Yippee! A good apology for transphobia from Esquire Philippines!

Esquire Philippines recently ran a piece about the transition of singer Jake Zyrus. Zyrus, who used to perform as Charice Pempengco, recently revealed his chosen name on Twitter. Esquire super-maturely mocked it. (JAKE ZYRUS HA HA HA HA.)

Social media exploded with callouts of the magazine’s transphobia. Two days later, the magazine took the story down and apologized. The apology is getting a lot of praise…almost all of it deserved. Let’s talk about what they did right and what they did wrong, shall we?
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The bragpology subset of fauxpology

In the wake of several terrible celebrity apologies (Hi, Bill!), the ever-observant Sumac noted to Snarly in an email that bragpology seems to be a fun, skeevy trend. Let us define terms: Bragpology is a boast hidden inside an expression of regret. (Sometimes the expression of regret is hidden inside the boast. And it can be very, very hard to discern.)

To wit:

I’m a sinner!”

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to educate myself !”

“I’m an artist!”

“I’m a truth-teller! It is my role in society!”

“I’m a comic! I move the line!”

“I’m a heel/a rat bastard/unable to peel the sluts off me!”

“Doing press for a multi-million-dollar movie is grueling and exhausting!”

“I say what I think! You know where you stand with me!”

“I say things that are sometimes unpopular even within my own ‘political group'”!

“I’m shining a light on a systemic problem!”

“We sometimes experience overbook situations because we are so, so popular!”

“We are all incredibly upset about this!”

“I am paying the price, but I deserve it.”

“Through my past three years of recovery and rehabilitation…”

“I have no ill will towards those who spread hate and speak out negatively against me.”

“We are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends” because of that security cam footage of me beating my wife into unconsciousness in an elevator.

“Our company will generously donate $500 to the people Ochales, New Mexico, where our burned-down factory is located. These people, like our shareholders, have been deeply affected by this incident. The more quickly they can recover from this tragedy, the quicker our share prices will rebound. And while we know that no actions can fully heal the pain suffered by our shareholders, we will initiate a $100 million share buyback program to compensate for their loss. Our shareholders can also rest assured knowing that the donation will be written off on our taxes, as will the capital loss from the destruction of the factory.” [OK, this one is from McSweeney’s, but it has the RING OF TRUTH.]

We know we have posted a lot of bad apologies lately, and for that, we apologize. We know we owe you some life-affirming, good apologies. It’s just that we have been sooooo busy in the wake of our recent unexpected New York Magazine appearance, it’s really humbling. We’re really sorry.



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We’d love to share a good apology. Today is not that day.


Mamamia is an Australian web site created by one Mia Freedman, who is famous Down Under. (She is a Personality who, back in the day, was the youngest editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. Today she frequently opines on work-life balance and appears to be a mashup of Ivanka Trump, Arianna Huffington, and Elizabeth Wurtzel. Here is a profile of her in the Sydney Morning Herald.)


Recently Mia’s Mamamia (I see what you did there, Mia) had Bad Feminist and Hunger author Roxane Gay on as a guest on its podcast. If you’re already up to speed, feel free to skip ahead to the analysis of the abysmal apology. Continue reading

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To me you’re just a lowly student, soldier

Harland Fletcher in uniform

An ornament to any graduation.

Harland Fletcher recently finished his senior year at Liberty High School in Brentwood, California. He sounds like an energetic and motivated guy. The day he turned 17, he enlisted in the US Army. Under the Split Training Option, he completed Basic Combat Training during the summer between his junior and senior years, becoming a medic in the Army Reserve.

Justifiably proud, he wanted to wear his uniform at graduation. He asked his counselor about it several times, and was told it was fine.

But high schools, you know? Sometimes they aspire to be as authoritarian as the Army, but making it up as they go along.

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Bollywood apology!

It’s never a bad time for an amazing dance number!

Behold this delightful video from ABCD, “India’s first 3D dance film.” It is a super-catchy song, but a very bad apology.

The lyrics (which you can read here) start off well, with the singer calling himself a fool. But following up that admission with “you got very big heart” is a red flag. It’s actually saying, “You are generous and forbearing; you will forgive me if you are true to your essential nature.” No. The listener is under no obligation to forgive.

“I come near near near, you go far, you go far, you go very very far” tends to be an indication that the apologizer should back off. I’m just saying.

As for “I want a big big smile and I want it only now,” oh hell no. Do not tell a woman to smile.

“Final warning, final warning, don’t you break my heart! Automatic guilty feeling…” FLEE, WOULD-BE APOLOGY RECIPIENT. GO VERY VERY FAR.

That said: I enjoy this video. The words are Mayuri Puri; the music is by Sachin-Jigar; the singer is Jigar Saraiya.


