Saturday, April 26, 2008

Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte Apologize

The horrid images accompanying Amanda Marcotte's new book It's a Jungle Out There have sparked discussions about race and feminism on many of my favorite blogs. Now Seal Press, the book's publisher, and Amanda Marcotte herself have written apologies.

In recent comments here at The Feminist Underground, Outcrazyophelia of Feminocracy wrote "Not being on the ball all the time doesn't make you a bad person, but refusing to open your eyes to the choices you make in adapting your focus is pretty inexcusable." What I'd like to hear from readers is whether or not you feel like these apologies reflect that 'opening of eyes' and 'adapting of focus' or not.

From Seal Press:
To Our Readers, Our Friends, Our Critics,

We are taking action immediately to remove the offensive images from It's A Jungle Out There. We are currently reprinting, and we will make these changes now. We apologize for any pain or concern these images have caused.

We do not believe it is appropriate for a book about feminism, albeit a book of humor, to have any images or illustrations that are offensive to anyone.

Some have asked the valid question, "What were you thinking?"

Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author's humor. That is all. We were not thinking.

As an organization, we need to look seriously at the effects of white privilege. We will be looking for anti-racist trainings offered here in the Bay Area. We want to incorporate race analysis into our work.

In the meantime, please know that all involved in the publishing of It's A Jungle Out There, from editorial to production were not trying to send a message to anyone about our feelings regarding race. If taken seriously as a representation of our intentions, these images are also not very feminist. By putting the big blonde in the skimpy bathing suit with the big breasts, the tiny waist, and the weapon on our cover, we are also not asserting that she is any kind of standard that anyone should aspire to. This 1950s Marvel comic is not an accurate reflection of our beauty standards, our beliefs regarding one's right to bear arms, nor our perspectives on race relations, foreign policy, or environmental policy.

We also extend this apology to the author, Amanda Marcotte, who did not select these images for her book. Writing humor is very difficult. While our intention was to complement your words, we see that these images have had the opposite effect, and for that, we are sorry.

Sincerely and humbly,

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner
Amanda's is somewhat simpler:
I’m sorry. Plain and simple. I didn’t pick the offensive imagery in my book, but I should have caught it sooner than now. I didn’t and there’s no excuse. It was my first book, I was excited and happy, but I needed to have a more critical eye. I would do anything to remove racist images from the first printing of the book if I could, and I am relieved and happy to say that they will be removed from future printings. Seal Press has their note of apology up too, and they accept full responsibility for these mistakes. I really recommend reading it.

I can understand why anyone would choose to boycott a book with these images, and I respect that choice. Hopefully, once they are removed, people will reconsider supporting the book if they like the content. I, for one, will be ripping the pages out of my copy but keeping them as a reminder to be alert. Thank you to everyone who’s engaged in a conversation that’s been tough for me but productive nonetheless.

This is pretty much what I’ve got to say. I welcome your feedback below. I imagine things might get pretty intense, so I may not choose to say much more than this, but know that I’m reading and listening and respect your thoughts very much. Once again, I apologize for the images, my overlooking them, and any hurt this may have caused.

So - what do you think?

UPDATE: In the wake of this fiasco, Angry Black Woman is proposing a Carnival of Allies:
Where self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong...And when I say allies, I’m talking about any and every type. PoC can be (and should be) allies to other PoC, or to LGBTQ people if they are straight, or any number of other combinations. If you feel like you’re an ally and have something to say about that, you should submit to this carnival.
Go get your submissions in, I know tons of people have insights that the rest of us would benefit from hearing.


Casmall said...

Neither letter mentions why these images were offensive. I think a letter like this, to be effective, must make it clear what the offense was and why it was wrong in the first place. Otherwise it's just.. I ate the plums.
On the other hand, I have no doubt these apologies were sincere. They just weren't paying attention.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Wow - a William Carlos Williams reference to the ultimate hollow apology poem. Nicely done.

I think that if Amanda Marcotte wants to prove that she is paying attention now, she could donate all money made from this first edition to some organization that works to better the lives of minority children. I haven't had too much time for surfing today, so I don't know if others are calling for this, but really - her book has now become part of the problem, the least she could do is not benefit from it. Seal Press could do the same. She and Seal Press are both popular enough that I'm sure they will still profit on future editions.

