Aine is White Ribbon's Senior Fundraising Manager
“I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.” - Harvey Weinstein. October 2017
“Again, what I did was wrong. It wasn’t and isn’t acceptable. I’m working on behaving differently in the future. If you have suggestions or feedback or criticism, I’m open to hearing it” - Dave McClure, July 2017
“I apologized to this woman,” he said. “But my apology was, ‘My God, I’m in trouble with these people because this is an old man and their young daughter and the mother sees this’.” Bill Cosby, June 2017
It’s been a busy few months for any of us trying to keep up with the “bombshell” reports of sexual harassment and abuse committed by powerful men. The mea culpas issued by these men range from the heartfelt, to the “sorry (not sorry)”. It can be hard to stomach these public statements, especially if you’re a survivor, or are supporting people you love who are recovering from trauma. The apology feels about as solid as a big fluffy stick of cotton candy.
And yet, those flimsy words, that substanceless act of saying sorry is the only place from where healing can begin. It begins here, but for true healing to go forward perpetrators need to listen to those impacted by their violence, and hear about how the violence impacted people; they then need to ask what if anything the person needs. This is reconciliation.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading these articles. I’m tired of rolling the apologies around in my mind and deciding who, where and when forgiveness can be given. Instead, I’d like to read more stories that point not just to the Weinsteins, McClures and O'Reillys, but to all the people around them, especially those with privilege and power too, who didn’t say anything. I keep reminding myself, and you, that none of these are cases of bad apples rotting away by themselves on the branch while the rest of the orchard thrives.These are cases of willful blindness, complicity, and fear.
I’m guilty too. I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken up. I’ve bitten my tongue because it was easier than going to war. I’ve weighed the two sides of some stories so carefully that the only response was no response. But on days like these when the accusations against one of the most powerful men in the film industry knock on the door, I can only think of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Weighing In”:
“Two sides to every question, yes, yes, yes . . .
But every now and then, just weighing in
Is what it must come down to.”
So what is to be done? How can we actively participate in making our communities safe for all of us. How can we be active allies to the women that we work with? How do we be brave enough to weigh in?
I look to my colleagues for their insight and strength-based approaches. Here’s what my colleague Chi advised yesterday in a blog post about “having the talk”.
“So, you have a colleague, close friend or a co-worker who occasionally uses offensive, sexist, racist or inappropriate language. How do you break it to this person that perhaps they should reconsider the impact of their words or actions? Is it possible to do this without putting them on the defensive?”
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