“Sorry guys, did not realise it would be offensive.”
[Brett gives explanation of why it is offensive]
“Brett. let’s end the issue right there.”
= = = = = = = = = =
This was the end of an exchange in a WhatsApp group that took place this morning. Yup, while you guys are coffeeing and breakfasting, this is how i choose to start my day.
It is a sports team WhatsApp and certain members of the group drop jokes and memes in from time to time and there have been a few times when they have been on the edge and i have a “Do i or don’t i?” wrestle, because let’s be honest, this seldom ends well for me, despite how much you might think i enjoy conflict.
But, let’s be honest for a second, if there is such an edge, then this particular piece is to be found plummeting halfway down the cliff somewhere:
On the off chance you can’t see what it going on here, the ad is for pre-owned Aston Martins and the tagline is ‘You know you’re not the first, but do you really care?’
Looking at it again [and i’m sorry i have to show it but i think it’s necessary for the point of this] i am disgusted with myself for taking so long to actually respond to it. As in a couple of minutes, but this did not need thinking, this was an immediate ‘What the adjective do you think you are doing?’
Edit: i have changed up the pic used – on someone’s request – to this slightly tamer one – the original has a woman leaning over a counter from behind while not wearing all that much – the tagline still carries enough of the offence regardless
[Quick Disclaimer before you head out and key your neighbour’s Aston Martin – the ad is apparently a fake, which can be seen by the fact that there is a typo with ‘pre owed’ rather than ‘pre-owned’ at the bottom. Unfortunately, the slogan is apparently not: It was used by BMW in 2008 to advertise their premium selection.]
However, that is beside the point.
The man who posted this did not realise it would be offensive. Um, okay. How is it possible in 2018 that we are still objectifying women? Well, let me give you some ideas why i think that might be so:
28 participants in the group, all men. i am one of the youngest. One other person chimed in after my initial comment and said, “In fact, I agree with you. This isn’t the place for “jokes” that could cause offence within a large group of people. Let’s keep posts outside of the sport to individuals we know would appreciate it.”
So not quite an endorsement, but not not an endorsement. At least he used ” ” so that we could decide for ourselves whether it was a joke or not.
Another comment was that this guy is a “boys club” guy and so he’s not going to change and no-one else would have said anything if i hadn’t.
So basically 27 men were happy for that image to be posted and go unchallenged.
This is my response to him: “You were sharing a picture that was comparing a woman to a car which is called objectifying – treating a person like a thing – this should not be the reason but maybe a helpful perspective for you would be to imagine the woman in that ad was your wife or your sister or your daughter and someone sent that to you with the same kind of comments and thoughts attached. If the thought of that disturbs you in any way, how can you do it to someone else? And it shouldn’t be just because she is a daughter or a sister or wife as if she gets her worth from her relationship to a man, but just because she is a human being and should not be treated like an object.”
That is what brought the classic response from the original poster: “Brett. let’s end the issue right there.”
There are a few things going on here:
# ‘I did not realise it would be offensive.’ So that necessitated the explanation because it is so important that you understand the WHY of why that picture is offensive.
# ‘Sorry guys, did not realise it would be offensive’ is not an apology. It absolutely is not. It’s throwing the ball back at me and blaming me for having been offended [by my little innocent ‘it’s just a joke’ pic]
# “I’m sorry I posted an offensive picture.” would be an apology. Recognition of why it was bad in the first place and then owning up to it.
# There is as much necessity for change in the 26 people who said nothing. It is never easy to challenge things like that with groups like that which is why it has taken me so long to actually push back. I only know these men through playing sport with them and it hasn’t been that long and I don’t have the relationship capital and saying something could well mean an end to my time with them.
But the moment someone says something it is a little bit easier to jump in and agree and give backing and support to the statement. But no-one did. It was me against the crowd and that is always lonely and hard and makes me feel bad, because that is the culture we have created. Dude posts and offensive pic and i am the one feeling bad? Crazy.
# We cannot cannot cannot let these things go uninterrupted. That’s the vibe of #NotOnOurWatch which is not a fad or a craze or even a movement. It is just common decency. “That is not okay. And you need to stop.” And if i lose respect or i lose playing sport with these guys, then so be it. Nothing is going to change until the masses join in and out their foot down.
My favourite cartoonist Stephan Pastis captures this whole apology thing perfectly in his much-loved Pearls Before Swine comic strip:
This is why i don’t belong to any neighbourhood watch WhatsApp groups cos that would not last long from the many stories i have heard…
The flipside of joining in with a #NotOnOurWatch mentality though is that it empowers others, who were on the edge, wondering if they should intervene, and so don’t hold back. The more we do this, the more people will join in and hopefully the better we will become.