Apologies (or if “sorry” was a fifth we’d all be drunk)

So yes there have been many apologies regarding the images in Marcotte’s book from Marcotte, Seal Press and numerous folks who endorsed the book. But I believe I speak for a lot of people who were offended by the images when I say: “Yeah, that don’t mean shit.”

Wait…hold that kneejerk response, let me explain. Of course, it’s great to apologize for these things and to try and do something about them, such as Seal Press promising to get some racial sensitivity training but here’s the thing: We’ve heard all of this before, over and over from not just white feminists but the white left in general. When these things happen again and again and we have to fight to get people to acknowledge their mistakes and then they apologize and it happens again a few years later well the apologies start to pile up and the words “I’m Sorry” just don’t mean much anymore. Yes, Marcotte et. al. could be completely serious and change their ways and become great anti-racists but I know I’m not the only one who’s not holding their breath.

Apologies don’t mean shit unless things come from them, unless change happens and unless that change is spread. So let’s say those involved in this debacle really do change their ways and become experts on intersectionality and all that but five years from now (more like one year, but I digress) this all happens again but from different folks. So if every year we have to do this, have to fight not only for them to acknowledge the issue but apologize, how long until “sorry” is just a pacifier that denotes no real change.

The problem is not really Marcotte, or Seal Press the problem is the movement as a whole. (and don’t think I’m only picking on feminism and racism, I’m also taking about POC movements and sexism, both movements and their queerism, queer movements and racism, basically all movements have some -isms that they need to deal with I’m just dealing with feminism because this is what’s up right now) When the movement refuses to change or alter after over 50 years of the same issues, the same battles, the same criticisms we start to wonder will it ever change. If it’s even worth our time to be involved in such a movement that tries our patience and then when we do criticize attacks us, what  does the movement benefit us at that point? When our situations are never taken into account and in fact we feel attacked on all fronts what is the point

Now this is not to knock white feminists as a whole because there are plenty of fabulous white feminists, in my personal life and on the internetz BUT those are not the white feminists that getbooks published, they are not the feminists that the world remembers, they are not the feminists given a platform to speak. They are considered too radical, too loud by the mainstream feminists and where have we heard such critiques before? From the patriarchy directed at feminists in general.  

I could also write a whole post talking about the absence of some really famous Feminists of Color from this discussion.  The way Audre Lorde is seen as the only Feminist of Color ignoring a whole lot of other women that are still alive and still writing but as I said get no voice or platform to speak. The fact that because these women actually discuss their lives and the way that they cannot separate being Of Color and being a Woman they are ignored and relegated to footnotes in the history of feminism while problematic white feminist that they criticized are held up as paragons of virtue and egalitarianism. We could talk about Barbara Smith, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Merle Woo, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gloria T. Hull, Helen Zia, Patricia Bell but that’s a post for another time.

And through all this let us not forget one of the core problems of this whole dust-up, the fact that all these people saw those images and saw nothing wrong with them until other folks brought it up. Well we get tired of bringing it up, we get exhausted. At some point you have to do the work for yourselves, you have to educate others like you because that exodus of WOC will continue until they can actually get their issues address by mainstream feminism, until intersectionality becomes de jure and not the province of an ignored few, until mainstream feminism actually dedicates itself to the uplifting of all women and combating all the  issues that face them everyday.

And I think this will be my last word on this subject.


4 responses to “Apologies (or if “sorry” was a fifth we’d all be drunk)

  1. Brilliant post, Naamen. Thank you for laying it out like that. Mind if I link to it? (Probably won’t until Thursday, as I’ll be out of town till then, but when I come back I’d love to direct people here).

    Right now it seems like everyone has been forgiven. “I’m sorry” makes it all okay. But the Pandagon piranhas (by which I mean Marcotte’s posse) continue to claim the pics are ironic or not all that bad, swarm around her defending her, and slam anyone who says otherwise. She’s letting all of this go on. Hasn’t addressed appropriation or her attitude over the cover or ANYTHING else. And right now everyone seems to want to give her a pass. The narrative is rapidly becoming that it’s a “pile-on” w/ WOC and white allies bullying everybody.

    The theme is “they apologized, so let it go already.”

    But as you’ve noted so accurately, apologies mean exactly nothing.

    Urrrrrgh, it’s so frustrating. You’re right that it just repeats and repeats, and persists in every movement. I pray for the success of ProfBW’s girlcott because it is so concrete, it offers real change, and even if it’s just one small press that would be something out of all this — something more substantial than “I’m sorry.”

    *sigh* Okay. Done whining on your blog. ^^;; Again, thanks for posting this! Great analysis.

  2. The thing that makes “Sorry” fly less here than anywhere else is that it’s clear when a man says something really stupid, that the problem is something that requires serious work to look at why and how you thought that stupid thing was ok, and to re-educate yourself with the baseline understanding of treating humans as humans.

    That’s not like something you go, “Oh sorry” and then it magically fixes itself by your feeling bad about it. In any anti-oppression work you encounter this over and over, so why would you turn around and then act like the apology minus the work is really fixing shit?

    It’s this inability to transfer the basic concepts of dealing with one ism to the next. Of course, a part of that is whether you’re really down for freedom for all, or just more privilege for you… =/

  3. Ico –
    Thanks! and feel free to link to this.

    Yeah I’m really pissed at the whole “they’re sorry let it go” attitude. I’ll wait until they actually do something besides type a few words up. Everybody’s just ready to trust them after all this mess? How does that make any sense?

    Like I said apologies mean nothing if they’re just gonna fuck up again.

    And it’s totally not whining, it’s insightful commentary, which I love having in my blog 🙂

  4. bankuei-
    You’ve hit the nail on the head! Almost no one was satisfied with the ferret’s bullshit apology in the whole Open Source Boob Project because it was clearly lacking substance and understanding so why is everyone so quick to let Amanda off the hook?

    It makes no sense unless you take into account the privilege here because while their apologies may have seemed more genuine they’re still just words on a computer screen with no real evidence of change to back them up.

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