17.4.12

Dear Randy - and the Rest: An Apology - of sorts.

Dear Randy,

I do apologise for two things:
  1. I singled you out in my last post. After hearing the audio I realise that it was not just you that was offensive, it was the entire HitsFM morning crew. You did not deserve to be singled out. Your entire station was at fault.
  2. I titled my last post on this issue “Don’t Be a Boob.” I intended that to be merely a play on fairly innocent words. However, as was pointed out to me, it could be taken as an insult. I freely admit that I did not consider that at that time and I am fully repentant if you felt insulted by it. I have offered to change the title. I have not done so yet because there are comments about that title, and to change it would make those comments look ridiculous and put them completely out of context. If you were offended, are offended, by my use of that phrase, I will immediately change it. It was not my intention to personally insult you.
Dear Randy, Kayleigh, and Brian,

I do not apologise for saying that your comments were offensive. They were. Nor for saying they were ignorant. They were. The fact that you – and those who support you – continue to argue that they were not frankly sickens me. If someone – especially more than one person – indicates to you that you were offensive, than you must understand that you did, indeed, offend them.
Whether the intent was there to be offensive or not is not important.

I have seen the “apologies” to some who wrote in. You continue to argue that people should not be offended. Well, I was. And after hearing from a number of other people who were, I decided to stand up for our rights.

What you said and the tone in which you said it was not directed solely at Mayim Bialik. You made very general, sweeping statements about women who breastfeed and especially those who do it for longer than what you  (and any number of opinionated but wrong people, as I’ve come to realise) consider “normal.”

Even if they had been directed solely at Mayim, how does that make it any better? Insult one person or insult a group of people, you’re still insulting.

If such comments had been made about the colour of her skin, her physical ability, her sexuality or any other identifiable “minority” concern it would not have been tolerated and could’ve even fallen under hate speech. But us breastfeeders are just a bunch of dippy women who don’t realise how gross we are. So we need comments like “ewww” and “there’s being attached and then there’s that…”

Those will set us straight.

In fact such statements are not only offensive but are part and parcel of a culture of shaming that takes place for women who breastfeed, and especially upon some pie-in-the-sky best age for weaning. They are sexually discriminatory. And they lead to a culture of bullying

Since responding to your comments I have been accused of any number of things. Foremost is that I am bullying you. I maintain that I did nothing of the sort. I have heard public comments made that you have received insults over this.  I did not send them. And I certainly have not seen them.

Had I seen them, I would’ve immediately contacted the person posting them and asked that they not turn this into a personal issue. After hearing Paddy Daly express on his backtalk show that you had been attacked I combed through every facebook group and tweet I could find to identify where these attacks were occurring. I didn’t find any. I personally contacted people who said you had been attacked to ask where. I received no response.

I assure you that my comments were made only in direct response to yours and that they were voiced by me because I had been asked by a number of other women to speak to this issue. A  number of other women who were also offended.

Certainly being a public figure making public comments you understand that there are times people will disagree with you. I have personally received hate mail and even haphazard death threats over things I have written about. It’s part of stating things publically, especially when you decide to take on an “issue.” That does not excuse it. But I can’t believe you were entirely surprised.

Regardless, as stated, had I been able to locate the source of these apparent attacks, I would’ve immediately called for their cessation. I don’t believe in personally attacking anyone over their opinion. I don’t support it. I will never support it. If I did I would not be myself. I would, indeed, hate myself.

On the other hand, the vast number of personal attacks against me are very public. They began on Twitter. These comments were fully sexually harassing. They were personally offensive. And they were downright nasty. At that time I checked and both the HitsFm twitter account and VOCMBacktalk were following at least one of the aggressive tweeters.  After attempting to ignore them, then asking them to stop, the barrage continued. No one defended me. No one stepped in and asked them to stop. I was left to deal with this on my own. I did it the best way I knew how, by answering like with like.

I would never had sat back and watched something similar unfold towards you.

Once I was finally able to get those comments to stop, I was asked, by other women who had been offended by your comments, if I would be calling into Paddy Daly’s show to discuss the issue. It had been made clear that it would be discussed, and these women feared that the only callers would be those that hold the same opinion as you: that what we do as nursing mothers is gross and despicable.
We’ve all heard it before. Many times. Our only surprise was that it came from such a public identity.

Trust me. I had other things to do. But I also had work to do for my community. I am a breastfeeding advocate - as I am an advocate for any other number of things. And when I am told that someone is afraid to speak but that they feel strongly about an issue, I do borrow their voice and speak for them. Because I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I knew it would draw the anger of ignorant people and the attention of trolls.

