OK I eat my hat….

// 18 November 2008

Email just received from Chargrilled on this. All I can say is wow and go F Word! (Obviously the fact they were ever there in the first place is abhorrent but this is responsive).

Dear Dr. Livesey,

We would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Firstly, we would like to apologize unconditionally for the nature of these t-shirts. CharGrilled does not in any way wish to condone sexual violence or minimize the brutality of such acts and we take your accusation very seriously.

Further to your email, the two designs that you enquired about have been removed from the website. CharGrilled has a vast back catalogue of designs that are very rarely ordered, which these designs were among. As such, they have escaped our notice for some time. The designers responsible for these t-shirts have since left the company. We will not be considering re-hiring them.

As a result of your correspondence we are undertaking a frank revision of much of our back catalogue to look for other designs that similarly cross the boundary of acceptability.

We hope you can accept our most sincere apologies,

CharGrilled

Comments From You

Kirsty // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:02 pm

Wow, good work! Proof that getting active and doing something when you’re confronted with that kind of hideousness is effective.

Laura // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:16 pm

Good work, Louise! Great to see a company taking this seriously for once.

Leigh // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:19 pm

Yay! Well done Louise and well done chargrilled!

Kirsty // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:21 pm

Well, like you say, those designs shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but got to hand it to CharGrilled for their response!

Well done Louise.

Lindsey // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:22 pm

Very cool.

Just goes to show it’s always worth making a complaint.

Sabre // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:43 pm

I’m so impressed! It’s quite easy to become a bit jaded when it seems complaints are ignored or just paid lipservice (ASA I’m talking to you!).

That’s cheered me up. I will definitely complain more in future (constructively of course)!

Milly // Posted 18 November 2008 at 1:50 pm

Amazing! Well done.

Sam // Posted 18 November 2008 at 2:09 pm

Will you now apologise for your comment in the original post,

“Let’s see if they have the balls to respond – but given their press contact is male I am guessing they won’t.”

(From /blog/2008/11/genuinely_being).

emma // Posted 18 November 2008 at 2:42 pm

wickeddddddddddddddddd

i sent them an email also..

Thats brillant..

people power

Maia // Posted 18 November 2008 at 3:28 pm

Well done, Louise! This is fantastic and very inspiring. Made my day.

Leanne // Posted 18 November 2008 at 3:55 pm

This is made of awesome :)

Clare // Posted 18 November 2008 at 5:46 pm

:: Applause ::

I do believe that sometimes it just takes someone to point these things out and give intelligent feedback. Well done!

Louise Livesey // Posted 18 November 2008 at 6:09 pm

Not sure to whom an apology should be addressed – I did send a very positive response message to Ed at Chargrilled in reply to their message I reproduced here.

If, however, as I suspect you are staking a claim for a need to apologise to the whole of mankind (and I use the term advisedly) then perhaps we need to spend some time looking at the politics and power of why you are asking a member of an oppressed group to apologise to the whole of an oppressing group for laying down a challenge to them to take charge of their behaviour. Would you similarly ask a person of colour to apologise to the whole of the white race for a challenge to address their racism?

Here’s my response, Sam – to any member of “mankind” who believes themselves to be sleighted by the fact I assumed a company who printed tshirts condoning rape and making light of it wouldn’t make a decent response to a challenge from a feminist. I am sorry. I am also sorry, however, that you were more outraged that I’d call men on their misogyny than you were that a company felt it OK to make light of rape in such a way that was, effectively, rape-denial. I am sorry you think it’s more outrageous to be asked to address your behaviour by a woman than to ask that company to address their behaviour and examine your own. In short, I am sorry you reproduce the patriarchal norm in which oppressed groups are held to a higher ethical standard than the dominant, oppressing group and in which you feel a sense of righteous indignation at being challenged over your privilege rather than over the injustices and prejudices being utilised in your name.

Sam // Posted 18 November 2008 at 9:40 pm

Louise, thanks for your response. Thank you, too, for (incorrectly) inferring my gender from my response, and my relative levels of outrage at both the t-shirt and your comment.

I asked for an apology from you not because you assumed the company would not respond, but because you explicitly stated the salient point in determining the likelihood of a response was the press contact’s gender. I do not see how your comment, “given their press contact is male, I am guessing they won’t [respond],” can be understood any other way.

