Apologies don’t mean much.
You will know this from apologising yourself. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, you mightn’t really mean it and it doesn’t cost anything. Maybe a little bit of pride.
In the meantime, the speed at which you’ve made the apology can save you much embarrassment and heartache.
That’s particularly true of what happens on social media. A company or organisation sends out a tweet or makes a Facebook post. The tweet is sexist, racist or offensive in some other way. Depending on the amount of attention the offending communiqué gets, the company apologises, rationalises and someone tries to delete the evidence.
And on Wednesday, that’s precisely what happened to a tweet sent from the account of Kayser Lingerie, a brand which belongs to the Simon de Winter group in Melbourne.
Kayser sells underwear. About 11am, the account posted a tweet which said: “"If a guy invites you over to watch a movie, you should know what they're expecting." The hashtag read #kaysermaleinsider
Not long after, Twitter went mental. First there was the mockery, followed by the anger. Tweeters from Daily life’s Clementine Ford to Destroy the Joint’s @JointDestroyer made it clear that this was neither a joke nor acceptable underwear sales strategy.
About 4pm, a new tweet appeared on the @kayserlingerie account. “Hi all, in reference to our earlier tweet, in hindsight it was appropriately worded &we’re sorry for how it came across. #honestmistake” The offensive tweet was deleted. (Although, social media is like a herd of elephants. Never ever forgets.)
Should finish there, right?
As I read the tweets and the subsequent apology, it made me think about writing a story on apologies. Did they work? What would make them work?
Part of this question is something I think about anyway as a parent; teaching responsibility is a serious, well, responsibility. Hard to do, particularly hard to do well. But what’s always worked is reparation. If you’ve done the wrong thing, you need to fix it. Saying sorry isn’t enough as anyone who has had small children will know.
Late on Wednesday, I tweeted “Ask @kayserlingerie to donate to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre. #kaysermaleinsider Pls RT”
Well over 120 people on Twitter chose to send that message to their network and it is not possible to really be sure how many people it reached – perhaps 10,000.
Very few people on Twitter were critical of this request – although a few said there was no serious sexist implication in the tweet (um, ok, I think it means that if a man makes moves on a woman after watching a DVD at home, she should know that’s coming and not to complain. Right. All those years ago, when I still went on dates, if a man asked me over to watch a movie, I’d think his date repertoire was a little too limited for my liking).
After that tweet went out, Karen Willis, the director of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, said she would be happy to have a donation, any donation. That’s an organisation which is perennially short of money.
Anyhow, by 11am yesterday, the managing director of Simon de Winter, Andrea Syme, said that the company, which owns the Kayser Lingerie brand, would donate a small amount of money to the Rape Crisis Centre. Ms Syme said the company was horrified at the interpretation of the tweet and was incredibly apologetic (although she did say that the tweet was written by a female intern. Really? So not really a #kaysermaleinsider after all. Hmmm. Actually most of the tweets with that hashtag are not much chop).
By 12.40pm, a blog post on Kayser’s page had gone up http://www.kayserlingerie.com.au/blog/entry/37-Kayser-to-donate-to-White-Ribbon. Although Ms Syme had said the money would go to the Rape Crisis Centre, my guess is they wanted something more national, which makes sense. The post also does not mention exactly how much money Simon De Winter Group decided to donate. And you’ve got to work hard to find it. If it had been me, I’d have put in on my Facebook page and tweeted it out with #kayserfemaleinsider.
Because two things. 1. If you want to know how a woman feels, ask a woman to do the shout-out. And 2) real apologies with real actions.
More money would have been great - a thousand bucks (which is the figure Ms Syme mentioned to me) is small for any organisation which fights violence against women – but this shows that at least one (small) company is willing to pay for its mistakes. It’s no longer enough to say sorry.
Always good to put some money where your mouth is. Now we just want to know how much.
Jenna Price is an academic, journalist and passionate participant in Destroy The Joint.