Good reference for the non-apology apology

While discussing Clinton’s non-apology over the RFK incident Mark Liberman of Language Log references a post, Pete Rose and sorry statements of the third kind, by Geoff Pullman regarding the usage of the word “sorry”:

People aren’t being sufficiently sensitive to the grammar of the adjective sorry.

It should be clear that an apology has to be in the first person, and in the present tense. But it is not enough to utter something in thefirst person that has sorry as the head of an adjective phrase predicative complement. The word sorry is used in three ways.

First, sorry can be used with a complement having the form of what The Cambridge Grammar calls a content clause:
(1) I’m sorry that the the political situation in the Holy Land is still mired in violence, because I wanted to go to Bethlehem at Christmas.

If I utter (1), I am not apologizing; I have never caused or defended any of the violence in the Middle East. It’s not my fault. I just regret that the situation persists. This use can constitute an apology (as Jonathan Wright reminded me when he read the first version of this post), but only when the content clause subject is first person as well: I’m sorry I hit you is an apology, but I’m sorry you were hit is not, so watch for that subject.

Second, sorry can be used with a preposition phrase headed by for with a complement noun phrase denoting a sentient creature:
(2) I’m sorry for that poor little kitten, which seems to have figured out how to climb up a tree without having any idea how to get down.

If I utter (2), I am not apologizing; I never suggested to the stupid kitten that it should climb fifty feet up into a beech tree. I’m just expressing sympathy, as a fellow mammal, for its present plight.

And third, sorry can be used with a preposition phrase headed by for where the preposition has as its complement a subjectless gerund-participial clause or a noun phrase denoting an act:

(3) a. I’m sorry for doing what I did; I behaved like an utter pig, and you have a right to be angry.
(3) b. I’m sorry for my actions last night; I should never have acted that way and I want you to forgive me.

Only this third kind of use can constitute an apology, as opposed to a statement of regret about the truth of a proposition or a statement of sympathy for a fellow creature.

Liberman furthers the analysis when he looks at the “I’m sorry if…” syntax:

The “sorry if” pattern is a syntactic structure that Geoff didn’t include in his taxonomy. It might be a form of the conditional “If my referencing … was in any way offensive, (then) I’m sorry”, with the apodosis put in front of the protasis. Or maybe sorry has developed an if-complement, as in structures like “I wonder if …” or “I don’t know if … “.

In any case, from a communicative and emotional point of view, Senator Clinton’s sentence clearly belongs with Geoff’s sorry statements of the first kind. And in fact “If my remarks were in any way offensive, I’m sorry” is even weaker than “I’m sorry that my remarks were in any way offensive”, since it doesn’t even grant that it’s a fact that the remarks were in any way offensive.

We should also note that being sorry for causing offense is itself a rather weak form of sorriness, since it doesn’t necessarily imply being sorry for the actions or words that caused the offense. It’s perfectly appropriate to take a stance like “I’m sorry for offending you, but what I said was true and had to be said.” Senator Clinton didn’t go so far as to express regret for having referenced the RFK assassination, only for the fact that referencing it might have caused offense (and only, she feels, because it was misinterpreted).

Given how often non-privileged groups are subject to non-apology “apologies” after being subject to sexism, racism, and other oppressive behaviours (Harlan Ellison, anyone?), both Pullman’s and Liberman’s posts strike me as a useful resource for pointing out exactly why those so-called apologies fall so far short of the mark.

How not to be "That Guy"

Synecdochic wrote a how-to post on privilege: Don’t Be That Guy.


This word gets thrown around a lot, and I think everyone uses it a little differently, which is one of the reasons why I have so much difficulty putting it into words. Let me try with: If you approach me with the presumption, stated or implied, that I owe you anything — my time, my attention, my energy, my conversation, my acquiescence to your desires — that’s entitlement. If you make me think that you think you can express a wish and I will fulfill that wish, that’s entitlement.

Women don’t owe you anything: not their bodies, not their time, not their emotion. Hell, not even their attention. (Nobody owes anybody anything except basic courtesy, respect, and trying not to be an asshole.) A lot of guys walk into a situation and give the impression that they have the right to take these things, through outright force or through a more subtle coercion. Giving someone that impression makes you That Guy.

