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.