Aptly termed The Weinstein Effect, a week does not go by without an industry stalwart exposé. We have now read about sexual harassment and abuse across every industry, from entertainment to politics and tech.
On October 5, 2017, The NY Times published a revealing report on multiple sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. After a pathetic apology statement where he blamed youth and ignorance, he swiftly went on to be fired from his company and was banished from Hollywood (hopefully forever). Since then, people all over the world have come out with their own stories on sexual harassment, predominantly against men in power across industries.
Last week, the Golden Globe awards protested the treatment of women in Hollywood and other industries by wearing black and launching the campaign, Times Up Now. Ironically, during the ceremony people were calling out the hypocrisy of many of the men claiming to back the campaign. James Franco has been accused of mistreating 5 women, which he vehemently denies. Justin Timberlake was called out for working with Woody Allen, who was accused of abusing his daughter. Apparently, putting on a black suit omits you from your complicity in these cases of abuse.
Along with the numerous allegations, have come many abysmal apology statements. One would think that a seasoned communications team (particularly in Hollywood), along with the accused would be able to come up with a mature, respectful apology. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Just last night, Aziz Ansari released a statement in response to an account of non-consensual sex which, classically, didn’t feature the word “sorry” once. Since these apologies seem to be a challenge, I came up with a list of what’s wrong with these terrible non-apologies.
- An apology should be written for the victim or survivor, not to please a PR team or the producers of an upcoming film. An apology should only be shared if it will genuinely support the person at the receiving end of the abuse.
- Sexual identity should never be used as an excuse for what happened or to divert attention from the allegations. Not only is it irrelevant to the situation but it also hurts the community as a whole by reinforcing negative stereotypes. I’m looking at you, Kevin Spacey.
- Apologies should never try and make people feel sorry for the crew/employees on all of the projects that are now canned because a perpetrator wanted to force themselves on women. Everyone is aware of how business works, an apology should not deflect from the topic and accusation. An apology can be sent to the crew in a separate statement.
- Going to a luxurious spa retreat for a week to get help for the “problem” isn’t a solution. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are conflicted over whether sex addiction even exists. And people who have been diagnosed with some kind of addiction are not “cured” in a week.
- Giving no comment is just as bad as a terrible apology. By not even acknowledging the situation, it shows the perpetrator has no respect for survivors. Historically, women (and other survivors) have avoided reporting sexual harassment concerning men in powerful positions. Therefore, it takes an immense amount of courage for someone to come out and share their story. A perpetrator can’t slip away into self-exile before apologizing and think they’ll be forgiven when deciding to reappear.
- Being married to a woman and/or having a daughter/mother/sister does not excuse a perpetrator from what they did when they claim to have been less informed, so they should never be used as a crutch. It is very unfair to the women in their life.
- Youth or having lived in a different time will never excuse committing sexual harassment or abuse. Whether or not perpetrators were taught to treat others with respect from a young age, this is never an excuse for sexual harassment or sexual assault.
- You cannot call your statement an apology if it doesn’t include the word ‘apologise’ or ‘sorry’. Louis CK’s 400 word apology letter manages to completely avoid this.
Although no apology (or PR assistance) will detract from the seriousness of sexual abuse, a genuine apology can, in some cases, provide a degree of closure and send a message of regret to other men considering heinous acts like Weinstein’s.
Let’s hope future apologies will sound a little less like something straight out of the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator and a little more like a genuine apology.