Earning the privilege to be trusted

Following up on some thoughts that relate to what I said in Feminist Infighting, I wanted to talk about something that karnythia said in her post, Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand:

I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist.

karnythia, and indeed every woc, have no reason to take calls of solidarity from white feminists seriously and every reason to mistrust them. It’s not even like this string of incidents was the first one ever, or even the first to occur in the blogsphere; it’s just the latest blow up in a long, racist history of uneasy tension between white feminism and woc feminism.

Most white feminists, yes even the ones who are protesting the loudest here, understand that men aren’t automatically entitled to the benefit of the doubt. They get that, in order to be an ally, a man has to put his money where his mouth is and actually act like one. He has to deal gracefully with the mistrust of feminists who have been hurt one too many times by men professing to like women and to be an ally. He also has to accept that some feminists will only ever view him as an interloper because of the long, sordid, and often personal history that comes with gender relations. No one is saying that it’s fair, but part of being an ally is understanding that the little unfairness that he suffers not only is rooted in real, valid causes, but also doesn’t outweigh the unfairness that the women treating him unfairly have suffered.

And yet, while white feminists are more than happy to apply those standards to men who are trying to be allies, they are all too often unwilling to apply them to themselves. Their white privilege tells them that the root of all oppression is gender oppression, and that it’s the almighty vagina (ie. the possession of one) that creates a solidarity between women. The myth of “universal womanhood” is a powerful one, to be sure, but it is also a convenient way to shield yourself from having to question your own privilege — whether that be white, hetersexual, able-bodied, cissexual, or whatever combination you fall under.

Frankly, it’s up to us white feminists to earn the trust of woc feminists by actually being allies. If we want to earn the privilege of using words like “solidarity” and “sisterhood” then we — not just some individuals, but white feminists as a whole — need to stop giving lipservice to the idea and actually, you know, stop defending our racist behavior. We need to stop thinking only in terms of ourselves and our own personal oppressions, hurts, unfairness, whatever.

Feminism isn’t about you. It’s about all women from all backgrounds and that means that sometimes you’re going to have to suck up your own wounded pride and admit that you did something racist. Or ableist. Or transphobic. If you want to be on your high horse when you talk about sexism, then you need to walk the walk when it comes to areas in which you have privilege. Full stop.

And, until white feminists get to that point, woc feminists like karnythia will have every reason to mistrust us.

Shame on you, BBC

The BBC has chosen to defend some transphobic comments made by a gay comedian whose show they sponsor. In this clip where he’s talking about Thomas Beatie, he says: “If he hasn’t had genital surgery surely that just makes him a lesbian” and “that thing is still a woman”.

Here’s an excerpt from the response to Selina’s complaint:

I understand that you were unhappy because you felt that the presenter made offensive comments about Thomas Beatie.

I can assure you that no offence was intended. ‘The Graham Norton Show’ features trademark Norton comedy monologues, celebrity chat, eccentric stories and characters, and home-grown weirdness from the great British viewing public. The show provides him with a comedy vehicle to extract humour from people and events that interest him and his audience.

We try to ensure that post-watershed, anarchic comedy series are well signposted. As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour. We believe that there is no single set of standards in this area on which the whole of society can agree, and it is inevitable that programmes which are acceptable to some will occasionally strike others as distasteful. The only realistic and fair approach for us is to ensure that the range of comedy is broad enough for all viewers to feel that they are catered for at least some of the time.

There are so many things wrong with that response that I can’t even begin to address them. All I can think is, “WTF? Why is it that the dehumanization of a person/group of people is still considered funny?”

You can read more at Transphobia on Graham Norton and Graham Norton.

Feminist Infighting

I was just reading An Open Letter to the White Feminist Community and was struck following arguments:

WE ARE ALL WOMEN FIRST and every one of these women who call themselves feminists seems to have forgotten that infighting doesn’t further the feminist cause.

