An Apology

About two weeks ago, I wrote a post called #YesAllWomen should be thankful for #AllGoodMen.

I got some criticism for dismissing the suffering of women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault. I’ve had some time to get all defensive think about it and I think it was justified criticism.

I never meant to suggest in the least that #YesAllWomen wasn’t an incredibly important conversation — but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t. Unfortunately, we can sin by omission as well as commission.

From my little privileged bubble, I didn’t think how such a post would sound to women who were and are hurting. I failed to do the one thing that should have been my first priority: to love my sisters and brothers with compassion. I forget to mourn with those who mourn.

For that, I am truly sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

I should have apologised as soon as I realised that it had caused hurt and offence for some but honestly, I was both quite defensive as well as confused how I could have gotten it wrong. I have plenty of faults but ignoring the suffering of my sisters generally isn’t one of them.

But I’ve had to ask myself some hard questions about my own sexist attitudes. Sexism isn’t just about hate; it can just as easily be what’s called benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism is seemingly positive attitudes towards women and men which, far from benevolent, actually reinforce unequal relationships between men and women through negative stereotyping.

Was I silencing women, essentially telling them to shut up because their stories don’t matter and women should expect to be victims?

Was I implying that men need praise for not harming women — reinforcing the negative stereotype that men are inherently violent and incapable of real change?

Above all, was I callously ignoring the real pain of women because I just wanted to believe things were good? Do I only really care about the sufferings of others insofar as they impact me and how I want to feel on any given day?

I want to believe not. I want to believe that my post was simply highlighting one dimension in a much bigger conversation — and that my positive tone wasn’t about reinforcing the status-quo or securing my own comfort –but showing that we can change. 

But I don’t know.

The capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, §38)

What I do know is that I need to examine my own heart for such sexism and to remember that, as a follower of the Crucified One, I am called to love and to put the needs of others before my own. I know that means trying to understand how I will be understood, not just how I want to be understood.

Regardless, in writing that post, I hurt people.

Again, I want to apologise wholeheartedly and to ask for your forgiveness.

I am genuinely sorry.

+JMJ+

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  1. says

    I’m not of the ones hurted by your post, but I wanted to thank you for this brave and honest post! You put very deep thoughts in it where I can relate. Often we don’t want to hurt and have the impression that we didn’t do or tell anything “wrong”, but we hurt others anyway. And this is difficult to accept, and the only thing to do is to step forward with a truly felt apology – as you did :-) A part from that: wonderful quote of Benedict, love it! Could be my “life motto” if I think about it :-) Greetings from Switzerland, Claudia

  2. says

    I was one of those who were critical of the post, though I think/hope I tried to be constructive and gentle in my own criticism. My intention, anyway, was to try and broaden the conversation. But I did just want to say thank you for this apology. It is clear to me that you are a very earnest and introspective person. I also wanted to say that as a recent convert, I have truly been loving your blog – it is smart, funny and very informative. I’m a writer and literary critic myself, and know how very easy it is to write something you regret or perhaps have not fully thought through. Just don’t let one misstep or regret get you down – you are doing good work!

    • says

      Thank you, Heather! Your criticism was excellent and needed, thank you. :) Words are tricky things – can’t convey meaning with them, can’t do it without them! Thank you again for your graciousness. Laura

  3. says

    I know I was very critical of your post. Thank you for revisiting your post and apologizing; I know that takes a lot of self-control, especially since it’s so easy to react emotionally.

    However, I want to emphasize that the point of my criticism wasn’t that I was hurt. The criticism that I offered made clear that I thought you were wrong, on an intellectual and practical level – not that you were wrong because you hurt my feelings.

    I challenged you because I thought maybe you hadn’t thought about the issue from another point of view, and because you’re obviously intelligent and so could benefit from broadening the discussion. I am sorry if my comment wasn’t entirely charitable – my natural bluntness is only exacerbated online, and that often leads to miscommunication.
    Thanks for continuing the conversation and being humble. :)

  4. Terry Westbrook Lienert says

    Laura, we all make mistakes. You showed great courage in admitting your error and asking for pardon. Speaking as a woman who had been a victim of attempted assaults, I forgive you freely in Christ. Blessings to you and yours.

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