Daisy said...

Thank you so much for your comment and encouragement at my childish upstart blog. You're right about that feeling of connection that blogging can give you really helping when you're going through feeling isolated.

As for Amanda Marcotte... I used to be a huge Pandagon reader and then all of a sudden, I don't know what happened... things just sort of seemed to go crazy at most of the "major" feminist sites on the web. I'm all about transectionality and cultural integration and my focus has always been a lot more on "third world" feminist issues (I hate that phrase), since I focus mostly on Mexican-American/Chicana/Latina issues, immigration, nationality and economics in my feminist research... I'm used to being on the fringes of feminist blogging/reading, being more likely to read Anzadua than Steinem, for example, but all of a sudden these people who seemed to be sane, if very... mainstream white ethnocentric feminist voices have been saying some absolutely insane bullshit. I haven't been keeping up with it because I confess, I get angry and grumpy and switch off, go away and stop reading, rather than staying and fighting and saying what I know I should say.

And now I'm convicted to get into this latest femosphere scandal and figure out exactly what the hell is going on *now*. :)

So thanks for your reporting. I love this blog, and I'll be reading.

Daisy said...

And by Anzadua I mean Anzaldua, of course.

My sister Lily assures me that this has spread over into the fatosphere and into many other communities on the interwebz... it seems a lot of people are distancing themselves from nearly everything AM is saying, over and beyond this book and the statements that the images selected for it made/make.

There is just this disgusting white ethnocentrism that's coming out just in the way that issues are being ignored outright by such influential people... the "oh surprise, there are communities of people who have personal ties and commitments to things, and we white people take so for granted that our culture is the defining, overarching, "real" never even occurred to us to double check, or think for one second that our way may not be the only way...." it makes me gag.

I think that the discussion that's springing up about different communities and intersectionality and where we all fit in and what voices we are allowed to speak with could ultimately be incredibly humbling and eye opening, if we can figure out how to have it without killing each other.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Hola, Daisy - es un verdadero placer conocerte. Me parece que somos seres muy similares. Ojala que escribas mucho sobre los asuntos que más afectan a las latinas. No hay muchas ‘blogistas’ y necesitamos más.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I do believe that AM and the other 'big' feminist blogs really do try to represent voices, issues, and experiences that fall outside of their own. Yet, it isn't easy to see the world through other people's perspectives and sometimes we all stumble. This was a REALLY big stumble, but (and maybe this is just because it is a pretty Sunday morning and I have a nice cup of coffee) I do think that maybe the discussions that this has spawned will help all the big blogs (and us smaller ones too) try harder to see the world from different POVs and be 'allies' to one another, despite our differences.

Daisy said...

I think that's definitely the goal, and I hope something that we all get closer to every day. I think it's hard to some extent to learn how to really be allies to each other, there seem to be so many land mines out there, and we all seem to step on each others' so much. I think it's true of any community that's so diverse and is trying honestly to take into account the voices and issues of so many different groups within the group. One thing I know is that I need to cut people way more slack than I do - I've gotten to the point where I'm so used to none of us cutting each other any slack - it's one of the reasons I've stayed so far away from feminist blogging myself, cause I know at any minute I'm gonna stick my foot in it big time.

But I am always up for learning lessons, and I think the most important thing any of us can do in the feminist community is extend forgiveness to each other when we need it, even if our ignorance is purposeful... Once we realize we've screwed up, to ask for it... and to hold it in our hearts for others even when if they *never* realize they need it.

I think it all starts with believing that we want what's best for each other and for the community, and discussions that are spawned by things like the Seal Press incident can only help us on that path.

And forgive me for my inability to speak coherently - I seem to be under the sudden influence of a killer migraine. FUN!

La Pobre Habladora said...

Daisy - I hope your headache has passed! You are eloquent in any case!

So, does the above call for forgiveness mean that your heart has softened for AM and SP, despite the fact that, as Casmall points out 'neither letter mentions why these images were offensive'?