This kind of divisiveness hurts us. And it drives away young women of all races and classes who feel that such discussions, with nothing more, serve little useful purpose.

The letter translates the real meaning behind how those arguments are used (“When you complain about racism in the feminist community, you cause divisions. So shut up and don’t complain.”), but I want to directly address how those arguments relate to privilege.

Privilege means not having to look past your own oppression to see the ways that you are oppressing others. It’s easy to see the ways that we’re disadvantaged because it affects us, but it’s much harder to admit that there are ways in which we are part of the problem. Especially if we believe that our oppression is the most important, or at least the most pressing, one out there.

In this case it means that you can use say things like “we are all women first” without realizing how dismissive that is to women who experience more than just gender-based oppression. Gender might be the most pressing oppression to you, but that’s not necessarily the case for other women. It also is a means for avoiding self-critique. By trying to force a certain amount of homogeneity in order to create a sense of harmony (eg. “universal womanhood”), then you never have to look at what you, personally, are doing to alienate women/feminists who aren’t part of the white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied (etc, etc) force that is the dominant voice of mainstream feminism.

Yes, infighting sucks and, frankly, I think we could all do more to educate ourselves on how to discuss differences in a mature fashion rather than engaging in the mud-slinging that happens on sensitive issues (and I’m not just talking about intersecting oppressions here). But, ultimately, when it comes to matters of intersecting oppressions, it is the feminists with privilege (whether it be white, heterosexual, cis-privilege, etc) are the ones who bear the primary burden of listening to those without, and from that foundation trying to create the kind of bridges that will help strengthen the movement.

Feminist blog historical record

Liz at badgerbag is looking for information on the history of the feminist blogosphere.

Here’s what she’s looking for:

– When did you start finding feminist blogs?
– What were the first ones you became aware of?
– Which ones did you read, and how did you think of them? How would you describe the character of the blog, its evolution, and the evolution of your thought about it?
– Which feminist blogs are part of your regular, or sporadic, reading now?
– What were the top 10 , or top whatever, or most important, feminist blogs of 2005? What are the most important now?
– If you would like: what is a feminist blog? what makes it feminist?
– What issues are/were important on feminist blogs (and, if you can remember, when were they important)
– What controversies, surges of discussion, did you see begin/continue?
– How have feminist blogging and anti-racist blogging combined, enhanced each other, or not done well enough, in your view?
– How about forums, wikis, mailing lists?

You can answer there, via e-mail (see the original thread), or in the comments here. Liz and I are in touch on the matter, so anything you say will be used to great purpose. Great purpose, I say!

Anyway, please participate even if you consider yourself to be a feminist blogging newbie. The more data we have, the better of a picture we can form of how the blogosphere has grown and changed over the years.

Opportunity for gaming interviewers — No experience necessary!

Have you ever wanted to enter the field of gaming journalism, but didn’t have the time or the confidence in your writing skills to submit an article? Does the opportunity to interact with industry professionals appeal to you? If so, then consider becoming an interviewer for Cerise magazine!

What we’re looking for:

  1. Enthusiastic people who want to conduct interviews with industry professionals and game-related bloggers by e-mail, phone, or other media.
  2. Reliable people with enough time to conduct (at most) one interview a month.

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY! You will be working with an Interview Co-ordinator (right now that’s me) who will help you with the preparation and post-interview process.

While much of the co-ordinating will happen via e-mail, we recommend that you sign up for our forums. There, you fill find a number of resources that will help you form your interview strategy, including guidelines and suggestions for future interviews.

This is not currently a paying job, but it is excellent experience for anyone interested in journalism and/or the gaming industry.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in this thread, or alternatively contact me via e-mail. All those interested in the position, please e-mail me directly at andrea [at] theirisnetwork [dot] org.

They're called "hosts", tyvm

When Jill linked to an article on “geisha guys” in a recent link roundup, I thought to myself, “I bet they’re talking about hosts. I mean, what would an article about Japan be without using Othering terminology to emphasize how Different! And! Exotic! it is.” And lo and behold, CNN’s Kyung Lah did not disappoint with the article, Japan’s ‘geisha guys’ the latest accessory.