So I called in to Backtalk. I was shouted down when I tried to explain how your comments were offensive. My integrity and that of my friends was called into question. And finally I was asked why, if breastmilk (not, mind you, breastfeeding) was so important for my child, well why don’t I just pump off my milk and feed it to him in a cup so that no one can make rude comments.
  • Why don’t all the gay kids getting bullied at school stop acting so gay so they don’t get bullied?
  • Why don’t black people just stick with their own kind so that they don’t suffer racism?
  • Why don’t rape victims just shut up about the whole thing so no one can accuse them of being over-dramatic or lying?
  • Why don’t the disabled stop asking for all these accommodations if they don’t want to stand out?
Why? Because to ask a member of a minority group to change their actions, behaviours, or thoughts in order to accommodate the social desirability of the majority group is oppression. It is wrong. It is disgusting. And it goes against everything I – and I thought you – believe in.

And I won’t even get into the specifics of how ridiculous it is to ask a woman to spend time and money pumping just so you can be comfortable. And I'll try not to point out that you don't need to SEE a woman breastfeed to know she does breastfeed - I'm not ashamed of the fact that I breastfeed my son and I won't hide it.

As a result of the attention garnered –mostly because of the way I was attacked by your supporters -I was asked to speak on CBC radio about breastfeeding. At the time I was told that it would not be about Randy Snow. And , for the most part, it was not. It was about the comments and the culture those comments come from.

And popular media is a big part of that culture. Such a big part that people who don’t know me were encouraged to attack me because Randy Snow said he was being attacked, despite the fact that none of these people had seen these attacks. And I don’t doubt that some personal emails were received that were insulting. But I had nothing to do with that. Although the general public seems to think otherwise.

I’ve received personal emails too – ones telling me to “lay off Randy, he’s a nice guy.” And I don’t doubt that he is. In fact, that’s what I was counting on when I wrote my last post – that his decency would allow him to see how hurtful those comments were. But I never “laid on” Randy to begin with. I responded to your public comments and then I tried to clear up misconceptions about the length of time a woman should breastfeed. That is all.

For your station and your fans to say that none of this was a big deal and it means nothing is obviously a stretch of the truth. For if it hadn’t been a big deal it would’ve died. I’ve posted before about things that have offended me. They don’t always get that kind of attention. CBC contacted me because this was a story. And I accepted the interviews because as an advocate I saw it as a chance to spread a message of tolerance for breastfeeding mothers.

What it comes down to is this. This one of just a few “apology” letters I’ve seen:

What was said yesterday was in no way meant to come across as soapboxing or judgemental. What a woman chooses to do with her body and her children is entirely her choice. We would never begin to tell her what she is doing is wrong when it comes to something so personal.

The only reason it ever came up is that it was from Mayim Bayalik. Not that she isn't entitled to share her thoughts on the topic and very well could be an authority on it. It is just that she played Blossom and what we deal in primarily is pop culture.

We are actually surprised by the feedback we are getting from it. Not contructive opinions like yours but some people are being downright nasty over comments that we didn't think were in anyway controversial.

Thanks for your feedback though. It is never a bad thing to open a dialogue.
I opened a dialogue. I was attacked. During that dialogue you had a chance to see:
  1. How many women and families were also offended.
  2. How your comments are part of a bigger picture of shaming breastfeeding women for a multitude of supposed “sins.”
  3. That this is an issue of national interest, given the sharing of the news items via CBC and MSN.

You claim you weren’t being purposefully offensive? Than apologise. Because the only other alternative is that you were purposefully offensive and you’re not willing to apologise. People were offended. You’ve seen why. Your comments were hurtful and yet very recognisable to many of us. What hurts the most, though, is that you won't simply acknowledge this and apologise, but instead encourage a backlash against those who were offended.

This is the point where you say “I’m sorry.”

It’s what I would do in your shoes.

20 comments:

  1. Well fucking said, lady. Well said!

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  2. Well said, Dara. I will be waiting to read/hear his reply.

    Like you said, it's a human rights issue. If he had taken any other human rights issue - religion or sexual orientation, for example - and said "Ewww!," just imagine the backlash. So if a pop culture figure was gay, would that be a topic of conversation and disgust ("Ewww!") on air? Would the station consider that to be "in anyway controversial"??

    I was personally offended by the comments, and not just Randy's. I was more offended by Brian, to tell you the truth. And every time I read a HITS FM comment on Facebook saying "It wasn't meant to be controversial," (or the best one, "It gave advocates a soapbox to get their message out," as if patting themselves on the back for raising awareness), it saddens me more and more. The issue isn't whether or not women should breastfeed or whether or not 3 and a half years it too old- the issue is that people were offended. And HITS FM has chosen to ignore that. I think the only decent thing for the station to do right now is apologize. The end.

