Ahhh – one of my pet subjects.
Unsurprising to many, I’d been involved in the debate over the Libra #transphobictampons advertisement. And then Libra “apologised”.
Now apologies – here is one of my pet subjects. Especially when it comes to the really shitty nature of apologies – both in the way the apology is delivered and how it is reported.
Some call it a fauxpology but I like “the arsehole’s apology”. You know the one. At best it is “we are sorry if we caused any offence” or like the Libra one “Libra regrets any offense taken to our recent tampon advertisement”. Notwithstanding the unbeleivably offensive nature of the ad, regardless of the terrible harm it has caused and the prolific transphobic behaviour and comments it has actually created, this sort of shitty apology always fucks me off. As pissed off as I am about the ad and just how much harm it has actually caused, I will leave that debate to others far better placed at arguing this than I am.
I’m going to talk about apology. The arsehole’s apology routinely says “We are sorry you got upset about something”. The blame, of course, rests with you for getting all upset about it. There is no fucking acknowledgement of wrongdoing. There is no recognition of actual harm.
A variant of the arsehole’s apology is the one we often see from sports stars or celebs. You know the wossname Veitch piece of shit. Sorry to fans, sorry to family, sorry to everyone but the person you fucking put in hospital. And they all seem to do it. Apologise to people who are, in effect, an extension of you.
But this Libra one. Maybe their PR people are all on holiday. But just in case they happen to be watching, here is how you apologise. Ahem…
I apologise for my actions in thinking that such an advertisement could ever be acceptable, and in allowing it to proceed. I realise this resulted in [recognise the actual harm caused]. I have no excuse that can justify this action. I should have known better, and recognise that this ignorance does not mitigate the harm I caused. I hope I have learned from this, and will make every endeavour to improve my behaviour, and prevent any recurrence. I will not insult you by promising that it will never happen again, as we all know that I cannot make that promise. All I can do is demonstrate to you that I have learned, and will use this opportunity to educate others so that they might avoid making this mistake.
- take ownership for your actions
- be specific and understand what has happened
- make it personal to those who have been harmed
- demonstrate that you understand what harm was caused and why it was caused
- demonstrate you will try to learn and improve and educate others
- above all – MEAN IT.
This never undoes the harm, but it at least shows to people that you understand it now. And at the very least, you actually stop further harm. You remove the offensive ad from wherever it may be (and that includes YouTube). You don’t pretend like it never happened, but you stop it from continuing to do harm.
There is one further thing you need to do. In so many cases, the horrible comments and attitudes that are triggered by the offensive act – the hideous and vicious attacks it engenders, you have to deal with that as well. Today, you have no excuse whatsoever to not realise that the comments are often as bad as (or worse) than the original act. And you are responsible for those too. And you have to fix that.
Especially when you end up with all manner of nastiness on your Facebook page, you moderate properly. If you’ve put something on YouTube, you moderate that. If you intend to release an “edgy” commercial just before a holiday period, you have someone watching your social media accounts closely so that your apology, your attempts at redressing the harm, can happen quickly.
Libra – you have one fucking massive lesson to learn here. About issues trans* people face, about sexism, about interpretation, and about the nature of social media. Until you realise this, and until you actually apologise properly, fuck you!!
Ed note – sorry if this doesn’t hang together well – it was written in one take.