How to Apologise

On 13 June, Mamamia published yet another awful article, this time fat-shaming American author Roxane Gay. They conducted an interview with Gay, which begins with a number of disgraceful comments about what they perceive to be the difficulties of interviewing the renowned scholar and writer.  This is the latest in a long line of hate-driven articles that demean minority and marginalised women. The publication is infamous for exclusionary White feminism, as well as broadly sexist and racist commentary, even though it touts itself as a woman-centred publication (helmed by White woman journalist Mia Freedman).

In response to public criticism, rather than address their discrimination, Mamamia chose to effectively blame Gay and presented this as an apology:

In no way did Mamamia ever intend to make Roxane Gay feel disrepespected and we apologist unequivocally that that was the unintended consequence, including to her publishing team who organied the visit and made the requests in good faithe. We are mortified to think she would ever believe this to be the case or that we have upset someone we so deepy admire and respect.

As soon as we became aware of her feelings about it, we took down the written post, edited the podcast intro and changed the podcast description to remove all references to the questions asked by her publishers and about the details she said she found upsetting.

The offence, as the Mamamia editors see it, is that Gay’s team asked questions (standard in publicity) and that Gay was offended Mamamia presented these questions as morbid disgust. Having blamed Gay’s team, the Mamamia team centres their own feelings (“we are mortified”).

Gay’s reaction to the article aren’t the problem, it’s the actions and decisions of Mamamia to publish such crass and hateful comments, designed to position Gay as “other” because of her body (this carries amplified connotation given Gay is also a Black lesbian). (Post script: to add insult to injury, Freedman would later go on to publicly say she’d spoken to Gay and apologised, which Gay reports didn’t happen.)

There is a broader pattern to this fiasco, about the usual tropes used to avoid a proper apology. Here’s a better way to apologise and mean it:

  1. Own your mistake: “When I did X, I hurt you, and I’m sorry.”
  2. Dont make excuses. Intentions have zero bearing on impact.
  3. Show how you’ll ensure it won’t happen again. It’s not useful to say “sorry you were offended” if pain is direct outcome of your actions.
  4. Do not focus on yourself. The shame of being called out, or caught doing harm, is irrelevant. Now is not the time to defend what good person you are
  5. Reflect and get educated in your own time. Don’t expect the person you damaged to forgive you or make you feel better about what you did.

Being a constructive member of society means taking responsibility for our actions and ignorance. We must all seek to do better.

An earlier version of this post was first published on Twitter

4 thoughts on “How to Apologise

  1. Can you say for certain, he meant what he said? It couldn’t have just been an awkward joke told by an awkward man? The consequences he needlessly suffered revealed a weakness in our society. The modern woman.

    Her hypersensitive narcissism has everyone constantly tiptoeing around her. She must be babied with quotas, to fill a position she likely isn’t qualified for. Every word must be chosen carefully as to not incite a pejorative food fight. Everything she does is that much better than anything a man does, so no matter her occupation, lack of work-centric drive, she must be paid the same as someone who actually earned that pay.

    Science is full of socially retarded men. The fact that women are more likely to cry in a lab than men is obviously because women cry more in general. If they spend enough time around someone they are even slightly attracted to, they will grow attached. They grow attached to socially inept male scientists that don’t know the first thing about women. It’s only a matter of time before every female scientist cries at least once in a lab.

    Here you are saying definitely that there is rampant sexism in the sciences. Yet the only evidence ever presented by anyone is Tim Hunt and a lie about the underrepresentation of women in a field they don’t choose to be in. Unfortunately sociology operates on ideology, and not any real science.


  2. Odious Brodious I write on these issues often and present evidence to back up my arguments. Here you’re simply stating an uninformed option. Everything you say is incorrect, including your idea that men are socially inept and your erroneous idea that women cry more than men. If you want to learn from science, you can read the various articles I’ve written on gender inequity in science.


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