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    1. Yes, after listening to the audio - which they've now taken down from their site - I realise that Randy was not as offensive as Brian. However, Randy is the lead host and instead of continuing the barrage he should've ended it. Or admitted that he knew nothing about breastfeeding - as seems to be his defense.
      Under the Charter of Right and Freedoms, women are protected from sexual discrimination and in our courts that has always included discrimination based around pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is a human rights issue. Our country's courts acknowledge it as such. They can argue that it isn't, but that doesn't make them right.

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    2. Hmm, would the CRTC agree? Idea!?

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  3. Stand tall lady, you done good, let the detractors cower in your shadow.

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  4. Keep your head up high, Dara. You've got more dignity in your little finger than all the rest put together.

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    1. Well, I don't know about that. I fuck up too. We all do things we aren't proud of. But in this case I am proud that I stood up. And I'm proud that I defended myself.

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  5. Thank-you, Dara. I am watching this from across the country, as you know. Let's hope that Randy Snow does the right thing and apologise. He can set the bar a little higher for his peers and for the general public by coming clean and admitting that his comments were inappropiate.

    A simply sorry would suffice. A show on breastfeeding and why we care so much about breastfeeding being socially acceptable would be even better.

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    1. Well, the one good thing I can say is that as a result of this, breastfeeding - and especially "extended" breastfeeding - was featured on CBC Here and Now two nights in a row as well as being on the CBC morning radio shows across the island. And I've had two requests now from community newsletters to write a piece on breastfeeding for them.

      So, the message that it matters has gotten out there, I think.

      But, yes, a sorry would be nice.

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  6. I'm not going to identify myself. You will likely know who I am. I would like to point out a few instances where you did exactly what you are accusing others of, that is make nasty comments with little or no disregard for how it might make someone else feel.

    You were a friend of mine on fb and I was the mother of a newborn baby. I publically thanked my aunt who offered to watch my son so I could go out to lunch with work colleagues. I was on mat leave and aws feeling isolated and useless. You responded to my fb post with "wow, aren't you so lucky to get so much time away from your child". I remember the words because they cut deeper than anything else I had heard in a very long time at a time when I was struggling with PPD and fighting to find my identity as a mother.

    On your weekly column, you once berated users of ATVs and referred to the machines as unnecessary and the users as lazy. My father is a diabetic who despite the bluster, is very self conscious about his limitations. ATVs help him participate in the hunt when doing so on foot might endanger his health. In the past, this has helped him successfully battle seasonal depression.

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    1. Okay, so despite my policy I will reply to this one.

      I'm sorry.

      I didn't intend for that post on facebook to sound like that. I was trying to show genuine appreciation for your family members. I don't think I worded it exactly as you said here, but I did word it improperly, obviously, if that's the effect it had.

      Honestly. I am so sorry for that.

      And yes, the ATV article is one of the things I regret sometimes. It was written from a place of anger. I do stand by some of what I said in it, and I did try to show that I wasn't branding all users the same. But, that said, I realise that it is actually the minority of users who are irresponsible.

      I do have personal opinions about the overuse of ATVs and I certainly had a right to use the words I did in reference to some of the incidents I've experienced. BUT I was completely wrong to state - and I'm not quoting directly here so it may be paraphrased - that only a quarter of users were responsible.

      I knew when writing that column that it would hit nerves and I intended it to be offensive - because I was upset. In the midst of that I tried to alleviate what I was writing by giving some users credit. But I didn't do that enough.

      Again. I am sorry.

      Honestly. I'm in tears thinking that I hurt you that badly and it has made many things clear for me. I just wish you had let me know sooner.

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  7. I love you Dara. You are one classy lady. Classy, and tough as nails. I wanted to thank you for speaking for us. "Us" being moms who nurse toddlers/preschoolers. You do so much to support the women around you. I realize now that I should have done more to stick up for you. It's not OK that you were harrassed for voicing your opinions. In fact, it's downright shameful.

    I hope Randy Snow sees this and finally responds. I think he owes you (and all of us) that much.

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    1. Ah, thank you Amber. And don't worry about the sticking up, bit. You were right there with supportive comments all along.
      I have sent the link to HitsFM, along with a short email as to why this all matters. I sent them the last link as well. No response yet.

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  8. Message received. Also I am sorry for not responding sooner but blogger accounts are blocked in my office. I wanted you to grasp that things you have written may seem like offhand remarks to you, but as Randy Snow"s comments did for you, they have a very real emotional impact. A better example maybe a post where you refer to formula as poisen. That remark likely resulted in the same self doubt that you accused Randy of causing - knowing of course that the choice to formula feed is not always an easy one and that sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work for issues related to medical problems and employment(the latter not being as much of an issue in Canada).

