Friday, June 21, 2013

A fake apology

Did you see this? Outrageous!

This week Rolling Stone published an interview with Serena Williams, and she says some terrible things in it. The biggest deal, and what has attracted the most notice, was her extended discourse blaming the victim in the Steubenville rape case.

Serena just shakes her head. "Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."

Amazingly bad, especially for someone who holds herself out as a voice for women's rights, eh?

Don't worry, it gets worse. How? It gets worse because of what has been reported as her apology. I'll post the entire thing so you can decide how to think about it yourself:

What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.

Granted, she acknowledges that what happened to the victim was bad, which is a start, but she goes way downhill from there.

First, she refers to the convicted rapists as "the accused". Second, she posits that the suffering of the rapists is morally equivalent to the suffering of the victim. And finally, in three different ways, she tries to weasel out of what she did. As we know, an essential element of an apology is an admission that you did something wrong, but she fails to do this. First, she uses the passive voice ("what was written") in the classic "mistakes were made" tradition of fake apologies.

Second, she refers to the interview as "what I supposedly said". The only way this statement makes any sense is if it is coupled with a denial that she said what she is quoted as saying, but she is too cowardly to go that far. If she really didn't say it, and Rolling Stone is lying about what she said, this would be a serious matter and she should be going all-out to attack Rolling Stone for lying about her, but it's telling that she never does that.

Third, she says she "by no means would say or insinuate that [the victim] was at all to blame". Of course, this is another lie, because that is exactly what she did.

I've always kind of liked Serena Williams. She's a great player, and she seems to be pretty gracious about the fact that she's better than her older sister. Still, both her original statement and her fake apology fall far short of the standards that anyone should live up to.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

A real apology

I think it's worthy of note when someone who has done some really bad things makes a sincere apology, and we have an example of that today.

There's a group called Exodus International. It's a Christian group founded in 1976 that has provided some of the theological and ideological ammunition for the bogus outfits that claim to "cure" homosexuality. I can hardly conceive of the suffering that Exodus and groups like it have caused to people who were indoctrinated to hate themselves for being different.

I have to admit, this week we saw a serious, sincere, and meaningful apology from these people. I'm not kidding: they admitted they were wrong all along, they apologized for the suffering they caused, and they shut themselves down.

Take look at part of his apology:
Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated. Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents

It's hard to read this, and the rest of their post, and not believe that they're sincere.

Plus, their action in shutting down the organization, at least as currently constituted, seems like a big, big deal.

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (, and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

I'm not one of the people they hurt by their actions, so I'm in no position to accept the apology, but in times like these, when every politician's change of position on marriage equality, however tardy, is rightly welcomed into the movement, this change seems as big as the unprecedented swing in public opinion we've seen in the last ten years.

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