Two good apologies appeared on my radar this week—both of which involve blog posts, one of which was mine—and I thought they were worth a mention.
First off, Maura Kelly. Rarely has an apology been so necessary, even by blogosphere standards. You may recall that Maura wrote an exceptionally mean-spirited and sizeist post for Marie Claire, called “Should Fatties Get a Room?” I’m not going to rehash the controversy—if you’re unfamiliar with it, please read Kelsey Wallace’s excellent Bitch rant. The backlash was so ferocious—including a “Big Fat Kiss-In” outside Marie Claire‘s New York offices—that the author went to ground while her publisher issued some half-assed statements that failed to actually apologize for running such an outrageously offensive piece of crap.
When Kelly says she “truly never imagined” that the post would offend so many people, I believe her. It can be easy to forget that the world is full of folks who are not like you. Maura Kelly, after all, works at the intersection of the fashion world and the magazine world, both of which are exclusively devoted to thin, white images of beauty and staffed by thin, privileged (and thin-privileged) white women like herself. In her world, saying “OMG, fatties are gross—amirite?” is un-controversial, which is likely why her editor ran the post, and why the publisher defended it. They were probably quite surprised to find that their readership consisted of people who didn’t share their thin-worshipping, fat-hating ways.
But after a lot of hemming, hawing, and outright hiding, Maura Kelly did apologize, and one e-mail which she sent directly to a reader struck me as solid and heartfelt.
I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings. I would never laugh at anyone, never ask anyone to leave a room or make them so uncomfortable that they felt like they had. Marie Claire didn’t ask me to apologize—I felt very strongly about doing it myself because I feel really sad that so many people took what I said so personally. I truly never imagined they would.
Again, I truly apologize.
“I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings” is always a good place to start. It acknowledges that a mistake was made, and harm was done. It is infinitely preferable to the deflective “I’m sorry you’re upset”, which dodges responsibility and therefore is not a true apology; it’s also fairly insulting because it implies that there’s something wrong with the victim for being upset. Kelly may not have imagined that people would be hurt, but she’s learned that they were, and that makes her sad—an expression of empathy, which is crucial to a good apology. Then she doubles down by reiterating: “Again, I truly apologize.”
Jezebel’s Sadie Stein wrote “This is a flat-out apology, and that should never be dismissed.” I agree. Whether people want to forgive Maura Kelly is their business, but I think her apology was sincerely meant and should be acknowledged.
I don’t believe that people should be applauded or honored for apologizing; you do not get a cookie for doing the right thing. But so many people do the wrong thing and then refuse to take responsibility for their actions, or offer some shitty half-apology that just digs them an even deeper hole—yeah, Chris Brown, I’m talking to you—so it makes me happy to see that some people know how to offer an honest apology. I take it as a sign that they were raised right.
And speaking of folks who were raised right, a special shout-out goes to the dude I wrote about in my Bouquet Toss Redux post. I know his mama, so I already knew he was raised right, but after he read the post, he sent me an apologetic e-mail that confirmed it. I actually didn’t expect an apology, because what he did was merely irritating, not hurtful, but I got one anyway, and it was excellent:
I’m really sorry about the whole bouquet toss thing. I love you and I’d never intentionally say anything hurtful or dismissive to you. That said, I’m a tone-deaf dum-dum sometimes. I apologize.
Standing ovation for that apology. I love the guy and we’ve been friends for a long time, and this just makes me think even more highly of him. Everyone should be able to apologize that gracefully. SRSLY.