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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