubt back. That is not vengeance-- that is a healthy part of the healing process.

An apology is not a reset button.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:35 AM on July 6, 2018 [10 favorites]


This is a lot of why I don’t generally date men and don’t get why so many other women who have the option do.

If I could even remotely get myself interested in boobies and vaginas, I would.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:15 AM on July 6, 2018


Jenfullmoon, that’s why I said women who have the option - I get that straight women are stuck. I was referring to the ton of bi women out there who don’t have to be.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:18 AM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


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