    As for your column, a column should not come from a place of anger, many of us thump out blog posts and comments based on quickflashes. But a column such as yours is a chance to be thoughtprovoking and you have a rare opportunity to turn anger into informed dissent.

    D

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    1. I've never called formula poison. I have been very careful not to. If this is the column you're referring to, than you should re-read it: http://www.thewesternstar.com/Opinion/Columns/2010-12-01/article-2006919/Medicine-for-milk/1
      Yes, I have a responsibility in my columns. My readers also have a responsibility to not twist my words. Sometimes we both fail. That's why the word "sorry" exists.

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  9. I'm sorry, I did misquote. But you did say "formula is a pretty risky "choice" and 1.5 million babies die because they are fed formula. The implication is huge. Now take a mother who formula feeds. Maybe she has multiples, maybe she had an unplanned pregnancy and a young toddler to keep up with. Maybe she's trying to finish her MBA while on mat leave and give her child a better life. One of your arguments about the ramifications of what Randy snow said was that it may cause nursing mothers - with children of any age - to question what they are doing. Your words do the same thing.

    I was lucky enough to be able to breast feed - although I had to supplement at first. But you know what, I'm on the wait list for a breast reduction. I have deteriorating discs that rupture, which is very painful and has landed me in hospital. A large chest complicates matters to say the least. I got pregnant before my number was up but I would have stomped through a field of kittens to get to the hospital if my number was called before that. This is despite the fact that a known side effect of surgery is an inability to breastfeed. I would have made a choice to put physical comfort ahead of breastfeeding. And you know what? I ruotured a disc when my son was a little more than a year old. I couldn't lift him. I couldn't snuggle with him. And there were days when I couldn't bend down to hug him. I lost almost a year and I'd have traded that for breastfeeding in a heartbeat.

    No one is going to argue that breastfeeding isn't the ideal. However we don't live in an ideal world. Every pregnant mother I know has received education on breastfeeding and its benefits from their Dr., yet some chose to supplement, some chose to formula feed outright, and some chose to continue with extended breastfeeding. However those choices are made as a result of the entire fabric of who we are and the opinions and words of a blogger can be just as upsetting as the words of a guy on the radio.

    But ultimately, if the words of a guy on the radio sway your decision to breastfeed-how committed were you in the first place? Do you actually think anyone out there decided for or against based on that?

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  10. That column had a very specific point, which I stated at numerous times in it. There are risks to formula. These risks are minimalised because of the aggressive marketing of formula companies. Governments refuse to regulate better standards. And it's not just a third-world problem. People keep trying to say that, but it's not true.
    That column was purely about the risks. And it begins with my own scenario of subjecting my child to risks because I felt it was the right - though risky - choice.
    I also stated more than once in the column that it was aimed at the formula companies and government, not parents.
    So what's the difference between my statements and those of the HitsFM crew? Let's see:
    1. I presented facts, not opinion
    2. I didn't ridicule anyone while doing it
    3. My comments were aimed at corporations, not people.

    Did their comments turn someone who wanted to breastfeed away from it? Probably not. But what about all the young women who still haven't made that choice and who keep hearing how difficult and disgusting breastfeeding is? And all the young men who idolise shock jock DJs and will share their opinion with their girlfriends and wives instead of offering support.

    And what about all the people who are against breastfeeding for some reason or another, whether it's the act in general, the act in public, or the act beyond a certain age who just hade their wrong opinions bolstered by those comments?

    Breastfeeding is the right thing to do. It's not the right thing for every family. If you knew me at all you'd know that I counsel women on exactly that. Attacking something that is right is wrong. It's as simple as that.

    Everybody has a story. Everybody has a reason for doing what they've done. But acknowledging when you've done something wrong makes you a better person, not a lesser one, in my opinion.

    If you want to know the truth "D." I don't cry. Last night I cried for two hours over the thought that I had hurt you that deeply with what I said. I sincerly doubt anyone on the HitsFM team or any of their supporters has shed a single tear over the pain they've caused.

    I'm done discussing this, though. I am sorry. I honestly did not intend to hurt you. What you heard was not what I intended to say. What I heard was exactly what was intended by them. If I had known I would've apologised years ago. It's not hypocritical of me to expect the same from others as I give.

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  11. And, I would like to point out that as a columist I do feel a responsiblity to my readers. I could've written about all of this in my column this week, with specifics. But instead I chose to write about it on my blog where I feel a different kind of responsibility. A responsibility to represent my truth. My truth is that those comments hurt, what was done afterwards hurt, and your continued attempts to make me feel bad for my personal truths hurts.

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