September 30, 2010

Ines Sainz Do-Over.

I recently wrote a little article about journalist Ines Sainz that really set the cat among the pigeons.

A lot of people “Liked” it, and a few actually defended it (you know who you are, you wonderful people, you) but a significant number of you hated it. Really hated it. And me along with it, apparently.


You accused me of all kinds of things, from “dictating” what women should wear to blaming Sainz’s harassment on her wardrobe. Evidently, some of you have linked some of what I said in my article to similar things you have heard some really terrible people say. I probably can’t persuade you here that I am not like those people and I wouldn’t do those things. But let’s assume that’s not important.

I’m also willing to assume that you had valid points to make, and that I couldn’t hear them because a) I was being defensive, and/or b) you were shouting at me.

I do want to suggest that if one’s mild critique of a public figure’s wardrobe choices makes one the Taliban, there is evidently more going on than my little article can reasonably account for.  And judging by some other articles on Elephant lately, these issues have been on peoples’ minds.

So here goes: to all of you whom my article offended–I’m sorry.

Now, I know that sounds like a politician’s bullshit “I regret if anyone took offense” apology. The difference is that I am ready to fill in the blanks about the specific things I’m sorry for–I just need your help. Why did my article make you so angry?

I want to suggest only two guidelines:

  1. Please try to make it about you.  I was very self-disclosive in my original article, and I’d appreciate some self-disclosure from you. Telling me what a terrible person I am and what a terrible thing I did might relieve your feelings, but I probably won’t learn much from it. It would help me if you told me how what I wrote made you feel, and, to the extent you are able to say, why.  This is important, because you and I obviously view my words differently, so if you make it about me—eg., “You dictated what women can wear, you pervert!”–I may not know what you mean.
  2. Please don’t mind-read about my intentions. You don’t know what I “really” meant–you only know what I wrote.  Please assume the two are the same, and I will show you equal benefit of the doubt. I obviously understand better the people who agreed with me than I understand you, so it might help if you assume you do not understand me, either, beyond my bare words on the screen.  Let’s assume anything beyond those comes from somewhere else.  (See #1 above.)

In return, I promise to check my rhetorical weapons at the door and just listen. I promise to assume that your experience of what I wrote is more important than what I think I “actually” wrote, and I promise that I will stop defending what I believe I “really” said and concentrate on how it affects you, and why.  If I hear the truth in what you say, I promise to say so; if not, or if I don’t understand, I promise to ask until I do.

Fair enough?

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