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Let whose dog is without sin cast the first stone

Photo: Steve Povey. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1279263 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

We hear good fences make good neighbors.

Cousins of Sorrywatch were new to rural Montana. Their neighbors had chickens, including a rackety rooster.

One day the chicken owners came by and told my cousins that their dog – call her Nickel – had come over and killed 11 of their chickens. Horrified, my cousins apologized profusely. They would make sure Nickel didn’t get a chance to do that again.

Nickel was a very good dog, but like many otherwise good dogs, she did not think chickens should be allowed to live. Wrong, Nickel, wrong.

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No way, Ina May

Let’s examine two apologies for the exact same incident. One is terrible. One is excellent.

But first, let’s look at an adorable baby, because we’re gonna need to.

Ready? OK. Last month, Texas Birth Networks, a non-profit that works to improve infant and maternal health outcomes, hosted a convention with noted midwife Ina May Gaskin as keynote speaker. Gaskin co-founded a commune called The Farm in Tennessee in 1971, where she created one of the first birthing centers in the USA. She’s the author of the influential book Spiritual Midwifery, a spirited paean to natural childbirth, written in super-groovy hippie language, which I read in 2001 with a mixture of delight, awe, amusement and annoyance before the birth of my first child. (It contains sentences like “Rhythmically contract and relax the muscles around your coochie and your peephole about 50 times a day” and “Talk nice; it will keep your bottom loose so it can open up easier.”)

After her speech, Gaskin took questions. That’s where the meconium hit the fan.

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Guest post from British Airways frequent flier

screen grab

Alex Cruz in vest of infamy.

It was the hi-viz vest. In modern Britain, the cheap, optical yellow, breathable synthetic open vest with fat silver reflective stripes is the sign of the workperson and of the person who needs the safety of being seen. The person waving your airplane forward wears one. Traffic cops wear them. Cyclists. Lately, school kids herded by their teachers. But when the CEO of one of the world’s biggest airlines dons one for the cameras in order to explain that an IT failure is the reason tens of thousands of people are sleeping on yoga mats in conference rooms at Heathrow, the instant reaction is: “Asshole.” Sometimes the visual kills the apology before the CEO can even open his mouth.

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A gross teacher “apologizes” and I need a shower

does not understand consent

This past Sunday’s New York Times has a shudder-inducing story about a teacher at Phillips Academy who inappropriately romanced one of his students. Continue reading

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Fonzie does not apologize

You may or may not remember Happy Days, a relic from a long-ago time before Ron Howard was a big-macher director and Scott Baio was an intolerance-spewing sexist bigot. It was also a time before Henry Winkler was a best-selling children’s book author and/or Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa Saperstein’s indulgent dad on Parks & Rec.

On Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie, aka The Fonz, was a cool guy (until he jumped the shark) in a leather jacket. He said “aaaayyy” a lot.  He was, however, unable to say several words, notably “wrong” (as in “I was wrong”) and “sorry” (as in “I’m sorry”).

Words Fonz Can’t say by Arthur-H-Fonzarelli

On the show, this was played for laughs (we know this because of the laugh track) and being unable to say the words didn’t hurt Fonzie’s likability, because we knew he was a good guy, and we knew he actually knew he was wrong and was actually sorry.

But in real life, this does not play. When people append “this is not who I am” to a weak apology, it’s their way of claiming Fonzness — “I’m a hero, so the bad thing I said or did doesn’t diminish my hero status.” Wrong.

Apologies are hard because they shake our self-conception. We need to see ourselves as the good guy in our own story. But the acknowledgment of our essential imperfection is necessary if we’re really gonna own the apologies for bad things we do. (HOWEVER: saying “none of us is infallible” in the risible statement you have the gall to call an apology is an excuse, not ownership.) Apologizing means being vulnerable and deliberately opening yourself up to criticism. Which is not easy.

But it is necessary. What with our increased societal cluefulness about bad apologies, apologizing without really apologizing — using lots of sorry-ifs and passive voice and “to those who were offended”s and tortured justifications –means you’re still opening yourself up to criticism. Only now you’re being criticized for your crap apology as well as your original sin.

Let me be clear: I love Henry Winkler, who in real life seems like a total mensch as well as self-deprecating and funny. (And I love that he started his children’s book writing — those books were very popular in my kids’ elementary school library! — as a way to encourage kids with dyslexia; he has acknowledged that he did not read a whole book until he was 31 and nearly skipped an important audition because he was afraid of embarrassing himself by being unable to read the script.) And in real life he apologized for making a lousy TV show called Monty in 1994 — he called his own performance “cringeworthy” and didn’t blame anyone else, though it sounds like the show was a misbegotten ignominy all around.

Feel free to emulate Henry Winkler. Do not emulate the Fonz.

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