Regarding whether I would ask a person of colour to apologise if they had suggested that a press contact would not respond to a complaint they had made about a racist t-shirt, purely because the contact was white, of course I would, and I hope you would too. This reflects nothing about my support of said t-shirt.

I also find it difficult to swallow your contention that I am holding an oppressed group to a higher standard. In asking you not to make sweeping statements about the probability of specific men’s sexism based on their gender alone, I hope I am only holding you to your own standards.

Louise Livesey // Posted 18 November 2008 at 9:59 pm

Dear Sam, I made no assumption about your gender. Your assertion here relies on a notion that a woman cannot uphold patriarchal ideas which is not true (see the Helen Mirren stories for example, or anything by Melanie Phillips). I also made no assumption about your feelings on the tshirts in question.

You say you asked for an apology on because I said my guess was that the company wouldn’t respond – like I said before that was on the basis that this was a company who were selling rape-denial tshirts and their spokesperson was male. You haven’t said to whom you wanted that apology addressed – Chargrilled certainly haven’t asked for one.

On the issue of whether I would ask a member of an oppressed group to apologise for holding a member of a privileged group to account. No I wouldn’t, ever becaused oppressed groups have a right to name their oppressions and how they manifest themselves. It is asking for a higher standard as I made clear in my response – it’s asking for those naming injustices to be held to account where the original acts of oppression are not held to account. It perpetuates the idea that those with privilege cannot or should not be challenged whereas those without it are subject to the controlling “gaze” or surveillance by or on behalf of the privileged group.

Maia // Posted 18 November 2008 at 10:07 pm

Louise Livesey, Woman of the Year! Louise, admirable response to Sam, but don’t let carping, non-bigger picture see-ers waste any more of your energy. It’s too valuable!

I totally admire all your posts.

Kath // Posted 18 November 2008 at 10:40 pm

Louise – you say to Sam “Your assertion here relies on a notion that a woman cannot uphold patriarchal ideas which is not true..” but that is exactly what she is saying to you. That if the press contact had been a woman she might well have defended the sale of the t-shirts. That is not asking you to apologise for holding a privileged group to account but for making assumptions about what an individual’s response would be based on their gender. I’m not trying to take “sides” because I disagree with Sam that an apology to anyone is required. I just think you have misunderstood (twice) what she is saying.

Anon // Posted 19 November 2008 at 12:27 am

Sam, this might be seen as butting in but I wanted to comment and back up what Louise said. Many women go by names like Sam (Samantha) or Frank (Francis) or Jo (Joanne) and, as this blog is largely read by women and responded to by women, I would not have known you were male until you pointed it out. You could have been either; please don’t jump on Louise for “inferring” your gender because, as I said, there’s no way of telling if you were a Samuel, a Samson or a Samantha.

For what it’s worth, I would also have doubts of how sympathetic a man who works for a company selling t-shirts that, not only takes fun in rape, but claims it’s fun for men to rape. I would also have doubts about a white person working for a company selling racist t-shirts for the same reason. Any indication that they’d take my concerns and criticism seriously is practically non-existent.

Louise never said, “their press contact is a man – and therefore rubbish – so I’m guessing he won’t reply.” No. She said here is a company who thinks rape is funny enough or minimal enough to put on a t-shirt and sell. She then said “press contact is male” so I am guessing they won’t [respond].”

It *is* significant that it is a man selling t-shirts to other men about how rape is funny and fun for rapists. It would also be significant if a white person sold t-shirts to other whites about how racism is fun and funny; and it would also be significant if t-shirts were being sold by hetrosexuals to hetrosexuals about how funny gay bashing is. I wouldn’t think these people would respond to me either: they are on the side of the oppressors after all – and actively so. They *are* plastering it over t-shirts after all.

I wouldn’t “ask a person of colour to apologise if they had suggested that a press contact would not respond to a complaint they had made about a racist t-shirt, purely because the contact was white.” Rather, I hope I’d be quiet and listen and learn something.

No one is saying men are bad because they are male; what we are saying that the fact that this man was involved with this company could be indicative of how he would react to our concerns, especially as they liked the t-shirts enough to sell them in the first place.

