Apologies are often requested or expected after a sexist incident.
See also So you made a mistake.
- Recognise that someone was hurt, and in what particular way they were hurt
- Try not to make assumptions about the person's feelings or emotional state if they have not yet expressed it because some people do not want to be tarred as "oversensitive"
- Depending on the situation, it may be more helpful to recognise instead if you've severely inconvenienced a person, reduced their opportunities, or infringed on their rights
- Accept responsibility for it, whether intended or not
- Promise to avoid doing it again, or at least to work on it
- Do not recognise that someone was hurt
- Don't show an understanding of the particular nature of the hurt caused
- If hurt was caused, do not accept responsibility for it
- I'm sorry if you were offended is a common bad apology, which deflects responsibilty onto the "offended" party
- Insincere in the acceptance of responsibility or does not follow through on a promise to fix things in a concrete way
- Attempt Derailment by talking about a tangential issue
- Deflect blame onto another party
- Deflect blame onto the person who was hurt
Examples of apologies
- Recognised the hurt caused
- Accepted responsibility
- Promised to do better
The core of his apology (which contained a longer contextualising introduction) was:
- Foremost, to all the women who were present in the audience for the talk I would like to publicly and unreservedly apologise for the subject, content and delivery of the talk.
- In particular, that I added the image DESPITE knowing it would be shocking to you was utterly stupid on my part. I completely misread how badly it would be taken.
- I SHOULD have recognised immediately that the talk would have had a stronger impact, and created feelings of being singled out from your peers solely due to gender, or feelings of being unwelcome in the room. And in one case I'm aware of, of creating a fear about being in the room itself for a minute or so.
- With two younger sisters of my own, I cannot express how guilty I feel that I might be responsible for creating anything like that "walking alone at night" feeling for you, especially in a conference environment where there are already so few women, and in which you should be welcomed with open arms.
- Secondly, I would like to publically apologise to the organising committee, and to the sponsors.
- You already have far too much to do organising a conference of this size and you have all contributed so much to make it happen and to make it a success.
- I'm terribly sorry I dropped this situation in your lap when you REALLY didn't need it, or in the case of the sponsors for anything I may have done to bring you into disrepute.
- I can assure you all I won't be delivering anything like that at any future conference. I've learned my lesson.
Girls In Tech "Feminazi" post
In September 2009, the Girls In Tech blog had a post describing women who complained about difficulties in the Technology industry as "Femi-Nazis". There were numerous comments objecting to the term. Two days later, an apology was posted which:
- Recognised that harm was done
- Took responsibility for it: "I realize now it was ignorant and insensitive, and it hurts me to think that it may have caused harm."
On the other hand, the apology has a version of I'm sorry if you were offended, and ends with the hope that those who were hurt will educate the poster so that she "can grow from the experience".
- Further Thinking About Never After (an example of a good apology from the director of a play who received criticism about casting a single black character in the "evil fairy" role)
- The IEEE apology for a so simple, your mother could do it headline in their publications.
- The Oatmeal apologised for making a comic that didn't represent well the experience of women gamers: "In short: I’m sorry for making a stupid comic today."
- Chuck Klosterman apologises for using an ableist slur.
- Offers a version of "I'm sorry if you were offended":
- "It was wrong for those people to have been exposed to this content without their consent. For this, I take full responsibility and offer my sincere apologies to the audience members that were affected"
- Gives extended examples of people who weren't offended, or supported his presentation -- negating the views of those who were hurt.
- Says that nobody approached him directly at the conference to complain, diverting responsibility onto those hurt to respond in a way that he sees fit.
- Asserts that he is neither sexist nor misogynist.
- Apologises for/excuses his statement, "If you're easily offended, fuck you", by saying he was on (prescribed) drugs
- Deflects responsibility onto the conference organisers and attendees who, over the years, have encouraged him to become increasingly crass
- Equates those asking for an apology with racists and lynch mobs:
- "I suspect this isn't the lie-down-and-kick-me apology that the lynch mob is looking for and some will continue their mission for blood. These are the people that wrote tweets and comments with the line “I wasn't there but...” in them. We all know the ignorance of people who use the lines “I'm not racist but...” and “I'm not sexist but...”."
- Deflects, again, by blaming those asking for an apology for ruining his career
- Finally, wraps up with another take on "I'm sorry you were offended", without having recognised or taken any responsibility for the hurt he caused.
- "Once again, to Courtney and the other men and women in the audience that took offence to my presentation, I apologise unreservedly. I really do hope we can now turn this into a debate that creates a positive outcome."
EMACS virgins joke
- Does not recognise that someone was hurt
- Attempts Derailment by focussing on the religious parody rather than the issue at hand
- Deflects the blame back on the people asking for an apology
- "I do not believe I owe anyone an apology. I did not insult or attack them, but it is clear some people are attacking me. I think I am being criticized unjustly criticized, and I feel I have been wronged."
The non-apology in full:
- "We wish to apologize for any offense caused by our survey, which was certainly never our intention. We can clearly understand how strong feelings were evoked by the specific nature of our interactions. We deeply regret this. We appreciate tremendously the invaluable feedback we've received, and certainly hope to improve our work and grow as people as a result of this experience."
This has been pulled apart by various people online, such as:
- Ogi apologises by insulting fandom some MOAR (by pine on DW)
- How not to apologize (by piranha on DW)
Some of the main problems with this apology, regardless of the background of SurveyFail:
- The apology is not addressed to anyone in particular, just to an amorphous cloud of "offended" people with "strong feelings".
- The exact nature of the wrongdoing is never admitted to
- "Strong feelings" deflects blame onto the people who were hurt
- "hope to improve our work and grow as people" is a pretty weak way of indicating an intention to avoid the same mistakes in future
Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail
This is a bad apology because
- the phrasing "if it's in bad taste" does not clearly admit that the app was problematic; moreover, it suggests that PepsiCo is sorry about the app's reception, not about having created it; and
- the apology was not followed up by concrete action -- despite the acknowledgement that the app was offensive, PepsiCo did not remove it from the AMP website or the iPhone App Store.
- On Apologies by Matt Zimmerman
- Action and Reaction: On Avoiding Offense by Skud
- Three Little Words Every Leader Needs to Learn from Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Harvard Business Review
- The apology flowchart from the JAYFK (the Journal of Are You Fucking Kidding)
- Chescaleigh: Getting Called Out: How to Apologize