Now, first off, hosts have been around for long enough that it’s just ridiculous to call them “the latest accessory”. What that really translates to is, “the latest thing that racist foreign media has picked up on to titillate their readership about that ‘wacky land of the rising sun’.”

Just in case you think that the “geisha guys” reference was an unfortunate choice of a copy-editor choosing a title or somesuch, observe this quote:

It’s a dizzying reversal of traditional gender roles in a country long known for geishas pampering male clients with conversation, singing and dancing. Now a new breed of entertainer has cropped up — think of them as male geishas.

Now, there are several things wrong in that one little quote that I don’t have the energy to get into. But to the assertion that we should “think of [hosts] as male geishas”, I say, “Let’s not.” Seriously. Hosts, like their hostess counterparts, are pretty much escorts. But I suppose that since escorts are available in most countries, using that comparison just doesn’t invoke the same “exotic Japanese sex worker” vibe that “geisha” does.

Whatever influences the sex work industry here may or may not have gotten from geisha culture doesn’t make it accurate, or a good idea, to conflate everything and anything under the header with geisha. It’s Othering. It’s fetishizing Japan. It’s racist. Full stop.

UN Commision on the Status of Women: 52 Session

So, the report for the Fifty-second Session of the UN Commision on the Status of Women has just been released.

Here’s an excerpt from the ‘It Is Time For The World To Make Women A Priority’ press release:

“It is time for the world to make women a priority,” said Safiye Cagar, Director of Information, Executive Board and Resource Mobilization Division, United Nations Population Fund, who stressed that “everything possible” must be done to reduce the feminization of poverty and unleash the full potential of half the human race to advance peace, development and human rights. She was among the nearly 55 delegations taking the floor today who discussed action plans to promote women’s advancement, or called on Governments to increase emphasis on the gender dimensions of development.

She recalled that, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders had agreed to key policy actions to advance women’s empowerment, including increased investments in universal education to close the gender gap in schools by 2015, and promoting women’s rights to own and inherit property and have access to resources such as land, credit and technology. To accelerate action, those leaders had also agreed to increase the representation of women in Government decision-making. Real investment in women could create ripples that brought about waves of positive change, and such change was urgently needed and long overdue, she said, calling on Governments to stand by their commitments.

Hat-tip: Feminist Allies.

I may have to stop buying PC games…

After one Starforce scare with Dreamfall (which worked out in my favor because Ubisoft dropped the malware due to consumer outcry), and two wastes of money (one due to SecuROM with Sims 2: Bon Voyage, which I’m going to see if I can ebay for at least part of my money back — I made the mistake of opening the box before checking the copy protection — and the other due to Starforce with Obscure, which I purchased several years ago and almost installed on my computer a few minutes ago) I am at the point where I’m not sure I can continue to be a consumer of PC games.

I am not a criminal.

I am not a pirate.

And yet, companies treat me as if I am. The onus falls on me to make sure that I am not buying malware from so-called legitimate companies, rather than on those companies — and some of the biggest offenders are corporations like EA and Sony — not to silently bundle increasingly invasive and harmful copy protection products with their games. Products, I might add, which always get cracked within a few weeks of their release.

Sure, with a very simple google search I could access step-by-step instructions on how to bypass the software. And you can bet your buttons that I looked into it when trying to figure out if I could salvage the 20 bucks I spent on Obscure. But, in the end, I don’t want to have to jump through hoops just to safely play my legitimately purchased game. I also don’t want to risk damage to my machine, seeing as maintaining gamer-quality computers takes a lot of money.

Which means that I will most likely no longer be making any PC gaming purchases, excepting those that use different approaches to copyright protection such as MMO’s and games such as Galactic Civilizations II. I love PC gaming, but it’s just not worth the hassle anymore. I feel like telling all those gaming companies, “Congratulations, assholes, with your bumbling and futile attempts to stop pirates you have just lost yourself a customer who — despite having the knowledge and ability to pirate — has been making a conscious and concerted effort to be a legitimate consumer.”

Oh well, at least I still have console games.