Not all men are women-haters, but you’d have to forgive our skepticism of how understanding a man would be in this situation given his position.

Sam // Posted 19 November 2008 at 12:38 am

Louise, you wrote, ‘You say you asked for an apology on because I said my guess was that the company wouldn’t respond.’

This is not accurate. As I said in the second paragraph of my previous comment:

‘I asked for an apology from you not because you assumed the company would not respond, but because you explicitly stated the salient point in determining the likelihood of a response was the press contact’s gender. I do not see how your comment, “given their press contact is male, I am guessing they won’t [respond],” can be understood any other way.’

Deducing the press contact’s prejudices based on his gender contravenes rule 3 in the list of those for people commenting on blog posts. Does it not apply to bloggers themselves?

andrew // Posted 19 November 2008 at 9:38 am

Great work! It’s nice to see that things can get changed if someone has the courage and commitment to stand up for them. Those T-shirts were revolting and I applaud your activism in getting them removed.

I don’t feel that the issue of apologising to the press contact at Chargrilled is of any particular importance especially since I felt that an apology was implicit in the title ‘OK I eat my hat…’ Having said that, if I were ever to make assumptions about a specific woman based largely on her gender then I hope that someone would gently point this out to me. I think this is what Sam was attempting.

Assuming that the company would behave according to their track record is one thing, assuming that the people of all genders who worked for that company would behave according to the history of the company is also reasonable but failing to treat an individual as a human being rather than simply a representative of their gender appears to me to be the opposite of feminism. If this is not what you intended by the phrase “given their press contact is male” then my apologies. The misunderstanding may just be one of those which frequently occur in web forums/blogs.

Louise Livesey // Posted 19 November 2008 at 9:50 am

Hi Sam, You are absolutely right that I misrepresented you. Sorry. I guess I shouldn’t try to write replies when I’m also trying to get home from work! Let me start over. You said I should apologise because I said I didn’t think the company would response because 1. the company was selling rape-apologist tshirts and therefore appeared to be immediately hostile to women’s rights 2. the press contact was male and therefore 3. I wasn’t hopeful of a response as I assumed the tshirts expressed the company belief system, and ergo the line the Press Officer would take. I didn’t make comment on what the Press Officer as a person believed but what, in representing his company, I thought would happen and yes I stand by that. I have, since, clearly expressed how impressed, surprised and pleased I was by the response – I titled the post with the response “OK I eat my hat” in recognition of that referring to that essentially British idiom of “If I am proven wrong I’ll eat my hat”. I was proven wrong and therefore I have accepted the need to “eat my hat”. I think this is now the third time I’ve explained this position.

I am not sure what more you want to demand. In short if it comes down to “Apologise now” my answer is “No, for the reasons I’ve expressed above”. In answer to the “isn’t this hypocritical” the answer is again “No” – I made no judgement of what the Press Officer as an individual thought but of what I thought the Press Officer as a representative of the company producing rape-denial tshirts would do. Chargrilled haven’t complained about what I said (and they have read it, bless them). I believe apologies are best given to particular people or groups directly affected in a way which acknowledges and takes responsibility for actions. I’ve taken responsibility, you don’t think I have, I’ve responded to that. You’ve demanded an apology as an indirect observer of the situation, I’ve responded to that. We are reaching a point where I feel that your position is one of “I have an entitlement to make you do what I want you to do.” and I don’t agree Sam. I’ll happy discuss the situation, I will listen to what you want to say (and apologise when I misrepresent it inadvertantly) but I don’t accept your presumed exercise of power.

Kath // Posted 19 November 2008 at 10:05 am

Louise, I agree with all the points you have made, but you seem to be talking at cross purposes with Sam. Her point is : Did you think that a female press officer would have been more likely to respond than a male one, and if so why, given that you make the point yourself that women can uphold patriarchal ideas? I don’t think you owe anyone an apology but I think you are still misrepresenting Sam’s pov.

Steph Jones // Posted 19 November 2008 at 10:27 am

Even if they’re now removed the offensive t-shirts, someone obviously listed them on the auction in the first place, and the company would have known they were being listed – surely ‘alarm bells’ would have rung about such t-shirts being on there? Or was it that they thought they were ‘funny’???

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